If you’re new to the fine world of Japanese cutlery, you’ve probably already been overwhelmed with all the exotic and confusing names. One of the biggest confusions you might be facing is Usuba vs Nakiri, which is which?
On top of all the names of the different knives, you also have to learn the different cutting techniques and their names. We know that getting started and building confidence is the key – especially when you’ll be working with premium-quality hand-forged knives. That’s why we’ve made this article.
We’ll guide you through the key differences, commonalities, strengths, and weaknesses of Nakiri and Usuba knives. You’ll know which one suits your budget, skill, and style best. We’re also going to cover some interesting and essential technical tips. That is to make sure you’ll be equipped to care for and handle your knife as the pros do. With all this in mind, let’s get started!
Table of Contents
Usuba vs Nakiri: What They Have in Common
Japanese knives are widely regarded as some of the highest performing knives on the kitchen knife market. Excellent craftsmanship and centuries of refinement have created some of the most efficient and functional kitchen knives. Both the Nakiri and the Usuba are perfect examples of what you get when you combine modern technology with age-old hand forging techniques and fantastic attention to detail.
The Nakiri with its double-bevel and the Usuba with its magnificent single-bevel cut through vegetables like they cut through the air – effortless. Both knives have higher set blades so that you knuckled don’t bump into the cutting board and ruin your cut. You’ll be able to get razor-thin slices of even the toughest vegetables, all without having to strain your hands to oblivion.
You’ll find that the balance of these knives is excellent. They also have just the right amount of heft for intense workloads that you can find in professional kitchens. If you’re a devout enthusiast, you’ll know the unmatched value of a high-quality and premium knife in your kitchen.
Both the Nakiri and the Usuba have top-grade rust and corrosion resistance, thanks to their high-carbon content and tougher steel. This tougher steel also means that both knives have relatively fragile cutting edges – but this is the price you must pay for their superior sharpness.
Luckily, you can protect the cutting edge by using a good-quality composite or wooden cutting board, and use proper cutting techniques while avoiding more harmful ones (such as blade rocking). You should clean both knives between uses (after each cutting session) to better protect the blades and improve their overall feel and performance.
Usuba vs Nakiri: What About the Differences
You’ll find both knives have more than enough in terms of length and precision for handling any vegetable that will come across your kitchen counter. They are incredibly accurate, consistent, and reliable. Now we’re going to take a look at some of the specific features of the Nakiri, along with some of the subtle differences from the Usuba. Let’s take a look at how Usuba vs Nakiri measure up.
We can roughly translate the word “Nakiri” is to “leaf cutter” – which alludes to its intended purpose. Nakiri knives have been designed and perfected for working on vegetables.
They have a tall blade and a higher set handle that gives your hand plenty of clearance from the cutting board. You should use Nakiri knives with single chopping and slicing motions – without needing to rock the blade back and forth to sever the small “strings” for perfect cuts.
Cutting Edge and Bevels
The main difference between the Nakiri and the Usuba is the cutting edge. The Nakiri has a double-bevel cutting edge. This means that the cutting edge is sharpened on both sides. There are a few implications of this style of knife, the first being that the knife can be used both right and left-handed.
The cutting edge comes to a point that sits in the center of the knife and offers a very intuitive and familiar cutting line. If you’re relatively new to Japanese knives or professional knives, the Nakiri knife is the safer and more enabling choice for starting with.
When it comes to pricing the Usuba vs Nakiri, there’s not a lot of difference. Despite being a little cheaper than the Usuba knife, you’re still going to pay a pretty penny for a good Nakiri knife. Knife makers craft each knife is from hand-forged steel that goes through an intense and complex forging process.
They also blend the high-grade steel with elements to improve their corrosion and rust resistance, which further adds to the price. You should prepare to pay a mid-high price for a decent Nakiri knife. If aesthetics are important to you, you’ll need to pay more – and the same applies to collector’s edition models.
Nakiri knives don’t have quite as high a skill floor as Usuba does. This is mostly thanks to the double-bevel and how the knife cuts. You’ll find it’s very easy to use, especially if you haven’t refined your chef knife skills.
You don’t need to worry about learning any fancy techniques for now and this is a great knife to build your foundations with. When you reach an intermediate level with this knife, you’ll be able to get professional results that come close to what you’d get from an Usuba.
Usuba offers some of the most impressive and extraordinary cutting and chopping performance on the market. It has an incredibly thin and extremely well-balanced cutting edge, and more than enough size and power to handle larger and tougher vegetables with ease.
Visually speaking, Usuba is the clear winner. Their stunning design and attractive body make these some of the most attractive knives in this price range.
Cutting Edge and Bevels
As we hinted at earlier, this is where the main difference lies between the Usuba and the Nakiri. Where the Nakiri has a double-bevel, the Usuba has a single-bevel cutting edge. The result is a blindingly sharp and thin cutting edge. The drawback is that this knife isn’t good for ambidextrous use. Which means you can only get the knife for either right-handed or left-handed use.
If you’re a lefty, then you’ll need to find an Usuba that’s specifically made for a left-handed chef. Moreover, they are quite a bit more expensive than their right-handed counterparts. There is another issue with having such a sharp cutting edge, and that’s how fragile it is. Yes, the steel is very hard and sturdy, but its thin profile makes it rather brittle and easy to chip with careless use.
Make sure you use excellent technique and take the time to learn traditional Japanese cutting techniques. You should also only use top-quality cutting boards and have an excellent care and maintenance routine in place.
Other than being some of the best performing knives on the market, Usuba knives are also some of the most expensive. You probably won’t find a decent Usuba that doesn’t command a staggeringly premium price. That being said, the price of these knives aren’t unfair. Seasoned professionals craft these knives excuisitely, using hand-forging techniques that have lasted for centuries.
As far as attention to detail and supreme quality goes, you’re getting top-of-the-range with this knife. You’ll mostly find Usuba knives in professional kitchens where seasoned professionals use these. Because they’ve had tons of experience and have the muscle memory needed to harness the true power of this knife.
The purpose of the Usuba is quite similar to the Nakiri. To be clear, they’re both designed to be used on vegetables. Usuba takes it a step further and adds an element of pure precision and intricate accuracy that you’ll struggle to get from a Nakiri. Chefs often use the Usuba with Japanese cutting techniques such as Katsuramuki and it is difficult to master.
They naturally cut slightly to the left (for right-handed Usuba knives) due to the single-bevel. As a result you need to spend time and practice. Once you’ve mastered this knife, you can get astonishingly thin cuts on vegetables such as daikon radishes. Overall, these knives are great for accurate, intricate, precise, and delicate food prep. In fact, the likes of which you’d find in renowned dishes and professional kitchens.
The Usuba is notoriously challenging to master and will take loads of time and dedication. On top of this, they require expert skills to sharpen and will warp when done so incorrectly. Sharpening is expensive as the materials you need to sharpen these knives are expensive.
You’ll also need to make sure you get a knife that matches your dominant hand. Additionally, take the time to build the muscle memory required to get perfectly accurate and thin slices. Combine this with all the special traditional cutting techniques, and you’ve got quite a bit of work ahead of you. Therefore, you can get extremely professional world-class results from this knife once you’re proficient with it.
So, is the Nakiri or the Usuba the right choice for you? You have all the information you need to make the best choice. You also know how these titans go up against each other in terms of price, purpose, ease of use, and more. Just bear in mind that we’re not overstating the skill requirement of the Usuba knife. It’s a difficult knife to master.
Take what you’ve learned here about Usuba vs Nakiri, look at some knives, get a little practice. That way, you’ll be well on the way to owning the perfect Japanese knife for your vegetables! Good luck and enjoy the excellent cutting performance!