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You may not be aware of it but in the world of professional cooks and chefs there is a continuing debate as to which country makes better kitchen knives. This industry has long been dominated by European companies, most commonly German. However Japan is making a name for itself by manufacturing knives that have clear and distinct qualities over their European counterparts. So what actually makes a Japanese chef’s knife stands out among the rest? Are they really any better than knives made by the established and experienced Western companies?

Most chefs would say that Japanese knives have their own strengths and weaknesses but pretty much the choice depends on which one will feel ‘right’ in the cook’s hands.  And at the end of the day it will come down to personal preference because at the basic level Japanese, German, or French knives can all deliver the kind of excellent performance that seasoned cook’s require.  It’s about the quality of the knife, not the country of origin.

How Is A Japanese Chef’s Knife Different?

Japanese Chef's KnifeThere are unique and distinct attributes that distinguish Japanese knives over the others and those will be pointed out here. The method used to make Japanese knives is strongly rooted in Japan’s age old traditions and culture and is very much influenced by the techniques used in making the famous samurai sword. Thus a Japanese knife is known for its sharpness and efficiency.

However knives manufactured by Japanese makers differ on the main material used to make the blade. These knives are made using a harder but more lightweight steel with a very acute edge which makes them extremely sharp. On the other hand, those made by European manufacturers use a softer but stronger and heavier steel which makes the blade solid and tough. This makes them more durable and heavy duty. The edges of their blades are thicker but are easier to hone.  European  knives will never be as sharp as a Japanese one, but European knives will hold the sharp edge for far longer.

When it comes to the look and design of Japanese chef’s knives they are traditionally defined by a single-edged blade and rounded handles with no grip marks. The handle of Japanese knives are also smaller compared to Western knives like those made by German companies. These features make the knives more ideal for chopping, dicing, and slicing. However the latest innovations and developments in  Japanese knives are incorporating more Western like styles such as hand grips and double edged blades thus expanding their cutting capabilities.

For additional reading, check out The Japanese Santoku vs Chef knife.

Japanese Chef’s Knife Top Picks

There are many Japanese kitchen knives to choose from these days, however we believe that the following are the best of the best without going through the trouble of getting a custom made knife.

Global G-2 Chef Knife

Global Chef Knife G-2The Global G-2 chef knife is made using a combination of materials including chromium, molybdenum, vanadium and stainless steel making it strong, lightweight, sharp, stain resistant, and able to maintain its edge for a long period. The blade is hand crafted in Japan and ice tempered in order to allow the blade to keep its edge longer. Chef’s and cooks gave this knife positive reviews for having a special steep grind with a gradual curving edge that makes cutting easier and eliminates the tendency of food ingredients to stick to the blade’s surface.

Another excellent design from the Global chef knife is that the blade and the handle are all made from a single piece of steel. To provide balance, the handle is made hollow and filled with either sand or metal materials.  The handle is also smaller in size when compared to more traditional knives thus making the Global an ideal knife for people with smaller hands.

Shun Classic Knives

This is another great example of an outstanding Japanese knife that provides effortless slicing and dicing with a comfortable and solid hold. The blade of a Shun Classic knife is made extra strong through the use of stainless steel clad with as many as 16 layers of high carbon stainless steel.  This knife’s design displays the beautiful Japanese craftsmanship that has been around for thousands of years.

The Shun Santoku knife for instance is particularly designed to deliver excellent performance when dicing, slicing, mincing and chopping various ingredients. It has a D shape handle made from Pakkawood which fits securely in the user’s hand for a firm and solid hold. This means accidental slipping will be greatly avoided.

Shun classic knives may cost more when compared to other brands, but the excellent quality of this knife means this could very well be the last chef’s knife you ever purchase.  Maybe the beauty of the knife blinds us, but because of its high quality and durability, we like to think of the Shun classic as cost effective, especially when compared to cheap infomercial knives.  Just ask Alton Brown.  The Shun is his go to knife.

There are various kinds of kitchen knives that are available in the market now and each of them are designed for specific purpose. Sometimes the differences in design create discussions as to what is the most appropriate and the best to use. This could not be more true in the continuing comparison between the santoku vs chef knife. These two knives are distinct particularly in shape and other design features and these differences make them perform either well or less effective in various tasks. Experts and various users would argue on the merits of each knife and will point out why the other is better. So what is a santoku knife and how does this differ from the regular chef knife?santoku vs chef knife

Santoku vs Chef Knife – How A Does Santoku Knife Differ From The Traditional Chef Knife?

Santoku is a Japanese made knife which is well known to many users for its sharp edge, which can be either beveled or hollow ground. These types of designs greatly improve and enhance the overall performance of this knife. Santoku is a Japanese term which means “three virtues” which actually attest to its effectiveness in slicing, cutting, dicing and chopping meat, vegetables and fish. These functions are typically associated with chef knives hence the constant comparison between the two.

Shape of the Blade

Compared to the regular chef knives which many people are familiar with, the main distinction of a santoku knife is the shape. The regular chef’s knife features a rounded blade form which allows the user to slice and dice the ingredient in a rocking motion. On the other hand, the blade of a santoku knife has a straight edge which allows it to make horizontal and straight cuts much easier using up and down motion.

In addition, the blade of the santoku knife also features a ‘granton edge’ release pattern which makes not only makes it look good but also enables it to keep thin slices and sticky ingredients from attaching on the blade.

With its unique styling  that makes santoku knives appear like a narrow-bladed cleaver, this knife is intended to be comfortable, provide a well-balanced grip, and full blade use.

Length of the Blade

Another aspect that illustrates the difference between santoku vs chef knife is the length of the blade. The former normally would measure from 5-7 inches though much shorter kinds are also available. Meanwhile the latter typically would be 8-12 inches long however shorter or longer blades can be found as well. Santoku would be ideal for people who have small hands and who may have difficulty using the bigger and longer size chef knives.

There are many brands of excellent santoku knives available on the market today.  We’ll highlight some of the most popular below.

Shun Classic Santoku Hollow Ground Knife

Shun Classic KnivesThis is actually a 6-1/2-inch Japanese santoku knife which means that it would be perfect for chopping, mincing, dicing and slicing as expected of this kind of knife. Its blade is made using  forged VG 10 stainless-steel covered in 16 layers of high carbon stainless steel to create that rust-free Damascus appearance. The blade also has a scalloped edge which is a design as mentioned earlier not just to create a distinct look but also intended to prevent food ingredients from sticking on the blade while being sliced, diced, etc. Furthermore this item also features a D-shaped Pakkawood handle that is sure to be solid and long lasting. Finally, this knife also has comfortable offset steel bolster.

Shun Premier Santoku Knife, 7-Inch

Shun Premier SantokuThis is a 7 inch Japanese made santoku knife ideal for easy and fast cutting of food ingredients. Its blade is made using VG 10 steel covered in 32 layers of stainless Damascus steel.  The blade also features a hand-hammered finish which gives it a hollow-ground surface. This features a Pakkawood handle as well especially made to allow the user to have a comfortable yet firm grip.

“Ah, the ole’ santoku vs chef knife battle…on the other hand we have the quintessential chef’s knife, the Wusthof Classic.”

Wusthof Classic Cook’s Knife

Wusthof Classic KnivesMade by a German company which is widely respected in the industry, this product is a perfect example of a cook’s or chef’s knife. Wusthof Classic knives feature an 8 inch blade designed to deliver an excellent performance when used for cutting, slicing, and others. The blade is made using high carbon steel which is stain and rust resistant. In addition the blade is hand honed to provide razor sharp characteristic and the sharpness will also stay for a long period. This knife is also widely praised for its perfect balance brought about by the design that extends the steel use for the blade up to the handle. Finally it features a bolster which is smooth and comfortable to the hand which makes it a breeze to use.

Born in Rome and raised in Southern California, Giada de Lauarentiis knows how to cook. Her flair with Italian and everyday cuisine extends far and wide, from the television screen to her wonderfully written cookbooks. Along the way, she has also become somewhat of a role model, a sexy mother and wife who knows how to whip up satisfying dishes for friends and family in a seemingly effortless way. However, Giada has many secrets to her success, not the least of which is her cook’s tool chest.

Accordingly, chefs the world over would probably agree that one of their most essential and important tools is a knife, the right kind, sharp and ready, for each precise job. Chefs and their knives are so inseparable in the kitchen, in fact, that many consider cooking without proper knives nothing more than an amateur endeavor. Thus, it is not surprising that in their and Giada’s arsenal of tools is a very special one indeed, the mezzaluna knife.

mezzaluna knife

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A mezzaluna knife is hardly a household word, but once familiar with using this unusually named kitchen tool, it is one likely to become essential.  In Italian, mezzaluna means half moon, an apt enough description for its crescent-shaped blade.  It is sometimes referred to by English-speaking cooks as a crescent knife. Nonetheless, the design, not the name, is most important to its uniqueness and function. The blade is long and sharpened from end to end, thus its curvature enables one to rock it from side to side and get a clean, precise cut. The rocking motion makes it especially appropriate for chopping, cutting, and mincing foods, otherwise tedious preparation tasks.

While one type of mezzaluna knife is designed with a handle, usually of wood, ceramic, or plastic, extended above the blade, sometimes double, or with a raised handle on either end for control, the Giada mezzaluna does not. Forged from steel, the handle is traditionally attached at the end of the blade, which is high carbon stainless steel.   The entire knife is about 14 inches in length, end to end, allowing it to chop and cut quite effectively. Also, the back of the blade has a thickened design, which makes a good leveraging point, especially important for someone with a small hand. Its cost, a little more than $20, is another great feature of this particular knife, one that Giada has called her favorite gadget of all.

Giada De Laurentiis Mezzaluna Knife“The Giada De Laurentiis Mezzaluna Knife makes kitchen prep an enjoyable task for even the most amateur of chefs.”

Mezzaluna knives are very popular in Europe, thus if not accustomed to one at home while growing up, it might take some practice to get adept at its use.  Chopping and dicing some carrots or celery first will assist in getting the hang of it and assure more success when actually preparing a major meal.  Any effort expended on mastering this newly acquired skill will pay off in saved time, also nice, neat cubes and dices, minus the usual struggle to achieve clean-looking cuts.

Before Giada began promoting her new line of knives at target she used this Global chef knife exclusively.

Available, too, for some knife models are special cutting boards that have small depressions in them to follow the contour of the mezzaluna  blade. They are well suited for the knife’s usage for such practical tasks as mincing garlic and herbs and chopping vegetables, such as tomatoes, for sauces and soups. Also, a mezzaluna knife doubles as a pastry knife for chopping shortening that has been added to flour for dough making. Thus it is easy to imagine how the mezzaluna knife, with its curvature, soon becomes the knife of choice for many as they apply it to more and more tasks instead of using the usual straight-bladed knife.

There are several brands and varieties of mezzaluna knives on the market, however the same basic features should be taken into consideration when perusing them. These include the quality of blade construction, solidly forged from metal that is good quality. Also, any pits or holes where the blade and handle join are not advisable, as they welcome food accumulation and bacteria.

A mezzaluna knife, further, should not be placed in the dishwasher, but hand washed instead. It should not be left to dry on its own but, rather, dried immediately after washing to prevent rust. While the Giada brand of mezzaluna knife does not come with a sheath, it is easy enough to wrap it in a piece of thick canvas or other such material when storing. Doing so protects the blade, keeping it sharper longer, and it also prevents injuries to hands thrust into drawers where exposed knives often cause damage.

To conclude, for anyone who spends a lot of time in the kitchen like Giada De Laurentiis, or even much less, it is clear that her favorite gadget, the Giada De Laurentiis mezzaluna knife would soon win over most any chef. It represents, too, a change from the usual boring task at hand when it comes to fruits and vegetables, especially, as they succumb to the deft strokes of a mezzaluna knife deftly wielded.