Three Things to Know Before Buying a Nakiri Knife

Julienne carrots and thin-slice cucumbers to your heart’s content.

Nakiri Japanese vegetable knife
A Japanese vegetable knife could up your kitchen game.Unsplash/Jonathan Borba

An all-purpose knife like a chef’s knife can do a perfectly decent job slicing and chopping your produce, but a specialized vegetable knife like a nakiri has some special abilities.

Mercer Culinary M22907 Millennia 7-Inch Nakiri Knife, Black
Japanese steel with an ergonomic handle.Mercer Culinary

Nakiri knives have flat, straight, rectangular blades, which makes them quite different from a chef’s knife or santoku. What the nakiri looks like, in fact, is a small cleaver, and that makes sense, because that’s essentially what it is. But unlike a cleaver, a nakiri is exceedingly thin and light, meaning it’s ideal for delicate work like thinly slicing fruits and vegetables.

Wusthof Nakiri Knife - 7" Hollow Edge - Forged Legende Series
The dimples on the sides of the blade reduce sticking.Wüsthof

The key difference with a nakiri knife is that the blade itself is flat, rather than curved. That means that you have to use it differently: instead of the rocking motion of a curved knife like a chef’s knife, you use an up-and-down chopping motion. One big benefit of this flat design is that you’ll fully separate each cut piece of food: no more slices of celery bound together by a little thread you didn’t quite cut through.

Shun Cutlery Classic 6.5” Nakiri Knife; Kitchen Knife Handcrafted in Japan; Hand-Sharpened 16° Double-Bevel Steel Blade for Swift and Easy Precision Work; Beautiful D-Shaped Ebony PakkaWood Handle
Gorgeous workmanship and a blade made with Damascus stainless-steel cladding.Shun

Because nakiri knives are specifically made for vegetable work, they have several adaptations to be as good as possible at that task. One of them is that many nakiri knives have some kind of protection against sticking. We’ve all been there: you’re slicing a cucumber, and the cucumber slices stick to the side of the knife, getting in the way or flying off at some inopportune time. Many nakiri knives have hollow indents in their sides, or are made using the elaborate Damascus method (which involves many precise folds of a single piece of steel, creating a beautiful wavy pattern). Those features reduce the tendency of sliced food to stick to the knife.

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