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Newbie - almost bought Shun Premier Santoku and Nakiri for wife

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makstaks

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Hello all, just a couple of home cooks looking to buy a nice set of Japanese Knives for my wife. Almost went with Shun Premier since I found a couple sales but then i read they are prone to chipping and may be overpriced for the performance. Researching further led me to this forum. So many beautiful collections here! I'm hoping to find a good Japanese Knife substitute, rust proof, not as brittle, and no more expensive than the Shun's. Here is what I was considering...

Shun Premier Blonde 7" Santoku Knife. On sale for $130 LINK
Shun Premier Nakiri Knife 6.5" Nakiri. On sale for $135 LINK

Should we be looking at something else like the Tojiro or is this also prone to chip?
Tojiro DP Hammered 6.75" Santoku Knife $90 LINK


LOCATION
What country are you in?
United States - Los Angeles. If there is local knife shop i could make a trip. We did visit HITACHIYA USA- Cutlery & Knife Sharpening High Quality Cookware Store since its near us.


KNIFE TYPE
What type of knife are you interested in (e.g., chefs knife, slicer, boning knife, utility knife, bread knife, paring knife, cleaver)?
Santoku, Nakiri, Bread Knife, Petty (or Pairing)

Are you right or left handed?
Wife - Right (85% of food prep)
Me - Left (15% of food prep)


Are you interested in a Western handle (e.g., classic Wusthof handle) or Japanese handle?
Definitely Japanese handle. Hexagon or Octagon shape look great.


What length of knife (blade) are you interested in (in inches or millimeters)?
Santoku 180mm at most. Wife is resistant about going with Gyuto, perhaps since she never used one before and likes shorter main knife anyway.
Nakiri, Bread Knife, Petty is open for suggestion.


Do you require a stainless knife? (Yes or no)
Yes. We are just home cooks and do not want to worry about Rust but also want to avoid chipping. Not sure what kind of knife that puts us at.


What is your absolute maximum budget for your knife?
Up to $150 each since i was prepared to pay that for the Shun Premier (Santoku, Nakiri, Bread)


KNIFE USE
Do you primarily intend to use this knife at home or a professional environment?
Home


What are the main tasks you primarily intend to use the knife for (e.g., slicing vegetables, chopping vegetables, mincing vegetables, slicing meats, cutting down poultry, breaking poultry bones, filleting fish, trimming meats, etc.)? (Please identify as many tasks as you would like.)
My wife is japanese and makes alot of asian foods. Prepares alot of vegetables along with some meat, fish, chicken.

What knife, if any, are you replacing?
$5-$10 each cuisinart knives I bought 12+ years ago from Marshalls.

Do you have a particular grip that you primarily use? (Please click on this LINK for the common types of grips.)
N/A

What cutting motions do you primarily use? (Please click on this LINK for types of cutting motions and identify the two or three most common cutting motions, in order of most used to least used.)
N/A

What improvements do you want from your current knife? If you are not replacing a knife, please identify as many characteristics identified below in parentheses that you would like this knife to have.)
Almost anything is improvement over current knifes lol. We remodeled Kitchen a couple years ago and would like to display beautiful japanese knives in here. Wife is best cook in the family so i want to give her something appropriate. She is from Niigata and mentions there are nice knife makers there. So she certainly seems like she wants japanese knife.


Better aesthetics (e.g., a certain type of finish; layered/Damascus or other pattern of steel; different handle color/pattern/shape/wood; better scratch resistance; better stain resistance)?
If handles are different colors but same shape (ex. Hexagon or Octagonal) that would be fine. Stain, rust, chip resistance is desired.


Comfort (e.g., lighter/heavier knife; better handle material; better handle shape; rounded spine/choil of the knife; improved balance)?
Lighter.


Ease of Use (e.g., ability to use the knife right out of the box; smoother rock chopping, push cutting, or slicing motion; less wedging; better food release; less reactivity with food; easier to sharpen)?
Probably N/A since we are more home cook rather than enthusiast


Edge Retention (i.e., length of time you want the edge to last without sharpening)?
Wife prefers long lasting knife. We do have local japanese knife shop if sharpening is needed.


KNIFE MAINTENANCE
Do you use a bamboo, wood, rubber, or synthetic cutting board? (Yes or no.)
We currently have a plastic board and Epicurean (Wife hates it though due to noise). I am likely to research new cutting board to go with these knives

Do you sharpen your own knives? (Yes or no.)
No

If not, are you interested in learning how to sharpen your knives? (Yes or no.)
Depends on how often sharpening is needed, we do have local knife sharpening options.

Are you interested in purchasing sharpening products for your knives? (Yes or no.)
See above


SPECIAL REQUESTS/COMMENTS
 

Wahnamhong

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Have you considered a smaller gyuto, e.g. 180mm? Santoku seems like a safe bet for the other knife, from what I read. Have a look at japaneseknifeimport.com or japanesechefsknife.com to have a better understanding of what’s available. There is a lot of choice, and it is helping me to limit buying at just a few shops. If you see something nice, come back and ask questions. Take a look at this one for example: Gesshin Uraku 165mm SKD Santoku
 

tostadas

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Is there a reason why you are looking for both a santoku and a nakiri in nearly the same size? A nakiri and santoku are very similar; both tall and relatively flat edge. The nakiri generally being slightly flatter, and a santoku being slightly pointier.
 

makstaks

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Have you considered a smaller gyuto, e.g. 180mm? Santoku seems like a safe bet for the other knife, from what I read. Have a look at japaneseknifeimport.com or japanesechefsknife.com to have a better understanding of what’s available. There is a lot of choice, and it is helping me to limit buying at just a few shops. If you see something nice, come back and ask questions. Take a look at this one for example: Gesshin Uraku 165mm SKD Santoku
Wow beautiful Santoku and really seems like a great fit for us! Yes, i actually prefer a Gyuto of that size instead of Santoku but wife has strong preference for Santoku. I explain a little more below.

Is there a reason why you are looking for both a santoku and a nakiri in nearly the same size? A nakiri and santoku are very similar; both tall and relatively flat edge. The nakiri generally being slightly flatter, and a santoku being slightly pointier.
So, i don't exactly like Santoku and Nakiri combo either. Basically...
Me: Gyuto, Nakiri, Petty (or Pairing), Bread
Wife: Santoku, Bread

We have a little disagreement on what our knife needs could be. Right now she commonly uses two Santokus one 5.5in and other 6.5in. This is due to a knife being dirty or using one for veggies and other for meat. I was thinking a smaller Gyuto 180mm and Nakiri fits this case but she's pretty adamant about sticking with Santoku. She hasn't veto'd Nakiri so this is how we are kinda in the Santoku/Nakiri combo right now.

Its possible we could end up doing Santoku, Petty (or Pairing), Bread as a compromise but I'm a little worried about Meat and Poultry. Isn't Gyuto better than Santoku for that? I have 9mo old son and as he gets older i see us doing grilling in the future (steak, asada, chicken) and hope we have adequate knife for that :)
 
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Nagakin

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I'd recommend a gyuto/santoku combo over a santoku/nakiri. Santoku and nakiri occupy more of the same space together than either does with a gyuto. A 180 gyuto with a shorter heel can also double as a petty, or butcher even depending on the maker.
 

Yet-Another-Dave

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... LOCATION - What country are you in? -- United States - Los Angeles. If there is local knife shop i could make a trip. ...
In normal times the obvious answer is to visit JKI! (I know LA sprawls and one LA isn't necessarily close to another LA, but in this case it would be worth the trip.)

However, JKI isn't open to customers right now. Still they'd be a great resource if you send them an email or give them a call.

Second suggestion, is I'd get the one new knife at a time. That way you can use it a bit and figure out what it does well and where it is lacking for your needs. (Santoku for your wife, just sayin'.)
 

-Kiku-

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Hello, makstaks. Welcome to the forum. i am a newbie myself, joined only a couple of days ago.

Shun Premiere's line of cutlery's made of VG-MAX which is a slight variant of popular VG-10 stainless steel. I'm no metallurgy guru, but I think both stainless steels are similar in performance despite Shun's claim of VG-MAX being superior to VG-10. Shun may have given VG-MAX a slightly different heat treatment.

Both VG-MAX and Tojiro's DP (VG-10) are hardened to around 60-61 HRC so you are not likely to see noticeable difference in edge retention between the two.

Shun's Premier line costs noticeably higher. I think it's because Shun spends more $$$ on marketing their product and pass on the cost to the consumers. So the higher price tag of Shun's Premier line isn't because it is better. In fact, many will attest that Shun's knives are way too pricey for the performance they offer, and if you ask, they will give you plenty of lower-priced options from other manufacturers that offer similar performance.

All of the knives you linked above have 50/50 symmetric bevel of it won't matter whether you are right/left-handed.

I was going to recommend that you go for Tojiro DP, but technically I cannot recommend that particular brand and that specific model just yet because I haven't used it myself. But I am expected to receive a Tojiro DP Nakiri 6.5" in the mail in a few days. I ordered it because I think it was an excellent value for the price, and the Tojiro's DP is highly recommended by those who value a high performance-to-cost ratio.

So I don't think you can go wrong with Tojiro DP. And that's just my prediction. And you are NOT likely to find other quality VG-10 stainless steel Japanese knives at prices lower than Tojiro DP.

FYI, I also purchased another nakiri (>$300) made of exotic alloy, and a santoku made of SRS15 stainless steel. Threw out a bunch of old knives (all cheap German/Chinese cutlery) over the weekend to try out and make room for higher-end Japanese cutlery.
 

tostadas

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Wow beautiful Santoku and really seems like a great fit for us! Yes, i actually prefer a Gyuto of that size instead of Santoku but wife has strong preference for Santoku. I explain a little more below.



So, i don't exactly like Santoku and Nakiri combo either. Basically...
Me: Gyuto, Nakiri, Petty (or Pairing), Bread
Wife: Santoku, Bread

We have a little disagreement on what our knife needs could be. Right now she commonly uses two Santokus one 5.5in and other 6.5in. This is due to a knife being dirty or using one for veggies and other for meat. I was thinking a smaller Gyuto 180mm and Nakiri fits this case but she's pretty adamant about sticking with Santoku. She hasn't veto'd Nakiri so this is how we are kinda in the Santoku/Nakiri combo right now.

Its possible we could end up doing Santoku, Petty (or Pairing), Bread as a compromise but I'm a little worried about Meat and Poultry. Isn't Gyuto better than Santoku for that? I have 9mo old son and as he gets older i see us doing grilling in the future (steak, asada, chicken) and hope we have adequate knife for that :)
There's nothing wrong with santokus. Though often referred to as a wife knife, I love my 180mm santoku. When I don't feel like using something larger, I have often prepped entire family dinners with it. Meat and poultry is not a problem so long as you have a tip (I gave away my nakiri because I hated not having a pointy tip). I suppose a gyuto may be slightly better in some regards, but it'd be a bit pretentious to say that you can only cut meat with a certain style or certain size knife, especially in home use. I actually chose to purchase it over a similar length gyuto because I wanted knuckle clearance similar to that of my 240mm gyutos. My santoku is about 53mm tall at the heel. The 180mm gyutos I've looked at usually run around 40-47mm with some outliers.

My question for you is what specifically about a santoku is a requirement for your wife?
Is it the height? Some makers have a tall, flat "gyuto", which I would consider to be more of a santoku. And other makers have very short "santoku", which might be more similar to a gyuto.
Is it the flat-ish profile with a low tip? Some makers have a super curvy "santoku" which functions more like a mini german chef's knife.

I think it's important to figure out what features you want in the knife, instead of simply what it's labeled as. Take measurements of what you use and decide what works and what could be improved. That way you can compare with specs of any recommendations from people.

So not knowing any of your specific preferences, I would recommend checking out the Takamura R2 (or HSPS, depending on the retailer) line of knives. The steel is higher end than your typical AUS-8 or VG-10, and the grind on their knives are SUPER thin. It's amazing for vegetables. I believe they have a 180mm santoku for around $160. Do note however, that their santoku is on the shorter side, at 46mm. Also, I consider their handles to be on the smaller side. In comparison, a shun handle is fatter. If the price is above your budget, they also make a VG10 line and also a Chromax, but I don't have experience with those.

On the slightly lower end, there are a number of manufacturers that make an AUS-8 santoku with a western handle which would cost you probably $60-100. Off the top of my head, you can check out Misono, Mac, JCK. They also all look very similar aesthetically due to the same style of black pakkawood handles. AUS-8 is not a high end steel, but certainly several steps above the offerings from a discount store. My petty knife is AUS-8 and gets plenty sharp for my home cooking needs.

Changing topics, if you plan on getting a santoku + gyuto, I'd recommend getting a larger gyuto, at least 210mm. The benefit of that extra inch is noticeable in many situations.
 

Qapla'

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This one's a bit different from what you specified in the questionnaire, but what do you think of this?


Another possibility that's also not quite what you specified: What do you think of simply picking out a Misono 440 lefty 210mm gyuto for yourself (though it's technically over-budget by a dollar at $151), and then taking her to the local Japanese knife shop you mentioned for her to pick out a knife that she likes?

 
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Nemo

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In normal times the obvious answer is to visit JKI! (I know LA sprawls and one LA isn't necessarily close to another LA, but in this case it would be worth the trip.)

However, JKI isn't open to customers right now. Still they'd be a great resource if you send them an email or give them a call.

Second suggestion, is I'd get the one new knife at a time. That way you can use it a bit and figure out what it does well and where it is lacking for your needs. (Santoku for your wife, just sayin'.)
Hell, I know people who have travelled halfway around the world to visit JKI.
 

ModRQC

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I second @tostadas with some righteous love for a Santoku - or a Bunka, if one is of your/her liking. If a lot of fine tip work is involved in the preps, a Bunka is typically wider towards the tip than a Santoku, much more than a Gyuto, allowing more real estate to guide the tip with the middle finger of the hand holding the food.

Santoku from there basically hybrids a Bunka and a Gyuto - will have a tendency to be wider at the tip than a Gyuto, typically not as much as a Bunka. Varying profiles notwithstanding, both have lower tips than a Gyuto, but a Bunka is usually a flatter profile.

A Gyuto is more versatile, at the same length and weight will usually feel more nimble and agile; a Santoku feels "stiffer" because of the compacted profile - I wouldn't imagine using a longer Santoku than the usual 170-180mm. A Bunka feels even more "stiff" if of the very flat profile variety.

I understand the more general consensus of not being attracted much to Santokus, though. I always say that a Santoku is fun to have and use when you can deliberately choose it over a Gyuto also in your rotation. If you only have a Santoku, it's a very very sad world.
 

Michi

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I'd pick a bunka over a santoku any day, simply because I think that a bunka is the more versatile knife. The acute tip is better for things such as slicing onion and other detail work. And the heel is tall enough to use it like a nakiri.

In fact, I'd prefer a 180 mm bunka over a 180 mm gyuto as well, because a bunka is usually taller at the heel.
 

ModRQC

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I thought I would too. I agree for the tip to the extent of versatility, where I didn't quite like the Bunka for detailing because the wide squarish tip sacrifices some versatility. Also didn't find it as nice for tip slicing, although that is more a matter of habits. I did like a Bunka, better than a Nakiri, just not as much as a Santoku. It's too much dedicated for me - I don't like having to make use of multiple knives when I can avoid it. There are however some Bunkas that are really more of a Santoku profile with K tip, more curve upwards hence higher narrower tip. That could probably have worked well too. Love the Yoshikane Santoku I bought though - 184/54 as tall as you'd wish a Bunka to be, longer than many of them too, where more curve upwards doesn't sacrifice too much of the flat area compared to 165-175mm Bunkas, many of them also way shorter at the heel. I had to find that one though - it's really no typical Santoku.
 

spaceconvoy

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I'd recommend the Misono Molybdenum series for inexpensive high-quality stainless with a good balance between hardness and chip resistance for a home user. They have a variety of different sizes if you want both a 180 and 160mm santoku for instance, and their handles are probably the nicest among this price range. If you're willing to navigate Amazon Japan's site (which isn't so hard once you find the button to change the language to English) you can save a bunch.
Gyutos - https://www.amazon.co.jp/-/en/dp/B000XT4GJO/
Santokus - https://www.amazon.co.jp/-/en/dp/B001TPJ99S/
Pettys - https://www.amazon.co.jp/-/en/dp/B000XSZ7RA/
 

makstaks

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Ok, i did alot of reading in this forum, checked out recommendations, and have just one adjustment to the questionnaire (i unfortunately can't edit). No more Santoku or Nakiri. Just looking for Gyuto and Petty now (japanese handle, stainless, ambidextrous, chip resistant all still desired).

What changed wife's mind is the weight and handling of Santoku vs the Gyuto. We tried Shun Premier 7in Gyuto (153g) and 7in Santoku (213g). She really liked Gyuto! Also thinks 170g is about her weight limit for larger knife. She can also see herself using petty as well since it can be more of a weight and feel match to her two most used knives today (6.5in 87g and 5.5in 80g). How do these options sound?


Option1 (gyuto 210mm, petty 150mm)
*$266 total. Is Sakai Takayuki better than Shun Premier? At $250 I get free shipping.
Sakai Takayuki 45-Layer Damascus Hammered WA Japanese Chef's Gyuto Knife 210mm $153 (145g)
Sakai Takayuki 45-Layer Damascus Hammered WA Japanese Chef's Petty Knife(Utility) 150mm $113 (80G)

Option2 (gyuto 210mm, petty 150mm)
*$305 total. From JKI. A bit more than i want to spend but we are looking for knives to last the next decade.
Gonbei 210mm Hammered Damascus Wa-Gyuto $175 (146g)
Gonbei 150mm Hammered Damascus Wa-Petty $130 (71g)

Option3 (gyuto 180mm, pairing 100mm)
*$185 total. Not exactly japanese handle style but looks good. Is this still overpriced for the performance even on sale? Wife would use Gyuto of this size alot, pairing im not sure if its too small yet but may be ok.
https://www.amazon.com/Shun-Premier-TDM0760-7-Inch-Silver/dp/B07111TCTQ/ $125 (180MM / 170g)
Shun Premier Limited Edition Paring Knife, 4" | Cutlery and More $60 100mm

Option4 (gyuto 210mm, petty 120mm)
*$300 total. Also a bit high in price but i've seen this brand mentioned here. Is the handle durable and good looking? Didn't quite look as finished.
Tanaka Ginsan (Silver 3, 銀三) Nashiji Gyuto 210 / 240 mm Lite $199 (174g)
Tanaka Ginsan (Silver 3, 銀三) Nashiji Petty 120mm / 150mm Lite $100 120mm
 
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Nemo

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Out of those options, #4 stands out to me. I have the 240mm (non-lite version) and it's an excellent introduction to good knives. Could easily be the only knife you'd need.

I don't know what Sakai Takayuki's heat treatment of VG10 is like. Heat treatment is particularly important for VG10 as indifferently heat treated versions can be very tedious to deburr.

Given you are in LA, did you reach out to JKI? Even if their physical store is closed, they will still ship knives. I believe with free shipping in CONUS. Whilst I don't have personal experience with them, their Gesshin Stainless and Gesshin Uraku lines are often recommended as an introduction to good knives.
 

ModRQC

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Mine Takayuki VG-10 is easy to sharpen, close to AEB-L in feeling, requiring a bit more effort overall.

Tanaka still a much better option.
 

knifeknight

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Buy the Tanakas, price is reasonable and they should be pretty easy to maintain and to sharpen
 

makstaks

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Since the tanaka is lite version it does not have 'custom rounding of spine and choil'. This does seem like good features for home cook. Is the comfort level and F&F noticeably less?

Is the gonbei from JKI also not rounded spine? I chose gonbei over uraku since it was only $5 more, hammered, available, and it seems like very close to uraku in regards to rust proofness and chip resistance. I am not quite sure why it is not as popular as uraku.

I'll send an email out to jki soon as i have a chance.
 

timebard

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Since the tanaka is lite version it does not have 'custom rounding of spine and choil'. This does seem like good features for home cook. Is the comfort level and F&F noticeably less?

Is the gonbei from JKI also not rounded spine? I chose gonbei over uraku since it was only $5 more, hammered, available, and it seems like very close to uraku in regards to rust proofness and chip resistance. I am not quite sure why it is not as popular as uraku.

I'll send an email out to jki soon as i have a chance.
I have the Tanaka lite petty from KnS and while it's not finished to a high level I don't find it objectionable at all for home use. The spine and choil are eased but not rounded and there's a bit of excess glue where the handle was installed. Neither of these is noticable as an issue in use, so I wouldn't hesitate on that account. If you want a knife that will look flawless on close inspection you could certainly ding it a bit there, but at the price point I think it's perfectly acceptable.
 

Nemo

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If you don't want to fork out for the regular Tanaka, you can ease the spine and choil yourself with a progression of wet and dry sandpaper.
 
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