If you don't know where to start, we always recommend getting an all-purpose knife. These knives are the perfect introduction to Japanese steel while still having the familiarity of the European Chef's knife. The Gyuto and Santoku are the 2 most common shapes of the all-purpose knife. 



Japanese gyuto is the ideal cutting knife for chefs and home cooks. They have a similar shape to the European Chef's knife and the blade length ranges from 7-10 inches. What differentiates the Japanese gyuto to the European Chef's knife is that the steel in gyutos are made from harder types of steels. This makes the edge retain its sharpness longer. 



Santoku mean 'three virtues' which refers to the way it handles vegetables, meat and fish. The santoku is similar to a gyuto except that the blade is shorter (which is great for first time Japanese Knife users) and has a less curved edge at the tip which offers less of a rocking motion. The santoku was made based on the vegetable knife (nakiri) in that its intended use is for chopping up and down rather than a back-and-forth rocking motion.


After the all-purpose knife we think the next 2 knives to add to your collection is the Nakiri and Petty Knife. 



The nakiri knife is the ultimate vegetable knife. It features a straight, symmetrical edge ideal for precision and uniform vegetable cuts. Unlike the all purpose knives, the nakiri has a straight edge for cutting in an up-and-down motion. Because this knife has a thin blade it can be easily chipped if you use the knife outside its intended purpose.


The petty knife is considered a smaller version of the gyuto. Although the petty knife blades all fall below 6 inches, they are still extremely versatile and can be used on the board to slice, dice and mince, as well as in the hands to peel, shape and trim.



Choosing the right steel can be confusing for most people, especially when there are so many different types. Basically, Japanese steel is much harder than European/German steel which allows the knives to get sharper and stay sharper for a longer period of time. The steel hardness is defined by a number on the Rockwell Hardness Scale (HRC). The HRC refers to how resistant a metal object is to penetration and permanent deformation from another material. The higher the number, the harder the steel. It is easy to assume that a higher number is better because it is stronger, but that is not always the case. Higher HRC takes more effort to sharpen, can chip easier and is more expensive. However, the hardness will have maximum edge retention. 

Japanese steel also have stainless and non-stainless, rust prone knives. The high carbon content will make some steels react to foods which will make maintenance a high priority. Regardless of stainless or non-stainless, your knives should be washed with warm water and dried completely after each use to retain the integrity and lifespan of your knife. 

If you are starting out, we recommend a stainless steel in the HRC 60-64 range. These knives are easier to sharpen and holds a great edge. Here are the most common steels you will find in Japanese knives. 



  • Popular, premium stainless steel. HRC 61/62
  • Softer than R2/SG2, but still carry a good balance in hardness.
  • Good all around in terms of performance and price point
  • Easier to sharpen, less prone to chipping, great edge retention



  • Very easy to sharpen, takes whatever edge angle you put on it.
  • Industry standard knife for Japanese steel
  • HRC 60
  • Affordable stainless Japanese steel



  • High Speed Powdered stainless steel, high in carbon. HRC 63/64
  • Good balance of hardness, the harder your steel, the thinner you can get your edge
  • More prone to chipping than softer steels.
  • Sharpening takes more effort because of harder steel, but holds edge longer.
  • One of the best steels for higher end kitchen knives



  • Excellent stainless properties, higher carbon stainless (higher carbon is what gives the ability to make the steel hard), tight grain structure, HRC 61
  • Softer than R2/SG2
  • Properties of Shirogami #2, except stainless



  • Top of the hardness scale for Japanese steel, HRC 67
  • Superior edge retention, harder to sharpen, easy to chip,
  • Heavier and premium pricing
  • Rare, not all bladesmiths use this steel, harder to find



  • High carbon, easy to sharpen, takes any angle, very good edge retention
  • Easier to rust