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Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

What Is a Nakiri Knife Used for & How to Use One



If you’re a home cook, you know how important it is to have the right cookware. From the right cutting board to the best quality pots and pans, the materials you use make all the difference when crafting your favorite dish.

One of a professional chef’s most trusted tools in the kitchen is their favorite knife. Not all knives are the same, and when you’re trying to be strategic and precise in your cuts, a good kitchen knife makes all the difference. For the best quality cuts, you need a great quality knife.

There are many great knives to choose from. In recent years, home cooks have had their eyes on Japanese kitchen knives. One such knife is the Nakiri. An intriguing-looking Traditional Japanese knife, this one isn’t used for what it looks like you should use it for.

What Is a Nakiri Knife Used for

Keep reading to learn what a Nakiri knife is and why you should have this Japanese-style knife in your kitchen.

What is a Nakiri knife used for?

Often mistaken for a meat cleaver at first glance, the Nakiri knife is light and paper-thin with a rectangular shape. These Japanese kitchen knives have forward balance because there is more steel at the front than in other knives.

Even though this knife looks like it can handle cutting through hard foods, like a cleaver, it isn’t meant to cut through hard foods such as root vegetables or bones. On the contrary, this knife is meant to cut soft vegetables.

Oftentimes, a regular knife doesn’t cut through the skin of vegetables because of its curved blade. The flat blade of the Nakiri Japanese knife allows it to make direct contact with the cutting board, ensuring a cleaner and complete cut.

Common vegetables you can use a Nakiri knife to cut include:

  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots

Using this knife on anything hard can potentially damage the knife because the blade is so thin.

One thing to note is that most Japanese knives are extremely sharp, and the Nakiri knife is no exception.

How can I use my Nakiri knife?

The Nakiri knife can be used in many ways in the kitchen to accelerate the prep process. Here are some examples.

  • Slicing a large number of onions quickly and efficiently
  • Replacing a mandolin to cut scalloped potatoes
  • Cutting an assortment of vegetables for a stir fry

Who should use the Nakiri knife?

The Nakiri knife is best to cut vegetables, and it isn’t ideal for meat or bones. For this reason, many people use it more as a paring knife or utility knife instead of a butcher knife.

However, the Nakiri would make a great primary knife for vegans. If you tend to cook a lot of vegetables, this might end up being the only knife you need.

That said, it’s still possible to use the Nakiri as a chef’s knife, although you may find that it gives you trouble with some foods, and you have to be careful not to damage it. It makes an excellent first knife for any home cook wanting to upgrade their knives.

Otherwise, the Nakiri knife makes a great addition for anyone interested in expanding their knife collection. They pair well with a gyuto or santoku knife as a chef knife.

How to use a Nakiri knife

Using a Nakiri knife isn’t too difficult, although it requires a cutting technique that you might not be familiar with.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use the Nakiri knife.

  1. First, you want to take control of the knife, which requires proper hand placement. Start by grabbing the knife by its handle. Shimmy your hand until you grab a spot on its spine with your thumb and pointer finger.
  2. Then, curl the fingertips of your other hand beneath your knuckle to form a claw. In this position, place the knife over the food on your cutting board. Be sure to keep your thumb tucked!
  3. Slowly slide the knife forward and backward through the food. Use your knuckle to glide the side of the knife and protect your fingers. As you get used to the motion, you can increase the speed with which you cut your food.

Different types of Nakiri knives

Nakiri refers to a type of knife, and there are several different Nakiri knives available from many brands. The price of Nakiri knives varies, but they’re generally not the priciest knives you can find.

To show you your options, here are a few options for the best Nakiri knife to try out and add to your knife collection.

DALSTRONG Nakiri Asian Vegetable Knife

DALSTRONG Nakiri Asian Vegetable Knife - 7" - Gladiator Series - Forged German High Carbon Steel - Black G10 Handle Kitchen Knife - Sheath Included - NSF Certified

Dalstrong is known for great quality chef knives, so they are, of course, one of the best places to start when seeking a Nakiri knife.

This 7-inch knife is made from high-carbon steel, tempered, and stain-resistant. The design provides a satisfying heft to the user, and the G10 handle is triple-riveted and has a grip that ensures comfort and maneuverability. The flat profile and square tip work together to make cuts easier and enable easy pick up of the food when you’re done.

Hand polished to a satin finish, this knife is not only functional but also beautiful. It also comes with a sheath for safe storage when not in use.

View on Amazon

Nakiri (Usuba) Vegetable Chef Knife

Nakiri (Usuba) Vegetable Chef Knife: Best 6-Inch Japanese AUS10 67-layer high Carbon Stainless Damascus Steel Asian Vegetable Cleaver Shaped Blade W/Hammered Finish, G-10 Handle by Regalia

This Nakiri vegetable knife from Regalia is another great option for those looking for their first Nakiri knife.

When you use it correctly, this knife ensures flexibility and maximum edge retention without chipping or dulling. The straight squared blade of this knife is ideal for chopping and scooping to speed up your cooking process and add additional functionality to your flow.

You’ll find the handle always comfortable as it’s immune to cold, heat, and moisture. Overall, you’ll find that the quality of this Nakiri knife is everything you need as a home chef.

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Wüsthof Classic IKON Nakiri Knife

WÜSTHOF Classic IKON 7" Hollow Edge Nakiri Knife

If this won’t be your first Nakiri knife, or you’re willing to splurge, take your knife collection to the next level with this Wusthof Classic IKON Nakiri knife.

Wusthof is a German brand that has been making knives for over 200 years, and this knife proves that they perfected the formula. Featuring a sleek black handle and a double bolster for optimized balance, this knife provides the ultimate cutting experience. It’s forged from a single block of high carbon steel to ensure the best quality and durability.

The Wusthof Classic IKON knife also contains indentations that create small air pockets between the Nakiri knife and the food you’re cutting. This knife is made to withstand corrosion and dulling, but it comes with a limited lifetime warranty just in case.

View on Amazon

Final Thoughts

With so many knives out there, finding the right one can be intimidating. As a first step towards expanding your knife collection, it’s a great idea to seek a Nakiri knife.

Now that you know the answer to what a Nakiri knife is used for, you’re ready to choose the right one and bring your cutting skills to a new level.

Kitchen Professor author
About the Author: Brock Yates

Because Brock is the tallest member of the team at 6 foot 5 inches, when he’s not thinking about food, he’s eating his favorites: pizza, burgers, tacos and burritos. He's always experimenting with the latest kitchen gadgets and exploring new techniques in the kitchen.

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