Knife vs Knife: Nakiri vs. Usuba

by Owen W May 18, 2018 3 min read 0 Comments

Knife vs Knife:  Nakiri vs. Usuba

A guide on dominating vegetation!

Everyone needs to eat their veggies. They help you grow up big and strong! They contain vitamins, nutrients, and all the basic building blocks your body needs to continue not being dead. I don’t know about you, but I hate being dead.It’s literally the worst. Every meal you prepare for yourself (or have someone else prepare for you) should have plenty of delicious vegetables in the mix. Prepping veggies without the right tool, however, can be a real chore. If your kitchen is full of dull knives, you’re going to end up smashing and squishing all your precious life-sustaining fuel into a pile of mulch. If you need to reach for your serrated knife every time you need to slice tomatoes, they’re going to get torn up and brutalized with each jagged stroke. Oh no!

If only there was a perfect knife for chopping vegetables. That would really be something! Just imagine - a knife that isspecifically designed  for chopping, slicing, peeling, and generally asserting dominance over the most commonly used ingredients in the kitchen. Well, as luck would have it, there are actually TWO different knife shapes for just that. Neato!


The Nakiri

The nakiri is a very simple and effective tool. It’s highly versatile and easy to use. The word “Nakiri” roughly translates into “Leaf Cutter”, which gives you a pretty solid clue as to what they’re designed for. The blade is quite tall (from the cutting edge to spine), and the edge is very flat. This means that the whole blade makes contact against the cutting board with minimal follow through, and you’re not cracking your knuckles against the cutting board with each chop. With only a few minutes of practice, anyone can become a pro with this knife. A nakiri is a double beveled knife - that means it’s ground and sharpened symmetrically, like most knives in North American or European kitchens. This makes them both easier to use and easier to sharpen than their single beveled counterpart…


The Usuba

Usuba knives are fantastic! The word “usuba” translates into “thin blade”. These guys are only ground and sharpened on one side - we call that a “single bevel” knife. Because of this unusual grind, you may notice that the knife wants to pull a bit to the left (on a single bevel knife made for right-handers. Left-handed single bevels would pull to the right) while cutting straight down. It takes a little bit of practice to get used to it. This shape is generally favoured by professional Japanese chefs due to its extraordinary performance. The edge on this guy is insanely sharp. Making it the tool of choice for slicing veggies very thinly and with great precision. You’ll want to keep this fine blade away from very hard veggies like Kabocha squash. Hard and thin steel can be dulled more easily by hard food. They’re also favoured by pros for rotary peeling. Which you can see in this awesome video:


Generally speaking, an Usuba is going to be a little bit heavier than a nakiri because of their thicker spines. If you’re sharpening this knife yourself, take heed - because of the way single bevel knives are designed, you don’t sharpen it like a double-bevel knife.They require a little bit more work on the stones, but the results are stunning!

Verdict

So what does all this mean to you? The nakiri is very easy to use and get the most out of. If you’re a relatively casual cook who wants a thoughtfully designed yet simple tool for blasting through onions, parsley, and other everyday veggies, this is the knife for you! On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more refined edge for paper thin slices, decorative vegetable carving, or if you’re just a huge knife nerd, the usuba is king. At home, I like to hop between the two. If I want to mince up a big mountain of garlic and cilantro for my salsa verde, I’ll grab a nakiri. When it comes time to shave my delicate little radishes to garnish my tacos, the Usuba is the best tool for the job.

Challengers

Nakiri

Usuba

Key Difference Double Bevel Blade Single Bevel blade
Strengths & Weaknesses
  • Stronger edge
  • Great all rounder for your kitchen. A workhorse knife, every home can use.
  • Delicate Edge.
  • Super fine cutting performance.
  • For the super knife nerd.
Left hand, right hand, what hand? All Nakiri are suitable for left and right handed people. You’ll need to buy a left or right handed Usuba to suit your bias.
Sharpening Skill Average Expert
Who is it for? Everyone Super Knife nerd / Professional Chef
Owen W
Owen W

Owen is another ex-chef among our ranks. he has been Chef-ing in Edmonton for around 12 years but gave it up to be a human being again! An avid music lover, he plays guitar, loves Radiohead, and has probably been to about 500 concerts. Oh, and he can most definitely beat you in a game of Street Fighter. come chat with him about football, and steel!


Subscribe