Sakai Takayuki SK4, the Best Carbon Steel Knives for Chefs
May 29, 20232 min read
I want you to think about your favourite knife—nope, not that one—not your prettiest knife, the one with the funky acrylic handle and beautiful raindrop damascus. I’m not talking about the one with the most romantic story either. I want you to think about the knife you use the most; the one that got you through culinary school and into your first kitchen, the one that makes you think about cooking with your grandma, and the one you used to teach your kid how to cut up a pepper for the first time. The one that has an awesome story that YOU wrote with it. We all have a knife that we will never part with, no matter what we acquire afterwards, and I think that the Sakai Takayuki SK4 line is that knife for a lot of people.
These beauties from Sakai Takayuki are built for someone who wants a no-nonsense-all-business workhorse and isn’t afraid of trying out carbon steel. When putting these knives together, Sakai Takayuki decided to use a single piece of SK4 carbon steel instead of using the more often seensan mai (three layers of steel) technique. This makes a knife that’s a touch more flexible and keeps the cost down while not affecting performance (sharpness and edge retention). SK4 blows the socks off of most stainless steels but comes with a very easy going price tag. The European-style handle is going to feel familiar to the hands of cooks and chefs in the west, and the variety of shapes this line offers ensures that you grab the right knife for the job. One thing you might notice is that the knives are sharpened with a slight bias favouring the right-handed—it’s not enough to dissuade a lefty, like me, from using them but it's worth mentioning. Most folks won’t even notice the difference.
Let’s be honest, I could make a pretty good argument for filling your entire knife bag with these guys but I have a few favourites:
It doesn’t happen often but sometimes you need a smaller slicer. Maybe you don’t have a tonne of room on the line, or you don’t buy huge cuts of meat but love a roast duck or showing everyone at the potluck up with carpaccio.
A 210mm gyuto is the right size for most people. I'd take one over a santoku any day of the week but what if you’re built like Andre the Giant? You’re gonna need 270mm or even 330mm. Hell, that 240mm komakiri gyuto would be awesome for someone with a bigger hand. It’s a bit taller at the heel and gives you a deeper knife to mow down a mountain of green onions for your famous ramen nights.
There is something rebellious and badass about a boning knife with no finger guard or bolster. I love a knife this shape for any large scale butchery, think pork shoulders or lamb legs, or even breaking down a chicken. If you regularly deal with larger birds like turkeys and geese, treat yourself to the garasuki as well.
This petty is the quintessential small knife. It fits perfectly in my hand, yours too I bet. It’s the right size for peeling an orange or slicing a cherry tomato in half. It’s long enough to take the silver skin off of a roast. It’s only $86CAD; you can’t buy anything half as useful for less.
If you’ve always been curious about using carbon steel, these are a great excuse to take the plunge. It’s going to take paying a little more attention when drying them off and keeping them clean but you already do that with your stainless steel knives, right? You’ll notice that they are a little more rugged than most carbon steel knives—still avoid bones and such—and the edge retention to dollars spent ratio is off the charts. If there was one in my kitchen, it would live on my cutting board full-time.
Chris is a relocated Maritimer that can be found slinking in and out the back doors of Ottawa's restaurants, often with his daughter in tow. Chris has been a fixture in the Ottawa food scene for the past 10 years and has recently laid down his apron to learn the ways of Knifewear. Chris loves cooking big pieces of meat over a live fire and spends his summer feeding wood into his BBQ, Lemmy Smoke-mister.