You don’t need to be a celebrity chef to require a top-notch kitchen knife! Yet, when you start combing through all of the options out there, it is hard to know which knife is best.
In this article, we will walk you through the pros and cons of two very popular Japanese brands, Yoshihiro and Shun. Ready to get started?
Headquartered in Sakai, Japan, Yoshihiro has been creating high-quality knives for over a hundred years. Relying on techniques that can be traced back to the 14th century, the Yoshihiro craftsman produce knives that rival brands around the world. The company’s motto is “every moment is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.
Yoshihiro definitely doesn’t lack options! The company sells traditional Japanese-style knives in a variety of shapes and sizes with their sushi knives or yanagibas being the most popular. Yoshihiro didn’t began selling knives in the United States until 2008, but they company quickly became popular stateside after opening its Beverly Hills, California office.
Knowing that Yoshiro knives are handmade from start to finish really makes your purchase feel special, but is all that just hype? Let’s look at the pros and cons!
Known for creating high-quality knives that are well-designed and balanced, Shun is a well-loved brand. People love the versatility and beauty of Shun cutlery.
The name, Shun, comes from a Japanese culinary tradition. When one prepares food at the “shun” moment, it means that the food is at its peak perfection and is the freshest that it will ever be.
These hand-crafted knifes take more than 100 steps to complete. While the process may be mired in tradition, the materials certainly aren’t. Shun knives are made from more modern materials that utilize state-of-the-art technology.
This newcomer to the Japanese knife scene has won awards and proved it can hold its own. Here are the pros and cons of a Shun knife purchase.
Made from high-quality materials
More reasonably priced than some other brands
Blades are thin, sharp, and light
Some of the models require maintenance
Some handles aren’t as long-lasting
Now that you are familiar with the basics of these two Japanese knife brands, let’s see how they stack up against each other. First, we will look at how the two knife companies are the same, and then we will dive into their differences.
Right off the bat, you can see a very big similarity: both of these companies hail from Japan. Another aspect in which they are alike is in the materials they use in constructing their knives. Both companies utilize materials such as steel, AUS-10V, and VG-MAX.
Both Shun and Yoshihiro rely on traditional techniques to forge their knives, and both offer products that are hand-made. They also both create blades that are strong and thin.
One key difference between the two companies is the amount of time they have been in business. Yoshihiro has been around for a century, while Shun is a relatively new company in comparison.
Another place they often differ is in the price of their products. Shun is known for being a more affordable option in many cases.
The similarities and differences between the two companies is easier to see with a straight knife-to-knife comparison. Let’s take a look at a similar product from each of these Japanese powerhouse brands: Yoshihiro’s VG10 16-layer 8.25’-inch Gyuto Japanese chef’s knife and Shun’s premier 8-inch chef’s knife.
Immediately, you can see that the Yoshihiro offers just a smidge more when it comes to length, but it is only 16-layers of steel as opposed to Shun’s 34-layers of high-carbon stainless steel. Both blades are well-balanced with full tang, and both are very sharp.
When it comes to handles, we have a distinct difference. Yoshihiro’s knife has a mahogany handle, and Shun’s is made of pakkawood. The type of steel used in each knife is also different. Yoshihiro’s chef knife is created using VG-10 steel while Shun uses the more advanced VG-MAX.
Comparing the differences between the two knife brands makes a lot more sense if you understand what you are looking for in a knife, right? If you are a serious chef, you may already be well-versed in what makes a good knife, but for those with more modest kitchen knowledge, this section will help you understand exactly what you need in a Japanese kitchen knife.
The type of steel the knife is made from, and the way it is forged is a key factor to consider when looking at your options. It is also important to keep in mind that the steel type will also have an effect on the price point of your knife.
Knives made with high carbon steel are harder, and they keep their sharp blade edge for a longer time. However, this hardness also leaves them vulnerable to chipping if they are not stored and cleaned properly. This higher-end steel also comes with a higher-end price tag.
Knives made with stainless steel alloys are a more durable option, and they are also easier to maintain. A downside to a stainless steel alloy is that it will not maintain its sharpness for as long as a higher-end knife. These are considered entry-level knives, and the price tag will reflect this fact.
Traditionally, Japanese knives were all single bevel, but now you will also find double bevel or “Western style” blades as well.
A single bevel can make a very fine, detailed cut — like cuts that would be required in sushi making. For this reason, they are typically only needed by professional chefs or the serious home cook.
Someone just learning their way around a kitchen should probably stick with a double bevel knife.
Not all knives are the same! In addition to blade and steel type, there is also differences in how knives are meant to be used. When it comes to Japanese style knives, however, there are two main types to be concerned with.
The first is Gyuto which is a Japanese chef’s knife. This type of knife generally has a blade that runs from eight to 10 inches in length, and is used to cut vegetables, fish, and meat.
The other knife type is called a Santoku. This knife can also be used for general purposes, but it is typically smaller than a Gyuto. Santoku knives run from six to seven inches on average.
The fourth thing you need to consider when perusing your kitchen knife options is the type of handle the knife comes has. Japanese knives will likely come with either a traditional Japanese-style handle or a Western-style handle.
The traditional handle is made of wood, and it will generally be lighter than a Western style. The shape is cylindrical which offers more control. However, those unaccustomed to this handle type may find it awkward at first.
On the contrary, a Western handle is generally heavier with a grip shape. It has a sturdier feel to it, and is definitely a suitable option for cutting tasks that require brute force.
A high-quality Japanese knife is an excellent addition to every kitchen. Whether you choose to purchase a Shun or Yoshihiro knife, you are certain to be satisfied with the caliber of the product.
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