The Yanagiba knife is one of those overlooked tools in a kitchen. Ask a Japanese chef about it and most of them will rate it as one of the most efficient knives out there. While it can be used as an all-purpose knife at times, it does have its own specializations as well.
It comes with a narrow blade and an acute angle on the edge, so it is excellent to skin fish too. Its design involves less effort when cutting through stuff. Since the blade is longer than average, you can slice through fish with a single motion.
2021’s 5 Best Yanagiba Knives
Dalstrong Yanagiba Sushi Knife Ronin Series
Dalstrong’s masterpiece comes with a stunning design and some of the best materials on the market. The edge is hand-finished for maximum precision – an acute angle of not more than 15 degrees. The sharpening is done with the Honbazuke technique. It is nitrogen cooled to resist corrosion and improve flexibility. The pattern on the blade prevents the food from sticking to it.
The blade is based on AUS 10V Japanese steel featuring a Rockwell hardness of at least 62. It is not just strong and durable, but it can also resist stains. Balance is flawless – you can tell as you cut through fish. Other than that, the blade measures 10.5 inches. The knife comes with its own sheath – while you can store it along with other knives, having its own sheath ensures better protection.
The handle is not to be overlooked either. It consists of a mix of G10 Garolite and red rosewood. It is not porous and will not stain over time, but it also features military-grade durability. It ensures perfect control and it is less likely to slip out of your hands. The knife has a decently sized hand guard protection for safety as well.
- Good looking design
- Textured blade to prevent the food from sticking to it
- Made with military-grade materials
- Resists rust and corrosion over time
- Comes with its own sheath
- A bit heavier than other similar Yanagiba knives
Keemake Sushi Knife
Keemake’s best Yanagiba knife brings in excellent value for money. It is designed to look good and draw some positive attention, but also to provide an exquisite performance. It is well weighed and controls with no issues at all. It ensures a good level of balance – you can tell as you slice through fish like a hot knife through butter.
The knife is based on premium materials and will not disappoint. The blade is based on VG10 high carbon stainless steel. It measures 10.5 inches and is less likely to rust or corrode. Moreover, it sharpens well and ensures great edge retention. A single slide will cut through fish without pulling – no more rough sides.
The knife features a heating treatment, as well as hand honing – around 12 to 15 degrees. Its hardness goes over 57 on the Rockwell scale. As for the handle, it is based on Brazilian pearwood. Not only does it look good and natural, but it also has a comfortable and nonslip surface – it comes with proper handguard protection too.
- Made to last
- Excellent edge retention
- Great value for money
- Highly efficient – one cut is more than enough
- Comfortable and well balanced
- No wood holster or sheath included in the package
Imarku Sashimi Sushi Knife
Ideal for sashimi and sushi rolls, Imarku’s best Yanagiba knife is handcrafted and ensures excellent quality control. It features a mirror polish for the blade, but also a deep sharpening angle of 12 to 15 degrees. It can cut through fish with a single slide only – forget about crushing fish, tearing sides, or squeezing juices out of it.
The blade is made of high carbon stainless steel. It measures 10 inches and has good edge retention – also, quite easy to sharpen. It is based on 5Cr15Mov steel with a Rockwell hardness of 56 to 58. It is razor sharp out of the box, so you can use it straight away. As for maintenance, make sure you clean and dry it manually – never in a dishwasher or it might go dull.
The handle is worth some attention too. To ensure durable response overtime, Imarku has relied on solid pakkawood. The unit is ergonomic and ensures a perfect grip. It has a nonslip surface and is suitable for both small and large hands. It is well balanced and does not require too much effort to use. Plus, you have water resistance and good handguard protection.
- Made from durable materials
- Great edge retention
- Well balanced and stable
- Suitable for both sushi and sashimi
- Handcrafted for quality control
- Does not come with a bolster or sheath for storage
Dalstrong Yanagiba Sushi Knife Phantom Series
This is Dalstrong’s best Yanagiba knife in the Phantom series. It is virtually indestructible. It comes with heavy-duty materials and incredible durability. It is so well balanced that it requires little to no effort to cut through fish and rolls. Its performance is an obvious statement in refinement. Furthermore, this could easily become the central element in your knife collection due to its beautiful design.
All in all, the 9.5-inch blade is extremely sharp out of the box – careful when you unpack it. It is manually honed to 13 to 15 degrees. It is also nitrogen-cooled – quite common for Dalstrong knives. Based on Japanese AUS8 steel, it has a 58+ Rockwell hardness and superior edge retention. Plus, it is rust and corrosion-resistant. The hollow blade edge will not let you down either.
Moving on to the handle, it is made of solid pakkawood. It is good-looking, solid, water-resistant, and ergonomic. It will match the shape of your hand, whether you have small or large hands. It does not slip out of the hand and it promotes great control. Furthermore, the handguard protection ensures you will never cut yourself.
- Great value for money
- Easy to control
- Feels stable and comfortable in your hand
- Great edge retention and easy to sharpen
- Easy to look after – simply clean it manually
- Suitable for right-handed people only
While not very famous on the international market, Masahiro’s best Yanagiba knife is one of the front runners in Japan. The brand is known for its high-quality standards and reliability. This knife is one of the most appreciated units in its portfolio. Many of the knives are specifically made for professional chefs, but they have also built their way into residential kitchens.
This knife is based on original stainless steel. The blade is about 9.5 inches in length. The stainless steel is easy to sharpen and ensures excellent durability. It will easily pass the test of time and resist rust or corrosion. It is extremely sharp out of the box, so be careful when you unpack the knife. It is also impregnated with an antimicrobial agent to prevent potential issues or infections.
The handle is based on compressed laminated wood. The knife is lighter than other similar units in its range, so it feels easier to control. This is the main reason wherefore it is so popular among chefs. Other than that, it has an ergonomic handle with nonslip resistance, as well as proper handguard protection to prevent your hand from reaching the blade, regardless of how sweaty or wet it is.
- Made to resist the beating in commercial kitchens
- Designed with proprietary technologies
- The blade is impregnated with an antimicrobial agent
- Lightweight, well balanced and easy to control
- Likely to last for ages
- Cannot be cleaned in a dishwasher
Why You Need a Yanagiba Knife
The Yanagiba knife is not mandatory in your kitchen, but it can make a difference. Sure, you can use any knife to slice through fish. In fact, you might as well use a bread knife and while the final result will look terrible and rough, your sushi will taste the same.
The Yanagiba knife will reduce the effort needed to slice fish though, whether for sushi or other fish-based meals. From the same point of view, it will reduce the cooking times. Whether you have a large family or you expect some guests, you could get the job done within minutes, rather than hours.
Given the design of this knife and its exquisite sharpness, it will also provide good-looking results. The fish will feature a clean-cut, without any rough edges. Impressing someone or creating social media-worthy pictures of your meals has never been easier.
The necessity of such a design becomes obvious as you gain experience with fish. The sharp edge and acute angle will ensure there is little to no damage at a cellular level. If the fish is eaten raw, you get to preserve its intense texture and flavor – no compromises there.
Types of Yanagiba Knives
Choosing the best Yanagiba knives implies becoming familiar with the most common options out there. There are more types of knives in this category and while they are relatively similar, they also come with small particularities.
- Kiritsuke Yanagiba
- Sakimaru Takohiki
The original meaning of the name translates as willow leaf blade, which describes the design and style of the knife. In some cultures, the unit is referred to as shobu, as the shape of its blade is similar to the shape of iris leaves.
The classic Yanagiba was created in Kansai, Japan. It is the most common variety of the market. While you can learn more about each specialization and its uses, a general Yanagiba knife will most likely be more than enough.
Yanagiba knives can also be classified by the blade length. There are slight variations out there, with a few general standards standing out in the crowd – 10.6, 11.8, and 13 inches. Generally, the blade varies between 8 and 14 inches.
Features of a Good Yanagiba Knife
The Yanagiba knife is slender, sharp, and long. It is quite thin, hence its efficiency at cutting through raw fish. For maximum efficiency, it is highly indicated to rely on single movement cuts – from the heel to the tip. What other characteristics make this knife stand out then?
The back face of the Yanagiba knife is a bit concave. It may not be too obvious as you look at the knife for the first time, but you will notice the design as you check it carefully. This type of design aims to prevent the fish from sticking to the blade. The sliced piece will be easily removed.
Single ground style
Yanagiba knives can be designed differently, based on your hand orientation. If you are right-handed, it comes with the concave side on the left side, while the right side features a bevel. The cutting angle will be more acute, ensuring a higher level of protection.
There is quite some debate regarding the best material for the Yanagiba knife. Most Japanese manufacturers rely on steel – it seems to be the most common option out there, as well as a standard. Plus, it comes with some extra benefits compared to other materials.
The knife is crafted on the same principles as ancient Japanese swords. Some knives are made of soft iron, which ensures good toughness. It is also easy to sharpen. The knife is then laminated with high carbon steel, which adds to the sharpness and edge retention. Other materials include:
- Carbon steel
- Composite steel
- Stainless steel
While there are some general standards for the blade length, there is one rule to follow – it must be long. When compared to other knives, the Yanagiba knife is meant to be longer than average. The goal of this design is to ensure clean cuts with single strokes – no more rough-edged, serrated or zigzag sections.
Many western knives are designed to push and cut. The Yanagiba knife is built to pull and cut, which is slightly different.
Last, but not least, this knife will look slightly different based on its thinness. The blade is incredibly thin and fragile. This is why it is recommended for boneless fish only. You can mostly cut using the weight of the knife, without any pressure whatsoever – no more bruising and tearing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to sharpen a Yanagiba knife before using it?
It depends on the brand and manufacturer. Some Yanagiba knives come razor sharp out of the box, so they can be used straight away. Some others are not perfectly sharp, so they will require a bit of sharpening. A reputable manufacturer will ensure you can use the knife as soon as you get it.
What is the best sharpening angle for Yanagiba knives?
Generally speaking, most Yanagiba blades can do with 17/20 or 20/24 degree angles. They feature an acute angle that makes them unique and adds to their efficiency. For best results, it is highly recommended to follow the same angle or simply follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Hi, I am Jay. I am the creator of Knife Guides, your one-stop site for everything related to knives. I am a computer engineer by profession, knife aficionado by passion. Here I work with a group of people who’ve always had a passion for knives and blades. Over the years we’ve kind of become experts and decided to share our knowledge and ideas. I am also an avid hiker and enjoy offshore gamefishing.