Yanagiba vs Sujihiki: Japanese Slicer Knives
By Bobby B. | July 27, 2019 | Japanese Knives
Both a yanagiba and a sujihiki are long, slender Japanese knives made for slicing fish and meat. To the untrained eye, they look almost the same, and they are used in a similar fashion. However, they are not the same knife and in some cases, their performance and price-points can vary greatly. With the slicing knife being such an important tool in a chef’s kitchen, which is the better Japanese knife type in the Yanagiba vs Sujihiki battle?
That really depends on just who you are and how you plan to use the knife. First, let’s discuss each knife and what’s unique about it. We’ll cover the differences between them and tell you which is best after that.
A yanagiba is a high-end slicing knife often used by sushi and sashmi chefs. They are long so the fish can be sliced in a single stroke, without “sawing” back and forth. This provides an ultra-clean cut, making the fish more presentable to the consumer. Likewise, they are thin and also slender from top to bottom so there is little friction while slicing. This prevents tearing of the meat/fish. These are just a couple of the reasons that yanagibas typically make the best sushi knives.
Japanese yanagiba knives are made with only a single bevel. They are sharpened on just one side of the blade, leaving the other side concave. This provides an anti-stick property to the knife, but also causes it to be hand-specific. Yes, there are right-handed and left-handed yanagiba knives that made specifically for a cutting orientation.
In addition to the single bevel, a yanagiba is also unique in that many of them are made with carbon steel rather than stainless. Since the blades are super-thin, the skilled Japanese artisans that hand make these knives must use very hard steel to make sure they don’t chip easily. Carbon steel hardened to HRC64+ is not uncommon to see in a yanagiba. Yoshihiro is one such high-end producer. Corrosion resistant yanagiba knives are also available in stainless. While they are likely lower cost, their edge retention properties will likely not be as good. Here’s an example.
A sujihiki knife is also long, thin, and slender for the same reason the yanagiba is. This provides little friction and ensures a nice, clean slice in the fish or meat for presentation purposes. The main difference between the sujihiki versus the yanagiba is the bevel. The sujihiki is ground and sharpened on both sides of the knife blade like most Western knives. In fact, other than sharpness, this knife is not all that different from your standard Western carving knife.
It typically has a thinner spine, is lighter weight, and slightly more flexible than a yanagiba. Conversely, its edge may be more robust against chipping if you encounter small bones and such. These could create lots of havoc with a yanagi.
Like the yanagiba and other types of Japanese knives, the sujihiki is often hand-made in traditional styling. For all intents and purposes, a sujihiki is the “Western version” of a yanajiba. The double bevel requires less skill to wield such a sharp slicing knife and allows for chefs from all over the world to use it.
Yanagiba vs Sujihiki: The Differences
For the reasons mentioned above, most American and European chefs are more comfortable handling a sujihiki due to its double beveled edge. But, it’s unlikely you’ll see many traditional Japanese sashimi chefs using one. They swear by the single-bevel yanagiba, and more than likely have one made of carbon steel which requires extra care.
The reality is that if you aren’t sure if you need an expensive, high-end yanagiba, you probably don’t! More than likely if you’re a home chef or you plan to slice foods other than just raw fish, a sujihiki is what you should focus your efforts on. Unless you’re a professional sushi or sashimi chef, a yanagiba is more than you need and may be difficult for you to care for.