Usuba Vs. Nakiri Knives: What’s The Difference?

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Although I cook regularly, I find myself fishing around my cutlery drawer, trying to retrieve the one sharp knife that I have. It is a joy to cut with. The blade is the perfect shape, and it glides through all sorts of vegetables. Looking to expand my knife collection, I couldn’t decide whether to choose an Usuba or Nakiri.

Usuba bōchō and Nakiri bōchō are both traditional Japanese knives used for cutting vegetables. While they look very similar, the Usuba has a single bevel edge and is used by professional Japanese chefs or sushi chefs. In contrast, the Nakiri has a double edge and is intended for home use.

If you are looking to add a new vegetable knife to your collection and are stuck on whether to choose an Usuba or a Nakiri knife, it is worth considering the features, advantages, and disadvantages of each.

A Comparison Between Usuba & Nakiri

The Usuba knife is used primarily by professional chefs. A skilled chef will be able to cut very thin ribbons of vegetables using the Usuba knife, as well as specialist and decorative cuts.

On the other hand, the Nakiri knife is a useful, everyday knife for chopping a wide range of vegetables and can be used even by novice cooks.

Features Of Usuba

Source: https://japanesechefsknife.com/collections/usuba
  • Directly translated from Japanese, Usuba means “thin blade.” 
  • The average Usuba is approximately 7 – 9.5 inches in length. It features a long and flat, rectangular-shaped blade. Extremely thin with a single bevel blade, only one side of the  Usuba is ground and sharpened. This makes it the ultimate knife for precision cutting and cutting thin slices of vegetables.
  • The Usuba knife is heavier than the Nakiri and takes a bit of skill and practice to use.
  • Usuba knives typically feature a wooden Wa-Handle. A Wa-Handle is a traditional Japanese knife handle that is either octagonal, oval, or D-shaped.

Features Of Nakiri

Source: https://japanesechefsknife.com/collections/nakiri
  • Directly translated from Japanese, Nakiri means “leaf cutter” or “vegetable cutter.”
  • Between 6 – 7 inches in length, the Nakiri knife is very similar to a Chinese cleaver or chef’s knife. It is believed to be one of the lightest knives for cutting vegetables.
  • The Nakiri knife features a double bevel blade. The blade is long, flat, rectangular-shaped, and has a rounded tip.
  • With its deep, thin blade, the Nakiri knife is perfect for cutting through vegetables of all sizes, shapes, and textures.
  • Like the Usuba knife, Nakiri knives traditionally feature a Wa-Handle, but nowadays, they are also made with a western-style handle. The handles are typically made from wood.

What Do You Cut With The Usuba?

  • The Usuba features a very thin, sharp blade, making it ideal for cutting fruit and vegetables that will be served raw. 
  • The middle section of the Usuba blade can be used for slicing vegetables extremely thinly or for the art of Katsuramuki. Katsuramuki is the technique of peeling white radish into paper-thin ribbons, which are used to garnish sashimi dishes.
  • With its long blade, the Usuba is the perfect knife to chop large vegetables like cabbages.
  • The Usuba knife is also used to create specialist and decorative cuts.

What Do You Cut With The Nakiri?

  • The Nakiri knife is specifically designed for the meticulous cutting of all sizes and types of vegetables. With the Nakiri knife, you can chop, dice, or mince vegetables. 
  • With its more prominent and thicker blade, the Nakiri is capable of slicing through the middle or harder vegetables like carrots and butternut.
  • The flat blade of the Nakiri knife allows the user to slice vegetables very thinly – perfect for slicing vegetable ribbons.
  • The Nakiri blade can cut delicate fruit and vegetables without bruising or squashing them.
  • With its straight edge, the Nakiri is designed for the straight up and down chopping of vegetables rather than rocking the blade.
  • The size and length of the blade mean that the knife will make contact with the chopping board and deliver clean, full cuts. So when you are chopping vegetables like onions, you won’t get pieces stuck together.

Advantages Of The Usuba

  • It is a high-end knife, perfect for fine, decorative, and specialist cutting techniques.
  • It has a very sharp blade, so cutting performance is excellent. It cuts through delicate vegetables without damaging them.
  • The straight-edged blade allows for cuts that look uniform and perfect.
  • When cutting fruit and vegetables, any bruising or damage to the surface area leads to discoloration and even a change in flavor caused by oxidation. The blade of the Usuba causes minimal cell damage to the surface of the fruit and vegetables.

Advantages Of The Nakiri

  • The Nakiri is a versatile knife that you can use in your kitchen to prep your vegetables every day.
  • It is easy to handle, lightweight and simple to sharpen.
  • It can slice, dice, chop and mince all sorts of vegetables, big or small, soft or hard. 
  • It is quite a robust knife and won’t be damaged easily.
  • It is the perfect knife to cut hard vegetables like potatoes, squash, and pumpkin. 
  • When using the Nakiri knife, you don’t need to use the rocking method of cutting because of the blade’s height. This protects you from accidentally cutting your fingers because your knuckles won’t have to make contact with the chopping board.
  • The Nakiri knife is easy to cut with because of its double bevel blade, so beginner cooks can use it.
  • The simple wooden handle of the Nakiri is easy to grip and maneuverer, allowing you to cut thin, uniform pieces.

Disadvantages Of The Usuba

  • The Usuba knife is not recommended for chopping harder vegetables. The blade is not very tough and can be damaged if proper care is not taken.
  • Usuba knives feature a single bevel, making them more challenging to sharpen. 
  • To get the most out of the Usuba knife, you need to have some skill. It was not created simply for dicing veggies.
  • An Usuba knife is more expensive than a Nakiri.

Disadvantages Of The Nakiri

  • The only disadvantage of the Nakiri knife is that you cannot use it to create specialist cuts. If you are a home cook, this probably does not matter.

What’s The Difference Between Usuba & Nakiri

The Usuba knife is excellent if you are a professional chef working in a restaurant or if you are keen to try your hand at cutting decorative shapes and paper-thin vegetable ribbons. However, it does require some skill to use.

If you are a home cook looking for a versatile, everyday knife to cut vegetables, you won’t go wrong with a Nakiri. It is a sharp, lightweight knife that will allow you to slice, dice, chop, and mince vegetables quickly and easily.

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