If you’re reading this, I can imagine you’re a fellow cooking enthusiast. Then I’m sure you’ll agree that a knife is to a chef, what a paintbrush was to Picasso. You probably already understand just how important a knife is to your culinary antics. Hence why you’re searching for articles like this one. If you’re looking to elevate your knife game, then you’re in the right place. Kai knives are arguably some of the best Japanese knives around.
This article is going to help guide you through some of the best knives that you could possibly get from a reputable brand. After all, a knife is a serious investment. You always want to make sure that you are putting your money in the right spots. This article will help walk you through some of the most impressive offerings from famed Japanese knife-manufacturer Kai.
In case you’re in a hurry and just want the recommendations and prices, we’re going to dive straight into talking about Kai & various Kai knives. Then, we’ll discuss what to consider when choosing a knife later on. Use these quick-scroll links to find what you’re looking for!
- The Kai Legacy
- Kai Knives Review: Top Picks
- Kai Block Sets
- What to Consider When Choosing a Knife
The Kai Legacy
Knife-manufacturing goes back a long way and one of the oldest players in the game is Kai. They have literally been manufacturing high-quality knives for over a century now. This means that they have had a lot of time to craft and perfect their techniques. Of course, their products are the perfect manifestations of that classic Japanese brand of attention to detail and craftsmanship. There’s a reason why they have grown to become one of the most prominent knife manufacturers in the world.
Kai Knives Review: Top Picks
Okay! Let’s dive into a handful of our favorite Kai knives that you can pick up online. Starting with…
Shun Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
The enormous fan-base this knife has will tell you that it’s worth every penny. If you’re only going to pick up one Kai knife after reading this, I’d recommend choosing this fantastic all-rounder.
It’s a formidably sized 8-inch knife, but is still slender enough to maximize mobility and dexterity. The handle is made out of a beautiful ebony PakkaWood that is infused with resin to ensure water resistance and durability. The blade is made out of the Shun-exclusive VG-MAX steel with extra tungsten that makes for an incredibly sharp and durable edge.
A great balance between quality and affordability.
- A versatile, multi-purpose knife, the Shun Classic Kiritsuke is known for its variety of uses; use...
- In Japan, the kiritsuke is known as a master chef’s knife; Shun’s version is perfect for cooks...
- The Shun Classic Kiritsuke features Shun's proprietary high-performance VG-MAX stainless steel and...
✅ Positives include: fantastic multi-purpose all rounder, sharp & comfortable
❌ Downside to consider: may be unsuitable for left-handed use, and there could be superior options for specific use-cases
Kai Wasabi Black Santoku Knife, 6-1/2-Inch
This is on the cheaper end of Kai’s range, and once again, it comes with a huge raving fan-base. You’ll see on Amazon in the USA alone there are over 1,000 reviews!
Naturally, with a price point this much lower you can expect to sacrifice some amount of comfort, sharpness etc., but if you’re looking for a budget option, I think you’ll be impressed.
- Japanese style santoku (meaning 3 virtues) knife, used for slicing, dicing and chopping
- Made with Daido 1K6 high-carbon, stainless steel for superior edge retention
- Embellished with the japanese character for' wasabi'
✅ Positives include: incredible value for money, and another nice all-rounder
❌ Downside to consider: won’t be quite as sharp out of the box compared to some other options. Also arguably a little less comfortable.
Shun Classic 7” Hollow-Ground Santoku
The 15-degree angled blade of the Hollow-Ground Santoku is perfect for precision cutting and slicing. With its scalloped designs, your slicing experience is made easier as this prevents anything from sticking to the blade. It also comes with the amazing Pakkawood handle that is as comfortable and durable as ever.
- Making meal prep faster, this all-purpose knife is excellent at chopping, dicing and slicing...
- Shun’s VG-MAX steel is an innovative and exclusive formula with extra carbon, cobalt, tungsten,...
- The ebony PakkaWood handle is designed for comfort and control; PakkaWood is a genuine hardwood...
✅ Positives include: scalloped blade, sharp & durable, with hundreds of gleaming reviews
❌ Downside to consider: …let me know if you find one?!
Kai Seki Magoroku Damascus Gyutou Chef Knife 180mm
This beautifully designed knife is the epitome of Japanese craftsmanship and ingenuity. It’s equipped with a gorgeous reinforced laminated wood handle that’s designed for both optimal comfort and functionality. The blade itself is decorated with the beautiful Damascus pattern inspired from traditional Japanese sword-design techniques. With a hefty 180mm blade, this is a great knife for portioning large chunks of meat or vegetables.
Fun fact: the company, Kai, were founded in 1908 in a Japanese city called Seki. This range is named after that founding city. 💡
- Material: blade / Damascus steel, pattern / laminated wood strengthening, cap / stainless steel
- Country of origin: Japan
- Blade length: 180mm
✅ Positives include: well-designed, comfortable to use, sharp, & durable
❌ Downside to consider: not perfect for smaller slices
Kai Luna Knife, 6.5-Inch Blade With Soft-Grip Handle
The Kai Luna series of knives is definitely a crowd-favorite because of its striking eye-catching design and affordable price point. This particular 6.5-inch model stands out due to its mirror polished upper blade and grazed finish on the bottom. While this might seem like an aesthetic design choice, it’s also one that improves the knife’s overall stain and corrosion resistance.
- Blades feature high-carbon stainless steel, and are expertly hardened for exceptional edge retention
- Each blade is hand-sharpened to a razor-sharp 16-degree cutting angle, making them among the...
- Blade features a mirror polish on the upper part and a graze finish on the lower part that is not...
✅ Positives include: excellent stain resistance, affordable price point
❌ Downside to consider: could be less comfortable, and some reviewers reported slight chipping in the blade after a while
If it is of interest, feel free to read about our recommendations for the best Japanese waterstones for knife sharpening.
Shun Premier Kiritsuke 8-Inch
If budget is less of a concern, then this is where I’d recommend you look. While I still maintain that most people, at least for use at home, will be perfectly well off with the Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife, you can take it one step further with this premier option. Another all-rounder with the bells and whistles, this is hand-sharpened with Kai’s VG-Max Cutting Core for edge retention.
The Pakkawood handle fits both the left & right hand beautifully.
This knife is very versatile, perfect for most use-cases. The caveat being that, since it’s on the thinner side, I’d avoid tough stuff: root vegetables, frozen foods, bones.
- Kiritsuke is the only multipurpose traditional Japanese knife, (in Japan only the executive chef in...
- Featuring a double-bevel, flat-ground blade for durability and to move food away from the blade...
- Hand-sharpened 16-degree cutting angle on each side for a razor-sharp edge; Hammered Tsuchime finish...
✅ Positives include: very sharp, well balanced, and beautiful design
❌ Downside to consider: a higher price point, and could be too thin for cutting root vegetables, bones, and frozen foods
Kai Block Sets
In case you’re on the look out for an entire knife or cutlery set, we’ll touch on those real quick. After all, it’s pretty nice to have a block to store these wonderful knives in. They can look pretty cool in the kitchen, too!
Shun Cutlery Classic 7-Piece Block Set
If you’re sold on Kai and ready to go all-in on their products, then this might be for you! The 7-piece block set comes with:
- The 11-slot bamboo block
- A 3.5-inch paring knife
- A 6-inch utility knife
- The 8-inch Classic chef’s knife
- A 9-inch bread knife
- Herb shears
- Honing steel
Then, of course you’ll have some slots (4, if my maths is right…) in case you want to keep expanding your collection of Shun pieces.
- 7-Piece Essential Block Set provides must-have pieces of kitchen cutlery in one beautiful bamboo...
- In addition to key pieces like the Shun Classic Paring, Utility and Chef’s Knives, the set also...
- Laminated bamboo block has extra open slots so users can expand their Shun Classic collection;...
If, however, you’re looking at this 7-piece set thinking that there’s things in there that you don’t need, then maybe this next option would be perfect for you.
Shun Premier Build-a-Block Set
If you’re looking to start customizing your own block of Kai knives, this is the way to go. Their build-a-block option here comes with the classic 8-inch chef’s knife that was mentioned earlier (again, the #1 best choice if you were to only get one of these knives, in my opinion), honing steel, and the bamboo knife block that is included.
- Beautiful set is the perfect way to start a personalized collection of high-performance Shun knives;...
- Shun knives are handcrafted in Japan in the centuries-old tradition of Japanese blade making,...
- Included Premier 8-inch Chef’s Knife is an essential kitchen knife; multi-purpose and ideal for...
What to Consider When Choosing a Knife
Here’s six things you’ll want to be thinking about when choosing your Kai knife (or indeed, any knives).
What You Need It For
This is top of the list, as what you intend to use the knife for will greatly influence what type of knife you need.
Will you be chopping vegetables? Meat (with or without bone)? Are you cutting, peeling, dicing, slicing? It goes beyond the scope of this article to dive too much into this, but keep it front-of-mind when buying. And if you’re not sure, go for a multi-purpose all-rounder with good reviews.
Durability is always a big factor when it comes to any kind of serious investment. You always want to make sure that you are investing in something that will last you a long time. There’s no point in getting a good deal on a cheap knife if it’s just going to break down on you after a year. Investing in cheaply made products will result in you losing more money over time since you’ll keep having to replace them. Since Kai has been in the business for so long, they have practically perfected the art of crafting quality pieces that are built to last for generations.
Comfort and Ease of Use
You definitely want a knife that is comfortable to use. There are many factors that go into determining how comfortable it is to use a certain knife, and one of them is the handle construction. Of course, this is a subjective component as no two hands are alike. Handles are made out of all sorts of materials such as wood, plastic, metal, and more. They also come in different shapes and sizes. You want to find one that works and feels best in your hand. You don’t want to be getting hand cramps in the middle of chopping an onion, do you?
Without going too much into detail, there are typically two ways in which knives are manufactured: Forged and Stamped. A forged knife is one that is made when steel is exposed to extreme heat and molded into a specific shape. They tend to be of higher quality and also are more expensive than stamped knives. This is due to the longer and more complicated manufacturing process.
A stamped knife is made with a machine that punches the knife out of a slab of steel. Then, the edges of that punchout are sharpened and placed on a handle. While these knives aren’t as elegant or effective as forged ones, there are still a lot of decent stamped knives that get the job done fairly well.
That’s the whole point of the knife after all, isn’t it? A knife essentially loses its sense of purpose if it isn’t sharp. Just know that the best knives should already come sharp and ready to go right out of the box. And the best of the best STAY sharp even after continued use. Of course, eventually all knives will need to undergo sharpening. But the top-of-the-line models manage to lengthen service intervals so you can spend more time cooking and less time sharpening.
It’s also a matter of safety. While you might think a sharper knife is more dangerous, think again. When your knife is sufficiently sharp, this means that you have better control and smoother slicing experiences. A dull knife can be a struggle to work with and could lead to a lot of slicing mishaps.
The Kai company philosophy of knife sharpening is very much in line with traditional Japanese sword making. This is a pure and ancient artform that not many cultures of the world still practice. However, the Japanese have not only preserved these techniques, but have perfected it over the ages as well.
There are knives that cost a small fortune and there are also knives that punch above their weight. This is probably the most important factor that you need to take into consideration when selecting a knife for your kitchen. If you can afford to splurge on a higher end model that you know will last you a long time, then go ahead. But if budget is tight, then you definitely want to consider something that can bring you the most value for your investment. If you’re just going to engage in casual cooking, maybe you don’t have to splurge so much. But if you’re looking to get serious with your culinary antics, it might be worth investing in some of the more expensive models. Fortunately, the Kai catalogue has something for just about everyone. Whether you’re being very budget conscious or if you just have a taste for luxury, Kai has something for you. Click here to go back up and get a rough idea as to how much some of these Kai knives cost.
At the end of the day, nobody else but you knows which knife is right. It depends a lot on what you’re using it for, and your preferences. For me, the Shun Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife is a really wonderful all-rounder that you can hardly go wrong with.
But, as I said, think about what you need it for, have a browse, and feel confident that you’re buying from a brand that has been making knives since before our grandparents were born!
See our picks for the best cutting boards for Japanese knives