Great kitchen knife sets for the home cook from Ginsu, Tojiro and Shun

Great Cooking Knife Sets from Japan For The Home Kitchen Cook From Cheap to Expensive

If you are a serious cook who is looking for a good Japanese cooking knife or set on a bit of a budget this post should be helpful. We will start with the more affordable Japanese cooking knives and save the more expensive knives and knife sets for the end of the article. Many of Japans Cutlery brands like Shun and Kyocera are household names, because they deliver amazing performance. A lot people believe that  good Japanese Chef knives or full knife sets are really, expensive, but there are  some excellent mid range knife brands like Tojiro and some decent budget brands like Ginsu that deliver great value. If you are looking to get started with Japanese cutlery this guide will help you find what you need regardless of your budget.

We have included a brand summery at the end of this article that gives a brief description and history of the Japanese cutlery companies that make the kitchen knife sets we recommend.

 

Currently our picks for the best Japanese cooking knife sets are as follows:

Tojiro DP 2-Piece Slim Knife SetThis cutlery set from Tojiro includes a chef knife and a paring knife.

Specifications

  • Set Includes –  one 8.25″inch Chef’s knife and one 4″ paring knife

Pros

  • Lifetime Replacement Warranty
  • Full Tang
  • Very sharp right out of the box
  • Forged not stamped
  • 3 Ply Clad Construction
  • Great edge retention
  • Triple Riveted
  • Rockwell hardness of 60

Cons

  • Small Set
  • No Storage Block

The Tojiro DP 2 piece set is one of the absolute best buys in the cutlery world. There are many kitchen knives that cost much more than this one that do not come close to the Tojiro DP set from a quality and performance standpoint. One of the benefits of the DP series of knives is that they are a well designed hybrid consisting a Japanese style blade and a Western style handle. This East meets West combination has resulted in a line of knives that have become extremely popular with home cooks and professional chefs alike.

From an aesthetics standpoint the knives in the Tojiro DP set won’t turn any heads. This set is all about performance. Tojiro’s impressive forging technique for these knives has resulted in three ply clad blades with a tough VG-10 steel core. From a performance and durability standpoint this set is tough to beat. Ultimately if you are looking for a high performance Japanese kitchen knife set at a great price the Tojiro 2-piece block st is tough to beat.

At it’s current sub $150 price point it is tough to find fault with the Tojiro DP set other than the fact that it only includes two knives and does not have a knife storage block. The set is relatively small, but that is a trade-off I am happy to make to get this level of quality. Both knives in this set feel like they should be part of a much more expensive set. For some reason Tojiro seems to be moving away from the large set with storage block method of selling knives. This means that if you want to build a large Tojiro set it will have to be done the hard buying one knife at a time. This process is a bit tedious, but it can also be fun. A good starter knife storage block for this process is the Coninx Magnetic Knife Holder.

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MAC SK-201 Santoku Knife Set

This great Sntoku knife set from MAC is an excellent start to building out a great cutlery set for your kitchen.

Specifications

  • Set Includes – one 6.5″ santoku knife and one 5″ mini santoku knife 
  • High Carbon Steel Blades
  • Pakkawood Handles

Pros

  • Extremely sharp
  • Full Tang
  • Very sharp right out of the box
  • Forged not stamped
  • The  high carbon blades hold their edge extremely well for knives at this price point
  • Well balanced
  • 60 degree Rockwell hardness

Cons

  • Only 2 knives included
  • No knife storage block included

This is a great set for anyone who really likes Santoku knives. They have been growing in popularity for years, and this 2 knife set would be a great start for a Santoku fan looking to build out a full kitchen cutlery set. Both of the included knives are extremely well balanced. This will be especially noticeable if you are moving up from cheaper knives. The high carbon blades hold there edge extremely well. However the downside of a high carbon blade is that they must be hand washed and immediately dried to avoid rust spots. This slight inconvenience is worth it for the impressive performance and edge retention of these knives.

The Pakkawood handles of these knives are very comfortable and easy to grip. The impressive ergonomics of theses knives make them a great choice for busy cooks who experience hand pain or discomfort with lower end kitchen knives.

Like many Japanese knife sets the this MAC Knife set does not include any type of storage block, but there are many magnetic or conventional storage blocks available that will work for these knives.

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Global Kabuto 7 Piece Knife Block Set

The 7 Piece Global Kabuto Block Set is a grea mid range knife set that should last for many years.

Specifications

  • Set Includes – one 3″ paring knife, one 4.5″ utility knife, one 5″ chef’s prep knife, one 5.5″ Nakiri vegetable knife, one 8″ Chef knife, one 8.5″ bread knife, one 6 slot acrylic knife block.
  • Weight – 7.5lbs
  • Size – 14.6″ x 10.3″ x 5.7

Pros

  • Lifetime Replacement Warranty
  • Sleek modern design
  • Lightweight
  • Very sharp right out of the box
  • Great balance
  • Great edge retention
  • Ergonomic handle design
  • Easy to sharpen
  • Easy to clean

Cons

  • No steak knives
  • Develops spotting a little easier than other high knives.
  • Stamped not forged

Normally I would not include a knife set with stamped blades in a kitchen cutlery review, but Global’s manufacturing and quality assurance standards are so high that they have managed to create kitchen knives with stamped blades that more than compete with many of the high end forged knives from well known brands.

The knives in the Global knives in the Kabuto set are all lightweight and  extremely well balanced. They are a favorite choice of many professional chefs and home cooks. These knives really do have a unique feel that many people fall in love with.  The lack of a bolster on the handles make the knives easier to clean. The unique handle shape of the Global knives make them popular with people who dislike the for square feel of Western style cutlery handles, and they seem to be a great alternative for those who experience discomfort  when using conventional knives for long periods of time.

Another unique feature of the Global knives is their unique convex edge that seems to help with edge retention even though they are slightly lower on the Rockwell harness scale than some of their competitors. Overall the Global makes high performance knives that are a lot of fun to use in the kitchen. However, they do seem to develop rust spots a little easier than other knives at this price point. As a result they should never be cleaned in the dishwasher, and they should also be dried immediately after being hand washed.

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Shun Classic 7 Piece Essential Kitchen Knife Block Set

The Essential Shun Classic kitchen knife set contains 4 Damascus steel knives and a pair of kitchen shears.

Specifications

  • Set Includes – one 3,5″ paring knife, one 6″ utility knife, one 8″ chef knife, one 9″inch Chef’s knife, one 9″ bread knife, one pair of kitchen shears, one honing steel and one Acacia wood block.
  • Weight – 10.45lbs
  • Size – 18″ x 10″ x 6

Pros

  • Lifetime Replacement Warranty
  • Full Tang
  • Very sharp right out of the box
  • Forged not stamped
  • Damascus Steel
  • Great edge retention
  • Pakkawood handles
  • Rockwell hardness of 61
  • Empty slots in the wood block

Cons

  • No steak knives
  • Relatively small set at this price point

The knives in the Shun Classic 7 piece Essential set are obviously a work of art from an aesthetic standpoint, but they also deliver in the performance department. It may seem like the $500 price point is a bit steep for a set that only contains 4 knives, but these are high end knives designed to last a lifetime or more.

The blades are made of Damascus stainless steel is layered over Shun’s impressive VG-10 steel, and the results are a well balanced, lightweight blades that are a joy to use. The classic D shaped handles are made of ebony pakkawood which is widely respected for it’s durability.  The block that ships with this set includes several empty slots which is a practice I wish more cutlery companies would adopt. It is really nice to have the option to add to your set as your home cooking needs change.

While this Shun set is certainly impressive,  I personally would not choose it over the Tojiro set mentioned above, because to me it just isn’t worth the extra 200 bucks. However, I am far from a professional chef or even  a great home cook, so my needs may be far different from yours, and the Shun Classic 7 Piece Essential Cutlery set is definitely an excellent product.

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Miyabi Kaizen 10 Piece Block Set

This Japanese knife set has a steep price tag, but it is worth it it you want amazing comfort and quality.

Specifications

  • Set Includes – one 3,5″ vegetable knife, one 4.5″ paring knife, one 5.5″ santoku knife, one 6″inch chef’s knife, one 8″ chef’s knife, 5″ bread knife knife 9.5″ slicing knife, and a 9″ sharpening steel, and one bamboo wood block.
  • Weight – 8lbs
  • Size – 16.8″ x 5.5″ x 9.8

Pros

  • Lifetime Replacement Warranty
  • Full Tang
  • Very sharp right out of the box
  • Forged not stamped
  • Micarta Handles
  • Great edge retention
  • 64-layer flower Damascus
  • VG10 Steel COre
  • Comfortable D-shaped handles
  • Empty slots in the wood block

Cons

  • No steak knives
  • Included Shears are not as high quality as the rest of the set

This excellent Japanese knife set from Miyabi has a relatively steep price tag, but if you are looking for premiere quality and classic Japanese styling this set is tough to beat. These knives have a VG10 steel core wrapped in a 64 layer flower Damascus pattern. Then the blades are hardened using the CRYODUR ice hardening treatment to ensure they are durable and hold an edge extremely well. Finally the blades are hand honed to a very sharp 9.5 to 12 degree edge.

The black linen micarta D shaped handles are extremely comfortable and a great choice for a busy home cook. If your current knife set causes discomfort after extended use this set may be the perfect upgrade.

The craftsmanship of these knives is obvious the minute you pick one up. There are no gaps or raised edges in the handle or bolster, and the balance is superb. Because they are totally made by hand there are no quality assurance problems. The only problem with this set is that the included shears and honing steel are not on the same quality level as the rest of the set.

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Summaries of the Knife Brands In This Article

If you are new to Japanese cutlery you may not know about the companies mentioned in this article. While most of us have heard of famous Western cutlery companies like J.A. Henckels or Wusthoff, many people have never heard of Shun, Tojiro or even Ginsu. With that in mind I figured it would be a good idea to give a quick summery of the Japanese cutlery companies whose products are highlighted in this post.

 

About Tojiro Knives

Tojiro knives are a great mid range option for cooking.

Our personal favorite Japanese knife company here at Nothing But Knives is Tojiro, because they are a great compromise between quality and price. While they are arguably not on the same quality level as Shun they certainly offer very impressive knives at great prices. You will always get more than you paid for when you buy a Tojiro knife. This is especially true of their F-737 bread knife. It is a relatively cheap bread knife at $22, but it cuts as well as many of the $100 bread knives. If you are looking for a small good quality set the DP Deluxe 3 Piece Starter set is well priced high performance Japanese cutlery kit.

Tojiro offers a huge variety of cutlery that includes both traditional Japanese style knives like their Shippu Black DP Damascus Series and Western style Japanese knives like their DP Cobalt Alloy Steel Series. Tojiro is obviously better at making knives than they are at naming them. If you are just considering making the jump to Japanese cutlery you may want to start out with one knife and the popular Tojiro DP Gyutou 8.2 inch Chef’s knife is a good option. It is a Japanese style knife with a Western style contoured handle, and it is a relatively inexpensive way to test the waters of Japanese cutlery.

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About MAC Knives

MAC Knives are all manufactured in Japan, and they have developed a reputation for quality and performance over the years.

The MAC Corporation was established in 1965. Since that time the company has manufactured over 30 million knives and developed a reputation for performance and quality. All MAC knives are made in Japan. The blades of every knife are hand ground and hand sharpened on water cooled stones. The attention translates into an impressive performing tool for the busy home cook or professional chef.

Rather than using the traditional beveled chisel edge of most Japanese knives, Mac blades utilize a slightly of center edge with an angle around 45 degrees. This edge is partially responsible for the knives great performance, but it also means that extra care needs to be gives when sharpening them to ensure the integrity of the edge is maintained.

MAC offers a complete cutlery lineup that covers a wide range in cost from relatively inexpensive too fairly pricey. The MAC product series are as follows: Original Series, Superior Series, Chef Series, Professional Series, Ultimate Series, Japanese Series and Damascus Series.

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About Shun KnivesShun DMS284 Classic Knife Set which includes a 4 inch paring knife and an 8 inch chef's knife

Shun Knives are known for their beauty and sharpness light weight and incredible balance. Shun knives offers a variety of different product lines that vary in quality and price. The top of the line Shun product line is their Reserve knives which are expensive, but the offer unmatched quality and craftsmanship that includes a SG2 stainless steel core and 32 layers on each side (64 total)  of nickel silver/stainless steel using the Damascus ladder design. This labor intensive technique gives the Reserve and Classic series knives their  distinctive looking blades as you can see in the picture above. Shun’s Classic series knives are similar to the Reserve series in many ways, but lack the contoured handle designs and they use a VG-Max stainless steel core rather than the VG2 stainless steel. The classic series Shun knives have a D shaped handle that many people prefer to contoured especially if they are used to using Japanese knives.

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Shun Reserve 6 inch Chef's Knife

Shun sells knives individually or in sets. Many people like to build their own set of Shun knives, and they usually start with a Chef’s knife like the one pictures above. All of Shun kitchen cutlery set blocks ship with empty slots that allow you to customize your collection. If you would like to learn more about Shun’s sets check out our blog on the best high end kitchen knife sets.

 

About Global Knives

Global Knives was establisshed in 1985, an they have deeloped a reuptaion for performance.

Global Knives was started in 1985 which makes them a relative new comer in the Japanese cutlery world. However, they have been around long enough to establish themselves as a trusted manufacturer who makes high performance knives with unique and practical designs.

Global uses a proprietary version of  CROMOVA 18 stainless steel. The steel is ice hardened and maintains it’s edge well in spite of the fact that it is easier to sharpen than other kitchen knives. Another unique feature of the Global knife blades are their acute edge. The lack of a bevel seems to help with edge retention and makes sharpening with a stone a little easier. The downside of the steel Global uses is that is seems to be a little more prone to discoloration or rust spots than other high end cutlery. This can of course be avoided with proper are, and Global offers a lot of great information on the care and maintenance of their knives.

What really sets Global knives apart from their completion are their lightweight and excellent balance. They are the sports car of the cutlery world. Like a sports car these knives require a little more maintenance and upkeep, but if performance is your number one goal Global is hard to beat.

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About Miyabi Knives

Miyabi Cutlery is an excellent Japanese knife company that combines classic Japanese knife making techniques with modern German engineering.

The Myabi factory is located in Seki, Japan which is the center of Japanese knife production. Myabi knives are all crafted with a hard steel core that is surrounded by softer steel layers. This gives the knives the strength of a hard steel without the problem of chipping that would be an issue if the entire blade was made of hard steel. The layering method also results in an aesthetically pleasing pattern that helps make the knives a work of art.

In 2004, Myabi Cutlery was acquired by Zwilling J.A. Henckels which is a highly respected German knife brand that has been manufacturing quality knives for over 100 years. The combination of these two companies had the best possible result for Myabi, because Henckels began using it’s patented CRYODUR ice hardening treatment to make Miyabi knives even more durable. The resulting combination German engineering with Japanese craftsmanship has made Myabi Cutlery one of the most respected and well known names in the cutlery world.

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