All Knives Are Not Created Equal

PHOTO: HEATHER GOESCH, MPH, RDN, LDN

Product reviewed: Shun Hikari 8” Chef’s Knife

I like to think my knife skills are pretty sharp. While the technique might need some work, a counter full of formidable ingredients provided the perfect opportunity to test myself, as well as the breadth of my new cutting-edge companion’s capabilities.

More than a century of experience makes Shun Cutlery practically synonymous with exceptional craftsmanship. The new Hikari features an impressively thin 8-inch blade forged from two types of steel, with a laser-cut “hornet’s nest” pattern, which to you and me means a sharper edge and longer-lasting performance. The birch Pakkawood® handle — wrapped around a full tang with an embossed end cap to provide balance — is lightweight and a lovely shade of blonde, playing to hikari’s literal Japanese translation: light.

Fridays at my house mean homemade pizza, and on a drizzly late winter evening, also a new dessert. On the menu: a roasted paprika-cinnamon butternut squash, leek and fresh sage pizza with Manchego and pomegranate arils, and for dessert, triple almond scones with fresh ginger.

The blade being a good touch lighter than most chef’s knives, I was dubious. My preference tends toward those with some heft, especially when tackling bulkier ingredients like winter squash. But from start to finish, the Shun Hikari Chef’s Knife proved its versatility was more than adequate for both heavy-duty and precision cutting tasks. The blade glided through my massive butternut with minimal effort, made quick work of finely chopping toasted almonds, and deftly turned out minced garlic, julienned ginger, thinly sliced leek and a chiffonade of sage.

There’s good balance between the handle and the blade, which meant better control, and the slim handle was comfortable and easy to grip for a long bout of prep. It worked equally as well on a wood butcher block as it did on a thick plastic cutting board. The long size, however, does make a larger cutting surface beneficial. The single sticking point was literally that — slight adherence of the naturally sticky fresh garlic to the blade. Other than that, the intricately beautiful pattern keeps it clean.

One quick note about care to ensure a long knife lifespan: Always hand-wash, thoroughly dry and immediately put away into a block or on a magnetic strip. This is particularly crucial for knives high in carbon steel, which are more prone to rust. If you’re washing the knife between tasks, remember to dry the handle well — it can be a tad slick in the hand when wet.

Priced to reflect their history and quality, Shun knives would otherwise be window-shopping-only items for me. If you have the means or want to splurge, this is a masterful work of art — as beautiful as it is functional. Every cook, at any skill level, needs a good knife. The Hikari is about as good as you can get, and it’s my new go-to for quick weeknight meals, elaborate feasts and everything between. 

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Heather Goesch
Heather A. Goesch, MPH, RDN, LDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, freelance writer and recipe developer. Read her blog for healthy, seasonal recipe inspiration, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or LinkedIn.