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The Nakiri Knife: What It’s Good For and Why You Need It
Shannon Vestal Robson
By Shannon Vestal Robson
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The Nakiri knife is one of Brandless’s latest knives in our assortment of outstanding $3 knives, but it’s possible you haven’t worked with — or even seen — a Nakiri knife before, and may be wondering what it’s best for and if you need to add it to your knife block. The Nakiri is a Japanese-style vegetable and fruit knife that mimics a cleaver, but differentiates in that it has a lot of weight and is extremely sharp to get through sturdier fruits and veggies.

At $3, it’s a no-brainer to add to your arsenal given how useful it is, but to fill you in on why the Nakiri is such a kitchen superstar, I chatted with director of merchandising Peter Degnan, who sources our knives and has a special love for the Nakiri.

What Is It Good For?

So which vegetables and fruits does the Nakiri work best with? “Any harder vegetable like potatoes or hard squash,” Peter says. “It’s used a lot with daikon radish — that’s one of the reasons it was developed. It’s really good for melons and carrots and celery.”

What's the Best Way to Wield the Nakiri?

Peter explains that since the Nakiri is squared off at the end without a point, “you’re going to use this blade from tip to tail completely when you’re cutting vegetables and doing any kind of vegetable or fruit prep. As opposed to a chef’s knife, where it has a longer, pointed blade, where you may use the point for cutting around bone or cutting around things that you don’t want to end up in your food. This is just meant to slice and dice and chop through vegetables, fruits, and herbs.” Peter also notes that you should come straight down on the vegetable, herb, or fruit, as opposed to a rocking style you’d use with other knives.

Can It Also Be Used on Meat?

The Nakiri is optimized for fruits and vegetables, so there are certainly other knives that may be better for meat, like the cleaver: “Typically cleavers have a much thicker blade — twice as thick as this — because they are meant to go through bone, cartilage, and bigger pieces of connective tissue,” Peter says. “This is is meant for more delicate, fine work, like cutting vegetables very thin. If you tried to put this through bone or anything like that with meat, it would damage the blade because it’s not meant for that.” That doesn’t mean you can never use the Nakiri on meat, but there’s a caveat: “As long as you’re not trying to cut through bone or really thick cartilage, [like] if you are just doing chicken breast or pork tenderloin (but I would recommend the Santoku for that).”

Any Special Dish This Is Perfect For?

“It’s great for salads because everything can be really thin, and you can also do matchstick style. You can cut up cabbage, your lettuce, different fruits you can stick into the salad, like carrots, radishes, etc.”

What Would You Say to a Home Cook Who's Intimidated by the Nakiri?

“It definitely doesn’t require any advanced technique, or any advanced knowledge in cooking. It is a preference thing. What’s amazing is at $3, it’s a really low investment to get into something that’s a little more cutting edge and a little more on trend with how we’re cooking.”

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