The Best Shun Cutlery: The 7 Most Recommended Knives & Knife Sets

Published on 01/17/2024 · 7 min readSlice with excellence! Discover the best Shun cutlery, featuring the most recommended knives and knife sets known for sharpness and quality.
Di Doherty, Kitchen Expert
By Kitchen Expert Di Doherty

Photo courtesy of Shun Knives

TL;DR: A high end Japanese knife manufacturer, Shun creates high-end kitchen knives that they sell both to domestic and Western audiences. While it’s hard to go wrong with a premium knife brand like this, there are certain knives of theirs that stand out.

Collecting knives has been a hobby of mine since I was in my tweens, and I’ve never really grown out of it. It started out with pocket knives, and grew into accumulating kitchen knives. I have a mixture of knives, including Western-style knives, Japanese-style knives, and knives made with stainless steel, carbon steel, and ceramic blades.

I grew up learning to cook, and while my mom had a decent set of knives, buying my own high-quality knives has made a big difference in how easy prep work is. My experience has motivated me to help others find the best knife for the task, and I’ve become the go-to person for my family and friends to ask advice. At Curated, I have the ability to share my expertise with a wider audience. Every Kitchen Expert at Curated is passionate about their area of expertise, so if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to an Expert—it’s free!

Personally, I’m a fan of Japanese-style knives. They’re incredibly lightweight, which is great especially if you have small hands like me, and they are so sharp that it feels like the knife does all the work for me when slicing. The trade-off is that their thinner blade makes them more brittle, so you have to be careful when using and storing them to prevent damage to the blade.

Who Is Shun?

A subsidiary of the KAI Group, Shun (pronounced “shoon”) incorporates Japanese tradition into their knife crafting. The company is headquartered in Seki, Japan, a city that’s been known for its knife making since the 13th century. While the KAI Group has existed for more than 100 years, it wasn't until 2002 that Shun chose to introduce their knives to a Western audience.

Their manufacturing name is also thoughtfully chosen. The Japanese word “Shun” translates to the moment in time when a vegetable or fruit is at its most ripe—or, the perfect time to eat it.

Why Choose Shun?

As Shun is a premium knife maker, buying anything from them is going to be expensive. While not everyone is going to be willing to spend that kind of money, you do get a return on your investment. Here’s why I think Shun knives are worth the money:

  • Handcrafted knives: Does handcrafting a knife make it superior? Debatable. But Shun is very careful about the process, with each knife taking more than 100 steps to complete. It hearkens back to the Japanese tradition of making samurai swords (which also involved layering the steel) and includes modern knowledge of metals and manufacturing techniques to create knives that are both useful and stunning.
  • Lightweight Blades: Japanese-style kitchen knives prioritize being lightweight. They use a harder steel, allowing them to hammer it thinner. This makes a Japanese knife noticeably lighter than a Western one. If you own both a Japanese-style knife and Western-style knife, you can compare the difference in the thickness of the spines.

A Western chef’s knife and a Japanese chef’s knife side by side. Photo by Di Doherty

  • Pakkawood Handles: While not every one of Shun’s knife lines uses pakkawood—their Kanso and Sora lines use wood and plastic, respectively—most of their knives do. Pakkawood is made by taking very thin strips of hardwood and adhering them together with a resin. The result looks and feels like wood, but is water resistant and doesn’t require frequent oiling.
  • Razor Sharpness: The practice of using a hard, thin steel allows the blade to achieve and hold a stunningly keen edge. These knives can slice effortlessly through onions, chicken breasts, fish filets, and more. It’s possible for even those with moderate knife skills to get paper thin slices.
  • Damascus Steel: While this isn’t inherently superior, Damascus steel is beautiful. The manufacturing process is what makes Damascus steel unique. It involves layering the steel and then hammering it together, which is why most of Shun’s knives have wavy lines on the blade—it’s a result of the manufacturing process.
  • Wide Selection: Shun makes many different types of knives, and has seven different lines of cutlery. This means that there are a range of prices, manufacturing techniques, and types of knives to choose from, depending on your needs and priorities.

It’s difficult to make the wrong choice with a Shun knife, but as they’re expensive and something you can keep for decades, it’s a good idea to thoughtfully consider your options. If you’re feeling unsure about what knife or knife set would be best, here are my top recommendations:

1. Shun Classic Blonde Paring Knife

This paring knife has a VG-MAX steel core, with layers of stainless steel for corrosion resistance. The thinness of the blade makes it lightweight, and it’s honed to a razor edge. The D-shaped handle is made for both right-handers and left-handers, and the fact that the blade is sharpened on both sides makes it ambidextrous. The only downside is that the hardness of the blade does make it so it’s possible to chip, especially the tip.

2. Shun Premier Professional Block Set

This knife set contains every type of knife you’ll need, including a chef's knife, utility knife, santoku, bread knife, and carving knife. It comes with a bamboo knife block for countertop storage, and a honing rod to keep your knives in top condition.

These knives have a tsuchime, or hand-hammered, finish that helps prevent food from sticking to the blade when slicing. The knife block also has four open slots to accommodate additional knives and a pair of kitchen shears.

3. Shun Classic Blonde Steak Knife Set

This set of steak knives is elegantly simple. They each have blonde pakkawood handles, a 4.5-inch blade, and can hold an extremely fine edge. The knife set comes with a beautiful box, which works as a storage container and makes them excellent for gifting.

The set does only have four knives, though, which means that if you often host dinner parties you’ll need more than one—and even one set is expensive.

4. Shun Kanso H.G. Nakiri Knife

Shun’s Kanso line is a bit less expensive. It has a plainer design, and it’s made with AUS10A steel, which is a high-carbon stainless steel. The handle is made of tagayasan, or wenge wood, which is dense and durable. It has a visible full tang, giving it a distinctive profile.

The blade also has divots on the side (called a Granton edge) that discourage sticking, and is sharpened at a 16 degree angle for precision slicing.

5. Shun Premier Boning & Filet Knife

Boning and filet knives are excellent for removing meat from the bone. This stiff knife works well for fileting fish, or removing the silver skin from a roast. The thin blade makes it easy to get right next to the bone (even small fish bones), and makes the knife easy to maneuver. The hammered finish also helps to prevent sticking. While 6-inch isn’t an uncommon size for a boning or filet knife, it’s best for fish or smaller roasts, as it can struggle with larger cuts of meat.

6. Shun Classic Blonde Santoku Knife

Santoku knives are excellent all-purpose knives that work for meat, fish, and vegetables, and are great for slicing, dicing, and chopping. This knife has a pakkawood handle, giving it the look and feel of wood with fewer care requirements. It comes in both a 7-inch and a 5.5-inch, giving you options for how nimble you want the knife to be.

7. Shun Classic Starter Set

If you’re looking for a set of high-quality knives that covers the basics, this set includes Shun’s classic chef’s knife, paring knife, and 6-inch utility knife. The handsome black pakkawood handles offer a comfortable, sure grip and the blades are honed to razor sharpness. It even comes in a handsome box, making it a great gift.

Each knife is sharpened at a 16 degree angle, allowing for extremely precise slicing. There’s also a bolster in the front that helps you keep a secure hold if you prefer a pinch grip.

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Find the Best Shun Knife for You

Picking out the right knife for your needs requires a lot of research and some knowledge of knife-making. If you want to cut down on the amount of time it takes to make a selection, Curated is here to help! Our Kitchen Experts are extremely knowledgeable about knives and are more than willing to offer suggestions, answer questions, and share their experiences via chat. Best of all – it’s all free! So, chat with a Curated Expert today for free, personalized advice.

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