An Expert Guide to Miyabi Knives

Published on 01/30/2024 · 10 min readDiscover the art of fine cutting with our expert guide to Miyabi knives, renowned for their exceptional sharpness, craftsmanship, and elegant design.
Di Doherty, Kitchen Expert
By Kitchen Expert Di Doherty

Photo courtesy of Miyabi

TL;DR: Miyabi is a high-end knife manufacturer that makes Japanese-style knives with German engineering techniques. When picking out a Miyabi knife, consider if you want a set, what type of handle you want, and how to care for the knife.

I inherited my love for knives from my dad, who encouraged my interest by helping me amass a collection of folding and pocket knives when I was a kid, a few of which I still have. I learned how to cook from my mom, and I’ve been working to improve my skills since I was a teenager, which is how my interest in pocket knives transformed into one in kitchen knives.

I’ve mostly used Western-style knives, as that was what I grew up using. I have to say that I’m sort of in love with my Miyabi gyuto, though. I selected that particular knife because of its fusion between Japanese craftsmanship and German engineering — and because of how handsome it is. Even though it wasn’t cheap, I haven’t been disappointed.

Looking for a Miyabi knife or knife set? Our Curated Kitchen Experts are here to answer any questions you may have. If you have any concerns about care, how to maintain your knife, or whether a Japanese knife is best for you, make use of our free service to talk to a real live Expert!

Who Is Miyabi?

Miyabi is headquartered in Seki, Japan, which has been home to skilled artisans crafting kitchen knives and samurai swords since the thirteenth century. While the company is currently a subsidiary of Zwilling Henckels, they still manufacture traditional Japanese kitchen knives.

As with most Japanese companies, the name has meaning and importance. It alludes to traditional Japanese aesthetic ideals. “Miyabi” was used in that tradition, and translates roughly to “elegance.” Their knives are said to be a combination of the artistry of Japanese craftsmanship and the precision of German engineering, utilizing the best of both styles.

As expected of expensive knives, the process is in the hands of craftsmen. Miyabi knives can have up to 60 layers of steel. Forging a knife takes 42 days, as their manufacturing process involves more than 100 steps. All of their knives are ice hardened, helping to increase their sharpness and durability.

What To Consider When Buying Miyabi Knives

Buying a high-end knife or knife set is an investment, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting the right knife for you. When picking out your Miyabi knife, ask yourself these questions.

A santoku knife in Miyabi’s Artisan series. Photo courtesy of Miyabi

How Do I Care for Miyabi Knives?

Durability is always a concern with Japanese-style knives because of their thin, hard steel. It’s the price you pay for the incredibly sharp blades and edge retention. Here’s a short rundown on how to clean and care for your knives.

  • Handwash: Never use the dishwasher to wash your knife. The harsh detergent and being banged around can dull and damage the blade, as well as ruin the handle. After washing with dish soap, dry the blade immediately with a soft cloth. Let it air dry briefly before safely storing it. While Miyabi’s knives use high-carbon stainless steel for corrosion resistance rather than a standard stainless steel, the company's primary focus is on the hardness of the blade, not rust resistance, meaning that some of their alloys have limited protection from rust.
  • Honing: Keep your knives honed with a sharpening steel. A very sharp knife will have a thin cutting edge, meaning that using it can cause the edge to curl. A sharpening steel will straighten the edge out. A knife that isn’t honed regularly can slip when cutting, potentially hurting you, and the edge can harden, making it easier to chip.
  • Cutting surface: Invest in a good cutting board. A soft wood like hinoki is a good choice, but a regular wood or bamboo cutting board will work well, too. Avoid surfaces like composite and glass, as they’re so hard they can dull or chip your knife.
  • Avoid cutting anything too hard: Japanese-style knives are hard enough to be a bit brittle, meaning that certain cutting tasks like frozen foods, bones, or hard vegetables can cause the blade to chip.

Do I Want a Knife Set?

Purchasing a whole set of cutlery is a bigger one-time investment but is cheaper than buying the knives one at a time. It also has the advantage of ensuring that you have a matching set. Many of them will also come with a way to store your knives, such as a traditional knife block or magnetic knife block.

What Kind of Handle Do I Want?

A comfortable and well-balanced handle is vital to a good knife. Here are the choices that Miyabi has.

D-shaped pakkawood handles in the Kaizen II series. Photo courtesy of Miyabi

  • Pakkawood: The majority of Miyabi’s knives’ handles are made of pakkawood. This is a semi-synthetic material that’s made by taking veneers of hardwood and adhering them together with resin. The end product looks and feels like wood, but it’s water resistant and doesn’t require regular oiling.
  • Wood: Miyabi’s most expensive knives have wooden handles, with birchwood handles for their Birchwood line and black maple handles for their Black series. Both of these are very rare, expensive woods that are lovely but require extra care. You’ll need to be prepared to oil them regularly (I recommend food-grade mineral oil) to maintain their beauty and prevent them from cracking.
  • Plastic: Their lowest tier, the Evolution line, has a plastic handle. It’s a handsome, shiny black, but it won’t have the same grip or elegance as pakkawood or real wood.

Types of Miyabi Knives

Miyabi makes expensive knives, meaning that every purchase is an investment. Picking the right knife for the task will ensure you get the best use out of your knife. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it is the majority of knives that the company manufactures.

Gyuto Knife

More often called Japanese chef’s knives, gyuto knives are used for all sorts of tasks. They can chop, slice, dice, and mince and have a curve on the end of the blade like a Western chef’s knife.

Benefits:

  • An all-rounder that will be used daily
  • Great for meat, fish, vegetables, and poultry

Be aware:

  • More fragile than a Western chef’s knife, not good for joints or bones
  • Delicate, sharp edge can be damaged by dragging it on the cutting board

A gyuto knife slicing a blood orange. Photo courtesy of Miyabi

Nakiri Knife

Sometimes called a Japanese vegetable knife, nakiri knives excel at chopping vegetables. Their blade is roughly square shaped, like a small cleaver, making them simple to wield.

Benefits:

  • Can cut through tough or starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots
  • Is used in a simple chopping motion, so it doesn't require special knife skills
  • Can be used on both meat and poultry

Be aware:

  • Thin blade will struggle with hard or large veggies or fruits like squash or watermelon
  • Straight blade can’t do a rocking chop

The Miyabi Birchwood SG2 Nakiri Knife · 6.5 Inch. Photo courtesy of Miyabi

Santoku Knife

These knives have a long, flat blade, giving them a lot of cutting surface. Similar to a chef's knife, santoku knives are another multipurpose knife that can be used for any number of tasks.

Benefits:

  • Great for chopping, slicing, and dicing
  • Comes in sizes ranging from 5.5-7 inches

Be aware:

  • Can’t be used for rocking chop, unless you have a rocking santoku
  • Have a shorter blade than chef’s knives, meaning they may struggle with heavier or larger cutting tasks.

The Miyabi Birchwood SG2 Santoku Knife · 7 Inch. Photo courtesy of Miyabi

Paring Knife

Paring knives are small knives that are used for delicate or small tasks. They range from 3-4 inches, though Miyabi only makes 3.5-inch ones.

Benefits:

  • Sharp, thin blade makes them excellent for peeling fruit and thin slices
  • The thinness of the blade makes them lightweight and easy to use without a cutting board, such as for peeling

Be aware:

  • Thin blade makes it relatively easy to chip the tip
  • Limited options in terms of style, with almost all their knives having the standard blade shape

Bread Knife

These knives are long, usually 9 inches or 9.5 inches, with a serrated blade. They’re primarily used to cut bread, but the serrated blade gives them extra grip with slippery foods as well.

Benefits:

  • Excel at cutting bread without tearing it
  • Can be used for other baked goods, like cakes, and to get through crispy skin on a roast

Be aware:

  • Serrated blades are difficult to sharpen as they require using a honing rod to sharpen every individual serration
  • Length of the blade makes it harder to use for smaller tasks like cutting citrus or tomatoes.

Utility Knife

Sometimes referred to by their Japanese name of shotoh, these knives are similar to a long paring knife. They range from 5 inches to 8 inches, with most being on the smaller end like 5.5 inches or 6 inches.

Benefits:

  • Great for tasks too big for a paring knife, but too small for a chef’s knife
  • Lightweight and easy to maneuver

Be aware:

  • Not good for heavy tasks, like hard vegetables or larger roasts
  • Doesn’t have as much knuckle clearance as a chef’s knife

Features to Look for

Miyabi makes high-end knives, which means that it’s hard to go wrong with anything they manufacture. That being said, there are a few things I look for when picking out a Miyabi knife.

Damascus Steel

Damascus steel is a process that involves folding the steel over itself while it’s being forged. This makes it easier for the blade to have an extremely hard core, but mainly it results in a beautiful pattern.

Miyabi’s less expensive knives aren’t Damascus steel. Personally, if I’m going to buy a premium knife, I want it to look like one, which is why I go for the beauty of Damascus steel.

A Miyabi Kaizen II chef’s knife showcasing acid-darkened Damascus steel. Photo by Di Doherty

End Cap

Most of Miyabi’s knives have a metal cap on the end that the tang attaches to. Not only is it stylish, but it’s also useful for tasks like crushing garlic or herbs. It’s best not to press on the thin, flat blade, so this is a good compromise.

How to Pick the Best Miyabi Knife for You

Picking out the right knife can be a tough choice, even when you’ve decided on a brand. To streamline the process, I’m going to describe three people and what products I’d recommend to them.

Hunter: Knife Aficionado Looking for a Gorgeous Knife Set

Hunter has collected kitchen knives haphazardly and is looking to get a matching set of beautiful knives. He’s not concerned about cost and is willing to care for them as needed. He wants something functional and stunning.

Features to look for:

  • Wooden handles for beauty and comfort
  • Damascus steel for a stunning blade

Recommended products: Miyabi Birchwood SG2 Knife Block Set, Miyabi Black Knife Block Set

Evelyn: Home Cook Looking to Upgrade her Knives

Evelyn spends a lot of time cooking for her family and wants a high-quality set of knives to make the task faster and easier. She likes Japanese-style knives because of how finely honed they are. She’s busy, though, so she doesn't want something too difficult to care for.

Features to look for:

  • Pakkawood or plastic handles for easier care
  • Knife block set for easy storage

Recommended products: Miyabi Kaizen II Knife Block Set, Miyabi Artisan Knife Block Set

Jimmy: Hobbyist Looking to Expand His Knife Collection

Jimmy has assembled a set of high-quality, handsome knives one by one, and he’s looking to fill in some gaps. He wants a well-made, useful knife that will serve him well for years. He figures it’s best to get traditional Japanese knives from a Japanese manufacturer, so he’s looking for something of that nature.

Features to look for:

  • Traditional Japanese knife like a santoku or nakiri
  • Hand-hammered finish or Damascus steel for an eye-catching knife

Recommended products: Miyabi Artisan Santoku Knife, Miyabi Kaizen II Nakiri Knife

Find the Right Miyabi Knife for You

Di Doherty

A knife from Miyabi is a serious investment, so don’t be afraid to do your research. Try getting in touch with a Curated Kitchen Expert! Every Expert is an enthusiast who’s willing to offer suggestions, make recommendations, and answer any question you may have — and the service is free!

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