These Japanese chef’s knives are sharp, nimble, and capable. Which is best?
Published Aug. 22, 2023.
The best gyuto are easy to hold, nimble, and ultrasharp. We have two top options. One of the lightest knives we tested, the Hitohira FJ 210mm Gyuto VG10 Ho is especially easy to wield for long periods. It has a comfortable Japanese-style wood handle and its stainless-steel blade is incredibly sharp. We also loved the Masamoto Sohonten VG Gyuto 8.2". Testers liked its solid, heavier profile and smooth, Western-style plastic handle; it’s just as sharp as the Hitohira and can be used by lefties more easily. Our Best Buy is the Kanetsugu AUS-8A Stainless Gyuto 210mm. This entry-level gyuto lacks the beauty and refinement of our top options but is still sharp, agile, and easy to hold, performing well at a fraction of our favorites’ prices.
The gyuto (pronounced GYEW-toh) is best described as the Japanese version of a Western-style chef’s knife. It was developed in the 1870s, during the Meiji Restoration. Japan had recently ended its policy of isolationism and had opened its borders to the West for the first time in 250 years. Fearful of being left behind in the global race for power, Japan began a process of industrialization and modernization, adopting Western ideas at a rapid clip. Western influence could suddenly be seen in every aspect of Japanese life, extending even to the foods people began to eat.
Roughly translated, the word gyuto means “cow sword” (gyu = cow/beef, to = sword). Prior to the Meiji Restoration, beef was considered taboo in Japanese society. But as Josh Donald of Bernal Cutlery explains in Sharp: The Definitive Guide to Knives, Knife Care, and Cutting Techniques (2018), this changed under Western influence. In an effort to emulate their more modern, industrialized Western neighbors, Japanese people began eating beef, hoping it would give them the power they felt they lacked. You could say that the gyuto was developed to slice that beef—after all, Japanese cutlery is more specialized and task-specific than Western-style cutlery, with dedicated knives for cutting vegetables (usuba and nakiri), filleting and breaking down fish (deba), or slicing sashimi (yanagi). But as Donald explains, the reference to beef in the word gyuto is probably more metaphorical than literal: “[It] was named and marketed to evoke brawn and to answer that national yearning for muscularity and strength” that beef (and the Westerners who ate it) connoted.
In practice, the gyuto is probably the closest thing to an all-purpose knife that you can find within Japanese cutlery.
While the gyuto takes its inspiration from the Western-style c...
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.
Miye is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She covers booze, blades, and gadgets of questionable value.