A home sushi chef might not want to spring for an ultra-high end and wildly expensive blue steel or white steel professional sushi knife just yet, even though they are the cream of the crop of Japanese sushi knives. If you are on a budget but want an excellent sushi knife, it can be hard to find a low price sushi knife that’s still of good quality. The best sushi knives are, of course, very sharp, to prepare raw fish for sushi and sashimi without crushing it. This means that traditional Japanese sushi knives are only honed on one side, which creates a sharper edge than honing on both sides like in most Western knives.
After a lot of testing and sushi-making, our research team presents two stainless steel sushi knives for preparing authentic Japanese and Asian cuisine: the bestselling but pricey Mercer Yanagi Sashimi Knife and the high-end but very affordable Happy Sales Japanese Sushi Knife. The Mercer knife is an amazing brand product, but the Happy Sales knife earned our alternative spot since it is available at a great price and still is an authentic Japanese sushi knife. Both knives are great choices, so let’s see how they compare.
The Mercer Yanagi Sashimi Knife has a wooden handle and a stainless steel blade available in 10 or 12-inch lengths. This longer blade is its main advantage over the Happy Sales blade, but otherwise, these sushi knives are very similar: single bevel edges, right handed designs, ergonomically shaped handles, and hand wash only. If you like the brand name and reputation of Mercer Culinary, plus the German stainless steel and a longer blade, you may prefer the Mercer sushi knife and be willing to pay extra for that choice. In short, it is a fantastic product, offering pro-level quality for advanced hobby sushi makers and professional chefs alike. The only downside, for most people, will be the price.
The Happy Sales Japanese Sushi Knife is a great knife for a bargain price with many of the same features as the Mercer knife. It is slightly shorter blade is a minor disadvantage to some, but for most others it makes the knife easier to control, making it ideal for beginners and intermediate sushi chefs. It is also almost two ounces lighter than the Mercer knife, with a curved right handed wooden handle and an excellent, incredibly sharp blade. If you like the blade length and the low price, the Happy Sales knife is our recommendation for the best sushi knife at a bargain. Plus, unlike many other budget knives, it is made in Japan, for better quality and that authentic feel while you are cutting up raw fish.
The Mercer knife is marketed as high carbon stain-free German steel, which essentially means it is stainless steel. Adding a one-millionth part of carbon to the metal blend means your knife is now carbon reinforced, but when the carbon volume is that low, it has zero impact on day-to-day performance. A true high carbon steel blade means a serious price jump and most people will not need it for everyday use.
The Happy Sales knife is marketed as molybdenum rust resistant steel – it sounds complicated but also essentially means that this knife uses stainless steel. Metal type is important but almost impossible to identify by sight, so lower cost brands use them as points of marketing. This knife’s steel is certainly high-quality, however. Stainless steel is a fine option for a sushi knife, and better for people still in the learning stages of using kitchen knives.
The Mercer knife has a single bevel edge. This kind of edge is very sharp, but brittle when applied to the wrong surfaces. Avoid using this knife on bones, stone, and tough materials, or on cutting boards made of glass or granite. Remember that these are slicing knives, not cleaving knives. Stainless steel does not have quite as sharp of an edge as high carbon steel, but it should work very well for most home chefs. We found that the Mercer knife was incredibly sharp right upon arrival.
The Happy Sales knife also uses a sharp single bevel edge. Again, this type of knife edge is ideal for slicing sushi and sashimi in clean, thin strips, but means the blade is more delicate than traditional knives. As long as you do not hit it on hard surfaces, the knife should be fine. Sushi knives are best reserved for what they are designed to do: sushi. Just pull the blade across the raw fish in one direction for a perfect, smooth cut in one go. The Happy Sales knife was sharp right out of the box, like the Mercer knife.
The Mercer knife comes in 10-inch or 12-inch blade lengths. So if you find that long blades are easier to use or perform better for you, you may prefer the Mercer knife. Newbie sushi chefs might find this length intimidating or unwieldy, as well as being slightly harder to store.
The Happy Sales knife blade is 8.3 inches long, which is a very typical length. Though two inches shorter than the Mercer knife, this is still enough blade length to handle any sushi and sashimi slicing tasks, and we did not find it to be a significant disadvantage in our tests. This knife feels just right.
The 10 inch Mercer knife weighs 8 ounces. That is 1.6 ounces more than the Happy Sales knife, mainly due to its longer blade. Some chefs prefer a heavier blade because the weight helps guide the knife for better cuts, especially for the straight cuts often used for sashimi.
The Happy Sales knife weighs 6.4 ounces. If you prefer lightweight knives, the Happy Sales knife is a better option than the Mercer knife. We did not find that the weight impacted our slices at all, but you may have a different preference, depending on how seriously you take sushi making.
The Mercer knife uses a D-shaped wooden handle with a plastic retainer ring for a slightly ergonomic design. It uses a traditional knife handle material and shape for that authentic Asian feel.
The Happy Sales knife also has a D-shaped wooden handle for a firm grip and control, plus a plastic retainer ring. There’s not much else to say about the handles for these knives, as they are virtually the same and work great.
The Mercer knife is made for use by right handed chefs, due to the handle shape and since the bevel is only on one side. This is a common feature of Japanese sushi knives, and trying to use a right handed blade with your left hand will result in cuts that angle outward instead of straight down.
The Happy Sales knife is designed for right handed use, too, for the same reasons as the Mercer knife. Left handed sushi knives are more expensive, unfortunately, and the Happy Sales brand does not offer one, while the Mercer knife does. Avoid services that offer to “regrind” your knife, so the bevel is on the opposite side--it will weaken the knife and mess up the balance.
The Mercer knife should be washed by hand and dried with a soft towel (watch your hands, though). The handle can deteriorate if the knife is washed in the dishwasher, as can the rest of the blade. Never use bleach, either! Treat your knife with gentleness to get the longest possible use out of it. A great sushi knife is meant to be passed on!
Just like the Mercer, the Happy Sales sushi knife should also be hand washed and hand dried, never left to soak (especially in stainless steel or aluminum sinks) or put in the dishwasher. Prolonged exposure to hot water and harsh detergents can cause pitting in the blade metal. Sushi knives are a quality utensil and should be treated as such.
The Mercer knife’s single bevel blade means you should use a water stone or whetstone rather than a traditional knife sharpener, which could mess up the single bevel edge used on sushi knives. Learning to use a whetstone takes some adjustment and an additional investment on your part, but it is the price of having a cool-looking and high-end knife. You can find some great, affordable options here.
The Happy Sale knife also has a single bevel blade, so you should use a water stone or whetstone to maintain its edge. You can purchase water stone kits online or in brick and mortar stores, or search for local knife sharpening services in your area if you would rather not do it yourself. Here are several excellent options. Once you get used to it, sharpening will be quick and easy and make for even better sushi!