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You haven’t really put your cutting skills to test if you haven’t tried preparing a lovely Tsukemono dish. For that, you’ll need a good Japanese Knife though, and when it comes to Japanese blades, there’s no denying how expensive they can get. Big names, such as Shun Knives, Yoshihiro Knives, and Kamikoto knives, offer their products at crazy high prices, which may come on as a turnoff for those looking to exploring the Asian cuisine without breaking the bank.
Thankfully, quality, affordable Japanese knives do exist, and Zhen knives are the best example of good blades that don’t cost a fortune. Sure, they’re not as good as Kasumi Knives or Dalstrong Knives, but for the price, they’re a real bargain that any kitchen enthusiast shouldn’t miss.
Looking to explore the Japanese cuisine without blowing a hole in your wallet? Check our Zhen Knives review.
Zhen Knives Review Center 2019
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Now that you’ve seen our top 5 recommendations, we’ll give you more detail on each of them, including why we liked them. When you’re ready, click the yellow button to get the best price on Amazon!
#1 – ZHEN Japanese VG-10 5-Piece 3-Layer Forged Steel Cutlery Knife Set, Pakka Wood
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” or so says Leonardo Da Vinci. Although this 5-piece knife set is not what you’d call an extensive knife set, it offers everything you may need around the kitchen, with premium materials and solid construction, at the price of a single knife from one of the high-end brands mentioned above.
The set includes five blades, which are a Chef’s Knife, Santoku Knife, Sashimi Fish Fillet Knife, Kitchen Utility Knife, and Fruit Paring Knife. That’s pretty much everything you’ll need for a perfect Sushi dinner.
These forged knives truly reflect the genius of the Japanese craftsmanship. They’re composed of a triple-layered VG10 stainless steel cutting core that scores a whopping 60 to 62 degrees on the Rockwell scale of hardness. If you’re not familiar with cutlery metrics, know that that’s a pretty high score, one that allows for extreme sharpness and exceptional edge retention, and impressive durability, making these knives the real deal when it comes to affordable quality.
Although the blades come impressively sharp out of the box, you can sharpen them even further using a high grit wet stone. Sure, you’ll have to spend some time doing that, but the end result will be extremely satisfactory.
The handles offer the same quality, as they boast a full-tang design and waterproof brown wood construction for a comfortable, firm, and non-slip grip, something that any chef would dig.
What we like about it:
Despite their low price tag, the knives In this 5-piece set are really, really good. They’re made of the premium VG10 steel, which says a lot about the quality, durability, edge retention, and sharpness you can expect. The edges of these blades come razor-sharp right out of the box, and they can be further improved using a good high-grit sharpening stone. We would highly recommend this small set to anyone looking to quickly bolster their kitchen cutlery collection with a set of incredibly sharp Japanese knives without breaking the bank.
#2 – ZHEN Japanese High Carbon Forged Stainless Steel 8-in Chef’s Knife and 7-in Santoku Knife set
Another minimalistic knife set from Zhen, but without the Fruit Paring Knife and the Sashimi Fish Fillet Knife, for a more no-frills experience designed for those looking for a collection that can get things done without filling their kitchen drawer with blades they’re never going to use.
This set includes four essential knives: a chef’s knife, two Santoku knives (7 inches and 5 inches), and a utility knife. These knives aren’t an upgrade over the first ones reviewed above though, as they’re made of Japanese 440C stainless steel, which, although durable and functional, isn’t as good as VG10 steel.
The 440C stainless steel found in these blades scores around 56 to 58 HTC, making it a step down from the VG10 steel, but also more affordable. Nevertheless, this material is pretty solid, and it would definitely give you the bang for your buck. Besides, VG10 is a bit harder to care for (pun intended), so there’s that.
What’s inconvenient about these knives is the factory edge. You’ll definitely need to sharpen these blades using a fine grit Sharpening stone as soon as you get them. But once you do that, you’ll get super sharp knives with impressive edge retention for all your chopping, slicing, and mincing tasks around the kitchen.
The handles are also a downgrade, as they’re made of a non-slip material rather than wood with a full tang design for a balanced and comfortable grip.
What we like about it:
If you’re just starting out and need something that won’t cost you an arm and a leg to kickstart your Japanese cuisine journey, this is a solid choice to consider. Sure, the handles aren’t as elegant as those featured in the first set, nor are the blades as long-lasting, but this set comes at a super low price, and the 440C steel can help you get about with your cutting tasks no matter your level of expertise.
#3 – ZHEN Japanese VG-10 3-Piece Damascus Boxed Classic Starter Santoku Knife Set, Pakka Wood
This knife set is a bit more expensive than the couple of sets that we mentioned earlier in our Zhen knife reviews, but that’s totally justified, as these knives can give you a more authentic Japanese knife experience, both from the inside and the outside. The set includes three blades; a Fish Fillet Knife, a Santoku, and a utility knife. Mr. make your sushi much?
No knife Block here, but the set is delivered in boxes, which may or may not be a good thing for you. You can always store these blades in one of your existing Knife Blocks or stick them in your Magnetic Knife Strips, so there’s that.
As far as the knives themselves go, besides being made of triple-layered Japanese VG10 stainless steel, which, as we mentioned, again and again, is pretty hard, sturdy, and durable, these blades boast a Damascus pattern on the outside.
What does that mean for you, the chef?
It means that you’re getting super sharp blades, excellent edge retention, good durability, and eye candy style, all in a knife set that doesn’t cost much compared to sets from high-end brands offering similar features.
The handles are equally aesthetically-appealing, as they’re made of the famous pakkawood, and they’re well-crafted and smooth for a stunning look that would impress the hardest of your critiques. Not only are they beautiful though, as they’re also well-designed for a comfortable and firm grip, thus giving you the best of both worlds.
What we like about it:
We highly recommend this knife set for anyone looking for a minimalistic Japanese bade collection that won’t blow a hole in their wallet. The set includes everything you need for a successful Japanese cuisine experience, and each blade is made of the premium VG10 stainless steel and sports a Damascus pattern that would appeal to any guest checking your kitchen. The handles are comfy and beautiful as well, making this collection a true all-in-one set.
#4 – ZHEN 4 Piece Japanese 67 Layers Damascus VG-10 Steak Utility Knife Set
Have you ever looked at your Steak Knife Sets and wondered “why don’t I have some Japanese blades in there”? Well, maybe it’s time for you to do exactly that with Zhen’s 4-piece steak/utility knife set.
As with other forged Zhen blades, these knives are made of VG10 stainless steel, which comes with all the perks mentioned above. First, it’s hard, like, really hard, with a 60-62-degree score on the Rockwell scale of hardness, making it incredibly sharp right out of the box and easy to maintain and care for as well. Just a few honing sessions using a quality Knife Sharpener every now and then, and you’ll be good to go.
Second, these knives can hold their edge for long, really long, which reduces the honing frequency and therefore the maintenance costs.
The handles, just like the ones featured in other Zhen knives, feature a full-tang design and a waterproof, pakkawood construction, which guarantees a comfortable and firm grip all the time.
What we like about it:
This set is affordable, and it can get the job for which it was designed perfectly, making it a must-have for your meat prepping arsenal, just along your Meat Cleaver and Meat Slicers. The VG10 construction, the Damascus pattern, and the ergonomic, comfortable handles make this set a necessity if you’re looking for steak or utility knives without shelling out too much money.
#5 – ZHEN Japanese VG-10 67-Layer Damascus Steel Gyuto Chef’s Knife
If you’re interested in a single, all-purpose knife rather than a full knife set, the ZHEN Gyuto blade is an excellent choice to consider, as it checks all the boxes when it comes to high-quality knives and comes at an affordable price that’s hard to beat.
Despite its low price tag, there’s no compromise in this knife. It’s made of the usual VG10 stainless steel, the same used in super expensive knives from big brands like Shun, which means that you can expect the same sharpness, edge retention, and quality as well. The edge scores 62 on the Rockwell scale of hardness, which means that you won’t have to care for this blade that often, and you needn’t worry about accidental chipping and breaking.
We, as well as the manufacturer, recommend avoiding cutting bones with this knife, as it wasn’t designed for that, so you cannot add it to your Boning and Fillet Knives. It can take care of any mincing, chopping, and slicing task though, which proves that it’s indeed a great all-around knife.
As far as the aesthetics go, this knife was designed with your bragging needs in mind. It features a beautiful Damascus pattern, coupled with a pakkawood handle, for a pleasing combination that makes this knife a true eye candy for your kitchen.
Besides being stylish, the handle is also efficient, as it boasts a full-tang design, making it both comfortable and well-balanced, which makes for an excellent swinging when you’re prepping your sushi dinner.
What we like about it:
For the occasional cook, budget seeker, and those who truly care about aesthetics, this is all you’ll need for effortless cutting tasks around the kitchen. The Zhen Gyuto is a hassle-free, no-frills knife designed with efficiency in mind. It’s made of VG10 Japanese stainless steel, comes extra sharp out of the box, and features a beautiful pakkawood handle and Damascus pattern on the blade. What else could you possibly ask for in an all-purpose knife, especially at this price point?
How We Chose the Top Zhen Knives in Our List
Many people may be skeptical about Zhen knives because of their low prices. The matter of fact is that these knives are totally worth it, and they can give you the bang for your buck if you set your expectations right. So, how did we choose the recommendations in our Zhen knife reviews? We based our selection on the following features:
All of the Zhen knives recommended above feature VG10 stainless steel construction. As we mentioned, VG10 steel is durable, tough, and allows for great edge retention, which should give you some peace of mind when getting any of those knives.
Thanks to the VG10 construction and the exceptional craftsmanship of the Zhen artisans, Zhen knives come razor sharp out of the box, although you can still polish them upon receipt for an even sharper edge.
The handles of Zhen knives are made of Pakkawood along with a waterproof finish, which means that besides being durable and beautiful, they can offer you a comfortable and firm grip no matter how long you’re using them for.
The Damascus-patterned blade/ pakkawood handle combo found in the best Zhen knives makes them an excellent choice for those looking for beautiful knives that they can display on their kitchen counter whenever they have guests over.
Zhen knives are the epitome of forgiveness when it comes to maintenance. Thanks to their solid construction and premium materials, they can hold their edge for quite some time, which reduces the honing frequency and costs.
Different Types of Zhen Knives
There are four types of Zhen knives you should know about:
Zhen Gyuto Vs. Zhen Chef’s Knife
The Zhen Gyuto is nothing more than the Japanese version of the traditional western Zhen chef’s knife. Both are all-purpose knives designed for different chopping, slicing, and mincing tasks around the kitchen, and both can be used by professional and beginner cooks.
So, which one should you choose?
It depends on the cutting style and edge profile that you prefer.
- If you prefer cutting through by rocking the blade back and forth while keeping the tip in contact with the cutting board, the German-style chef’s knife is the way to go. Besides, they are more suitable for dealing with things like chicken bones.
- If you prefer picking the knife up when you cut, the Gyuto is the way to go. Also, its sharpness and edge allow it to be more suitable for delicate cuts better than the chef’s knife.
Zhen Gyuto Vs. Zhen Santoku
Both the Zhen Gyuto and the Zhen Santoku are Japanese all-purpose knives designed for delicate cutting. The main difference between the two types is the length. The extra length of the Zhen Gyuto makes it more versatile and suitable for a wider array of uses, which means that it’s the ideal choice for restaurants and professional workplaces. The Zhen Santoku, on the other hand, is more comfortable to use, and can fit nicely in any home kitchen. Truth be told, you can’t go wrong with either.
Why You Need the Best Zhen Knives in Your Kitchen
In a world where Japanese knives are ubiquitous, why should you choose the best Zhen knives over any other brand? And why do you need them in your kitchen?
First, the best Zhen knives are durable with excellent edge retention, which means that you won’t have to spend hours honing them every few days, all thanks to their VG10 stainless steel construction.
VG10 is Japanese stainless steel that scores a whopping 60-62 on the Rockwell scale of hardness. Not only does that make knives made from this material extremely sharp right of the box, but it also means that you needn’t worry about accidental chipping and breaking, as those are unlikely to happen.
As for the maintenance, you just need a few minutes of polish using a high-grit stone every now and then, and your knives will be good to go for long.
Second, the best Zhen knives address a major pain point in the cutlery world, which is the comfort issue. Most blades focus on the sharpness and edge retention and come with compromises when it comes to the handle, but not Zhen.
Zhen knives feature pakkawood handles that can give you a firm and comfortable grip, which means that you won’t feel any discomfort when you’re prepping significant quantities of sushi for your guests.
Finally, and most importantly, despite all the premium features they offer, the best Zhen knives are affordable. You don’t need to shell out hundreds and hundreds just to get a single blade from Shun or Wusthof Knives. The very affordability of Zhen knives makes them an ideal choice for those just starting out, budget seekers, and culinary students.
While you’re here, check out some of our other kitchen accessories and knives! As always, we recommend you keep your knives sharp with an electric knife sharpener, as well as safely kept in either a knife block or on a magnetic knife strip held safely in your kitchen pantry or kitchen island.