Shun knives are not one of those blades that you will only find when in the market for Japanese knives.
Granted, that is what they are, but they are so functional that they are great knives – Japanese or not.
In this Shun knives review, I take a spotlight to all the units in the line-up – and help you to make a better decision on which to buy if you’ll be buying at all.
What are Shun Knives?
The Shun knives have been here for a long time now, gathering stellar reviews of chefs, home cooks, students, and other users alike. These knives are crafted in Japan by the Kai Corporation, which is the parent company of the brand that makes these knives.
Shun maintains that all of the knives in its line-up are handcrafted by professionals to meet the quality that they churn out to the market.
Seeing as going by hand alone won’t help them fulfill the need of millions of users who trust their products all around the world, though, the company has also employed high efficacy, state-of-the-art modern equipment to manufacture these knives.
Having been in the market for more than 100 years now, the parent company of Shun sure knows what they are doing. Otherwise, I doubt that they would have lasted this long in the first place.
Where are Shun Knives Made?
Some knives are sold with Japanese branding but are not made in the country.
That is not the same with these knives. Shun knives are designed and manufactured in Seki city of Japan which plays home to some of the longest blade-making histories in the country and globally.
Considered to be the heart of samurai sword making and modern knife manufacturing in Japan, there is no better place to get the best Japanese knives from.
Exploring the Shun Series
Shun maintains an impressive line-up of knives that offer the same level of quality but with extras on top.
I will be reviewing each one of these Shun knives under their different series. I will also list out the various knife types that you get under each one of these series.
Let’s cut to the chase then (no pun intended)
Shun Kanso Knife Series
The Kanso knives from Shun feature an AUS10A core steel material which brings a lot of the features that I love on board.
For one, this refined high carbon, vanadium stainless steel material is less prone to rust and corrosion, unlike other high carbon stainless steel knives. Thus, it will:
- Come out of the box as an extremely sharp knife
- Retain its sharp edge for longer
- Be so much easier to sharpen – which you won’t need to do all the time anyway.
- Supply an extremely strong blade and
- Still not be susceptible to rust as much as other knives in the series.
Scoring 60 on the Rockwell hardness scale, the knife blade on the Kanso series will resist wear and tear like a champ.
Looking at the design, the rustic design and heritage finish on the blade are equally worthy of note. Shun went this way to ensure that when the knife starts aging, it blends into the rustic feel. That way, the blade looks better with age.
As if that is not enough, the Kanso knives bring a tagayasan wood handle to the table. Also referred to as ironwood, this wood material was preferred for use on samurai swords because they are strong enough to handle the weight of the slashing and cutting operations on those swords.
Now that you have it on a knife, I’ll leave you to guess how much that helps the knife in tough cutting situations.
Finished off with a minimalistic, zen design element, Shun went to work on this one and came out with something my mother would be proud of.
Knives in the Series: 6” Utility knife, 5” Multi-prep knife, 9” Bread Knife, 7” Asian Utility Knife, 7” Santoku Knife, 6.5” Hollow-Ground Nakiri, 3.5” Paring Knife, 6.5” Boning Knife, 5.5” Hollow Ground Santoku.
Shun Classic Knife Series
The Classic series brought about the popularity of Shun as a knife brand, and they still live up to their name today.
For those who love a Japanese Damascus knife, this is one of the first models that you want to look at.
The fine blades on the Classic knife series are made from VG-Max core steel which has a higher carbon content to improve edge retention and ensure better resistance to corrosion. Scoring between 60-61 on the Rockwell hardness scale, this knife is surely no pushover when it comes to blade strength and toughness.
The handle is made of an ebony wood pack, carrying a stainless steel butt to match. A sanded finish on the handle helps you grip the knife better during use while also preventing water and moisture damage.
Knives in the Series: 8” Chef Knife, 6” Utility knife, 5.5” Santoku knife, 7” hollow-ground santoku, 4” paring knife, 8” bread knife (offset handle), 9” bread knife, 8” Kiritsuke.
Shun Pro Knife Series
Shun brings the Pro series with VG10 core steel to ensure, as always, that great edge retention that comes with all of their premium steel knives.
This fine blade material is protected by 34 layers of stainless Damascus steel cladding on both sides, adding some beauty elements to the entire setup for you.
Scoring 61 on the Rockwell harness test already tells you that the blade is no slouch. What that number does not tell you, though, is that the blade is better treated to keep the rust away better than ordinary carbon steel would manage.
A unique design element on the Pro knife series is the liquid metal graffiti etching on the blade. This is a great substitute for Damascus steel knives, breathing the fresh air of aesthetically pleasing yet functional knives into your kitchen.
To add even more originality to each piece, Shun makes sure each knife type in the series carries a different liquid metal design. Such attention to detail, and you wonder why I keep loving these knives?
Finally, Shun kept the same G-shape handle design that works on the Classic series above. Thus, the handle retains its great grip and smoothness, both of which you will come to appreciate from the first time of using any of the knives in this series.
Knives in the series: 8.25” Deba knife.
Shun Dual Core Knife Series
Why dual-core, though?
Well, you are soon to find out that this is one of the most interesting knives out there.
Cos, you see, where other knives on this list are having just one core steel, Shun brought two here: VG10 and VG2.
If one of these steels were enough to make a strong, tough, and durable blade already, you can only expect that both will make a powerhouse. Laminating the metals into 71 unique microlayers, the blade packs the power and best features of these two core steels.
Both plates of steel top out at 60-61 on the Rockwell hardness scale here.
Looking elsewhere, Shun snuck in a mirror finish on the right and left sides of the knife for an even more beautiful appeal.
Speaking of beauty, you will love the octagonal, tapered handle on the Shun Dual Core. The carvings of the octagon are such that it is the tallest on the left and right, making for better handling and smoother operation for you.
The tapering on the handles ensures that it doesn’t slip out of your hand when handling slippery/ greasy foods.
Featuring a really thin yet sharp edge, this series is best suited to dicing, thin slicing, chopping operations as well as handling meat.
Knives in the series: 7” santoku, 6” utility knife, 6.5’ Nakiri, 10.5” Yanagiba, 4.5” Honesuki.
Shun Premier Knife Series
Given the name, you would think that this is the first knife that came out of the company’s stables.
Even though it is not the pioneer, the Shun Premier closely resembles the Classic series – which might have inspired the name. Carrying the same design elements as the classic knife, it features originality in the Rose Damascus blade finishing which adds that extra ta-da, if you please, to your knife.
Still, on the blade, I love the hammered finish to prevent food items from sticking on the knife while also improving how good the blade looks.
The good run doesn’t end there.
Every Shun Premier knife packs a walnut wood handle with an hourglass design. It could be argued that this one has the most comfortable handle of all, and it happens to be one of the best-looking wood handle finishes also.
Knives in the series: 8” chef knife, 7” santoku knife, 8” Kiritsuke Knife, 5.5″ Nakiri Knife, 4″ paring knife, 9.5″ slicing knife, 6.5” utility knife.
Shun Blue Steel Knife Series
The Blue Steel series, as the name implies, makes use of blue steel core material from Japan. Blue steel is a form of carbon steel that is not as reactive (thus, won’t be as susceptible to rust) and can still hold a sharp edge for longer too.
Every knife in the blue steel series comes with a nicely tapered handle with a semi-glossed finish for great grip and handling. You will also love the octagonal handle here.
Unlike what we have on the Dual-core series, though, the wood pack here is greyer than it is black. That, however, takes nothing away from the beauty of this knife.
Knives in the series: 7” Menkiri knife, 4.5” Honesuki knife.
Should you buy Shun Knives?
Long story short:
Short story long:
If you have been following from above, you will see that I hold nothing back on these knives. They are just so well-made that they catch my fancy every time – and I know they will continue to do so for some time.
But then, what makes them into the great knives that they are? Find out in the various sub-sections below.
I have taken the pain to list out all of the materials that go into the production of each line of Shun knives above.
When it comes to the blade metal, the company only goes with tried, tested, and trusted steel materials like:
- Blue steel
- SG2 steel, and much more.
Moving away from the blade, the knife wood handle is not left without a touch of class either. If you have read through my guide to the best knife wood handle materials, you will know that walnut, ebony, and other picks that Shun employs are the top options in that department.
When it comes to materials quality, there is nothing to fault these knives on.
Shun maintains that these knives are handcrafted, but they do employ modern equipment to ensure that they can be produced at scale too.
These claims are obvious in the fit and finishing of the blades.
One of the concerns that I had when reviewing the Coolina knives is that, for how great they were, they were not fitted and finished right. With the Shun blades, you get a flowing build that starts from the tip of the knife and transitions to the heel without breaking.
If all knives could be made like this, I sincerely believe the world will be a better place. Climate change asides.
I have mentioned this a lot throughout the piece. But, allow me to say it again:
These knives will hold their edges for a very long time.
Shun strategically chose some of the best knife steel in the game so that they can rest assured that these knives will serve users very well. I love that they are already sharp out of the box, and they will keep that sharpness for very long.
If you’re not a professional cook, I don’t see the reason why you should get the entire knife set.
Of course, you can purchase the full thing if you’re interested in that kind of stuff. For someone like me who only makes their meals and sometimes for guests that come over, I don’t need all of that knife in my kitchen.
And, this is where Shun comes through.
Pick up a chef knife, paring knife, and utility knife and you are good to go.
If you’re not getting the full set, you can shop these different knives from the different series. That way, you can have a taste of all the great worlds of knives that Shun is building from Japan.
While those three are the basic choices, you could pick up more individual units as you need them. If you’re conflicted about which to pick between the standard chef and santoku knife, check out this comparison guide to help you make a decision.
Good knife safety starts from the manufacturer. Here, Shun showed real responsibility in embracing the marriage of great blade and handle materials.
They step that up with an ergonomic design that makes sure you can hold and use their knives safely. On top of that, some of the handles are so designed for a proper grip and to prevent slips, even when you are handling slippery food.
Besides that, the rest is up to you. Practice these knife safety tips and you’ll not have any issues with these sharp blades.
What I love the most about the Shun Knives
Edge retention, and I am not alone. Alton Brown also loves that, among other things, about these knives.
For those who don’t know Alton, he is a chef, food show presenter, and TV personality, so I think he should know his knives.
Here’s one of his videos where he spoke about the Shun knives. Seeing the date on that video, I know that Shun has been doing something right for a long time.
Besides that, I also appreciate the quality of design that goes into every one of these knives.
Even though it looks like every Shun knife is here to impress, the company follows a strict minimalist policy which means that nothing of no importance makes it to the blade. That helps to keep things highly functional and simple at the same time.
What I don’t like about the Shun Knives
There’s little to take away from these knives, truth be told.
However, the price point that they come at seems to be some sort of debate for prospective buyers.
It might be true that these blades are slightly more expensive than others of the same standing, but you are getting great value for money too.
This is a company that has been in the cutlery business for over a century, giving you one of the best customer care services in the world and never sacrificing quality. If anything, the peace of mind that you get from using a Shun knife is worth the little extra that you have to slap on top.
Verdict on the Shun Knives
It is not every time you see a brand that scores amazing points across all of their knife series. Shun has managed to do that, which just makes it more challenging for lovers of fine knives like me to settle on one series to go with.
These knives are affordably priced, have a lot of social proof behind them, and are made by a company that doesn’t cut corners. Pairing some of the best materials – from handle to blade – for the build increases the appeal and return on investment that these knives bring to the table.
If you are in the market for some great Japanese kitchen knives, or maybe you’d just love amazing knives that get the job done, this Shun knives review should point you in the right direction.