A quality set of knives is one of the most essential tools for any cook. When aspiring chefs start culinary school, one of the first things they need to do is purchase a set of knives. Given the amount of time one uses a knife, including everything from ‘mise en place’ to the of slicing of cooked meat, the choosing of the knife both individually and in a set is important. The knife is like an extension of the cooks arm and hand – there needs to be complete comfort and confidence in its ability. That is why knives must be sharp, made of good quality steel, and have a comfortable handle.
Shun knives are regarded as some of the highest quality blades on the market, being used by both professional chefs and home cooks. Shun knives are a Japanese style blade and they have a wide range of knives for virtually every kitchen task. Recently, Shun released the Sora line of knives, which provides high quality blades at a very good price. Shun sent me some of their knives to try out and share my thoughts.
The Sora line of knives use a composite blade technology to bring together a VG10 san mai cutting edge with a Japanese 420J stainless steel upper. The sections of the blade are braze welded together to permanently join them. These sections are fit together like a jigsaw puzzle and you can see the different blade sections in the picture above. The wavy lines show the joint and the different sections of the blade. It is quite an attractive look on the knife and it provides the best quality metals right where they need to be. The handles are made of a textured polymer material that look both contemporary and provide a nice grip in the hand.
The first knife I tried out was the Shun Sora Ultimate Utility Knife. Utility knives are meant to be versatile and effective in many general tasks. I have always found that utility knives are more of a ‘filler’ blade for a set and I never really used them much, instead gravitating to chef or paring knives. All that changed when I used the Sora Ultimate Utility knife!
This is by far the most unique knife I have ever owned and the shape of the blade totally intrigued me. Most blades have a straight edge, but this one has a scalloped edge. The 6 inch blade is incredibly sharp and the first task I gave the knife was to cut some tomatoes. The scalloped edge and sharp blade made slicing the tomato so easy. I was able to make very thin slices and the length of the blade was long enough for consistent results.
Since the blade edge is scalloped and it resembles a bread knife, I tried using it to cut a bagel and a kaiser. The Ultimate Utility knife cut through them as well as any bread knife. This was while I was making a bagel sandwich so I just continued using the knife, chopping lettuce, slicing the onion and cheese. It worked really well on everything, except the cheese (but cutting soft cheese can be difficult for any knife). I finished off the sandwich by using the knife to actually spread on some margarine and mayo. Then I cut the bagel in half.
The Shun Sora Ultimate Utility Knife is impressive and I find myself going back to it over and over again.
The next Sora knife I used was the Santoku blade. Santoku knives are, in many ways, the Japanese counterpart to the Western style chef knife. Used for many general purpose tasks, Sanoku knives are meant to be the workhorse blade for the kitchen. I have usually chosen chef knives over santoku blades in the past because I have never really liked the flat edge on a santoku. I like that the rounded edge of the chef knife is good for rocking motion cutting. The Shun Sora Santoku Knife does have a slightly rounded edge so that rocking cuts are possible. It has a 7 inch blade which is a little shorter than a 8 inch chef knife.
The Santoku knife is good for chopping vegetables and I did quick work on a carrot and was able to julienne it with consistent matchstick segments. It was very comfortable to use and chopping an onion and pepper were equally impressive. The knife has alternating hollow segments across the blade, providing air pockets. This prevents food from clinging and I found this particularly true when cutting up a raw roast. The santoku blade cut through a beef roast very easily. I also used it to break down a chicken fryer and the blade worked really well cutting through all the joints.
The final Shun knife I tried in the Sora line was the Shun Sora Paring Knife. Paring knives are perfect for intricate jobs requiring greater control than what a large blade can provide. This knife had a 3 1/2 inch blade length and was about as long as the handle itself.
I love using a paring knife and the Sora blade was excellent peeling the skin off an apple and an orange. I always try to peel an apple with one long strip of the peel and this knife provided really good control. I also used it to hull some fresh strawberries and remove some eyes off of a few potatoes. In all the jobs, the paring knife worked very well.
The last knife I used was the Shun Classic Boning and Fillet Knife. It is not part of the Sora line but in the Classic series of blades, which has a wider selection of specialty knives. After using this knife, all I can say is – WOW! If you ever need to break down a fish, poultry or other meat, then this is the perfect knife. The flexibility and curved shape of the blade allow it to get into places that a chef or santoku blade could not. It can separate the meat from both skin and bone effectively maximizing the amount of meat.
I filleted a whole rainbow trout and this knife was incredible. I was able to make perfect fillets of fish that were very smooth. It was far nicer than many of the ‘hatchet jobs’ my previous attempts have been with larger knives. The fillet knife was able to cut cleanly across the backbone of the fish and there was very little meat lost.
I also do a lot of smoking pork (ribs, tenderloins, shoulder/butt roasts) and this boning and fillet knife was really effective at removing the silver skin off the tenderloin and trimming up all the meat.
Buy these knives or many of the other blades made by Shun at Amazon – Shun Store
Disclaimer: Shun provided me with these knives. They did not pay me for this product review and the views expressed above are my honest reactions after trying them.