A beveled knife is a type of knife that is sharpened at an angle on only one side of the blade.
If you’ve shopped for kitchen knives, you’ve probably seen terms like single-bevel and double-bevel. You may be wondering what those terms mean. What is a bevel, and why does it even matter?
Believe it or not, the bevel is an important feature of any knife. It can have a large influence on the sharpness, purpose, and longevity of a blade.
In this article, I’ll explain the difference between single and double-bevel knives, the pros and cons of each type, and answer some frequently asked questions.
Ready to cut to the chase? Keep reading to learn more.
What Is a Beveled Knife?
The knife bevel refers to the surface that has been ground to form the knife’s edge. Every knife has a slight angle or incline that runs down to the edge. That angle leading to the edge is called the bevel.
If the bevel is present on both sides of the blade, then it’s a double-bevel knife. If the bevel is only present on one side, then it’s a single-bevel knife.
Most Western knives, likely including the ones in your home, are double-bevel knives. Single-bevel knives have a larger presence in professional kitchens and among Japanese sushi chefs.
What Is a Single-Bevel Knife Called?
A single-bevel knife can come in many forms. In Japanese cooking, you’ll find specific types of single-bevel blades for different purposes. Below are some of the most common Japanese knives. Many of these can be found as both single-bevel and double-beveled knives.
The Gyuto is a multipurpose knife, resembling a Western chef’s knife in shape. It has a long curved blade, typically between 8 to 9 inches in length (200-230 mm). This Japanese knife is designed for a variety of tasks such as slicing, dicing, and mincing.
The Gyuto is the most versatile style of a Japanese knife. Double-beveled Gyuto knives are more common than single-bevel, but you can find both.
The Sujihiki knife is long and narrow with a sharp tip. People unfamiliar with Japanese knives might picture the Sujihiki as the “quintessential” Japanese knife.
This graceful blade is designed for cutting dense meats and trimming away fat from meat. It’s also used for cutting fish and other seafood. Many Japanese chefs can slice sashimi quickly and easily with a Sujihiki.
Sujihiki knives are most often double-bevel knives. If you’re interested in finding a single-bevel knife for sushi, I recommend the Yanagiba knife.
The Kiritsuke is a hybrid, a crossover between a Gyuto and a Sujihiki knife. It combines the best of both knives into a single blade. Chefs use it primarily for slicing thin fish, meat, fruits, and veggies.
This is not a starter knife. If you’re new to Japanese knives, I recommend starting with a Santoku before trying out a Kiritsuke. But if you’re ready for a more advanced knife, you might consider the…
Nakiri knives are Japanese vegetable knives. They feature a symmetrical, straight-edge blade with a square tip at the front. It’s thinner and lighter than the Chinese cleaver, another type of vegetable knife.
Nakiri knives are designed for an up-and-down chopping motion, as opposed to the rocking motion of a Chef knife. They’re ideal for slicing fruits and even large vegetables, but they are not suited for cutting dense meats or bone-in fish.
In search of a good Nakiri knife? Visit my review of the best Nakiri knives.
The word Yanagiba literally means “willow-leaf blade.” This knife is slender, thin, and extremely sharp. It’s used to slice raw fish. It’s also called a sushi or sashimi knife.
The Yanagiba closely resembles the Sujihiki, but the Yanagiba is almost always a single-bevel knife. This knife is responsible for the clean, straight edge you see on sashimi.
What’s more, the blade length allows a sushi chef to slice the fish with just one stroke.
If you’re in the market for a Yanagiba knife, check out my complete review of the best Yanagiba and sushi knives.
The Deba knife has a thick, wide blade and resembles a squat Chef knife. This Japanese knife is used for filleting fish or deboning and dressing poultry or other meat with small bones.
A Deba knife is heftier, which helps when handling bone-in meat and seafood. It’s generally a single-bevel knife.
Perhaps the most familiar to the average Western home cook, the Santoku is a versatile Japanese knife. You can find both single-bevel and double-beveled versions of the Santoku.
When compared to the similar Gyuto, the Santoku is shorter and features a wider blade with a straight edge. Santoku knives can handle practically any kitchen task, but they’re best for cutting, slicing, and chopping food.
Many knife brands manufacture Santoku knives, but the exact style might vary.
The Kurimuki might appear to be a cute little knife, but don’t let this blade fool you. It’s super sharp and capable of quite a lot. This Japanese knife is used to peel, carve, and cut fruits and vegetables. It’s similar in purpose to the paring knife, although the style is quite different.
Pros and Cons of Single-Bevel Knives
Refer to the chart below for an easy breakdown of the differences between double-bevel and single-bevel knives.
|Thinly slice vegetables and fish
|Slice, dice, and chop a wide range of food
|12-15° on one side
|14-20° on each side, 28-40° total
|Susceptible to chipping
|Ease of Sharpening
|Skill Required to Master
|Specific left- or right-hand
Most knives with a double bevel are designed to cut a variety of foods. Vegetables, meat, fruits, bread, you name it. Certain knives are better suited for certain types of foods, but there’s more room for error.
Single-bevel knives have extremely sharp edges, so they’re best for thin, delicate cuts. Slicing seafood and meat is a common use for single-bevel knives. You can also create paper-thin slices of various produce.
These knives are more specific in the types of food they can cut, as well. For instance, you shouldn’t use a Nakiri knife for meat, and you shouldn’t use Deba knife for veggies. If you’re unsure which knives should be used for which food, see the specific types of Japanese knives above.
When it comes to knives, many consider the sharpness to be the most important feature.
Perhaps the most noticeable difference between a single-bevel knife and a double-bevel knife is its sharpness. Generally, the sharpness of a knife is measured by the degree of the angles used to grind the edge. The smaller the angle, the sharper the knife.
A single bevel knife is only sharpened on only one side, typically with an angle between 12-17°. Double-bevel knives, on the other hand, will have a sharpness of 28-40° total, with 14-20° on each side.
Single-bevel knives are thinner, which helps them develop a razor-sharp edge. However, that same feature is the primary reason single-bevel knives are more delicate and less durable.
A single-bevel knife won’t hold up as long as a double-bevel knife. It’s more prone to chipping and dulling, and it will require more frequent sharpening and a higher level of maintenance.
Double-bevel knives are more durable and less likely to chip. However, you’re trading a sharper edge for that durability. It all boils down to personal preference.
Ease of Sharpening
You might think a single-bevel knife would be easier to sharpen since you have to sharpen only one side. Think again.
Double-bevel knives are actually easier to sharpen than single-bevel knives. You only need one whetstone to sharpen a double-bevel knife. Simply sweep one side of the blade back and forth against the whetstone. Then repeat the process on the other side.
With single-bevel knives, the sharpening process is more complicated. For exact instructions on how to sharpen a single-bevel knife, see the section below.
It’s easier to master the proper cutting technique with a double-bevel knife. It’s equally sharp on both sides and cuts straight.
Single-bevel knives are trickier to handle. These blades tend to drag at an angle to one side instead of cutting straight. You’ll have to practice proper cutting techniques to use single-bevel blades effectively.
Another major difference between a single and double-bevel knife is the handedness. If you’re left-handed, this is possibly the most important feature. After all, even the best knife is worthless if you can’t use it.
Double-bevel knives create uniform slices on both sides of the blade, so it doesn’t make a difference which hand you use. Both righties and lefties can use a double-bevel blade.
On the other hand, single-bevel knives can only be right-handed or left-handed. You can find left-handed varieties, but it’s much more difficult.
High-quality knives of any type can be quite expensive. But in general, single-bevel knives are more expensive than double-bevel knives.
It also depends on the brand. For instance, Shun knives are made in Japan and feature top-notch quality. You’ll pay significantly more for a Shun knife of any type than what you find at your local big box store.
Why Are Japanese Knives Sharpened on One Side?
The Japanese tradition of using single-bevel knives is interwoven with culture and cuisine. Precision cutting is essential in Japanese cooking, especially when preparing sushi or sashimi.
A single-bevel knife blade can be sharpened to a much smaller angle. The smaller the angle, the sharper the knife.
The ultra-sharp edge is perfect for those precision cuts required to prepare fish, daikon radish, and other food in Japanese dishes.
The Japanese single-bevel knife includes four main parts: the shinogi, the kireha, the urasuki, and the uraoshi.
The shinogi is the flat surface of the knife that runs along the blade. The shinogi line is at the top of the bevel, where the angle begins to form.
The primary bevel, or the slanted area of the blade, is the kireha. This is the most visible bevel on the blade.
While the back of a single-bevel knife appears to be flat, a close inspection will show a slight curvature near the edge.
The urasuki is the concave surface formed on the flat side. The purpose is to prevent food from sticking to the blade.
Finally, the thin rim surrounding the urasuki is called the uraoshi. The uraoshi enhances the strength of the knife blade.
With the modernization of the last two centuries, there has been an increase in Western influence on Japanese knife-making. Nowadays, you’ll find plenty of double-bevel Japanese knives.
But Japan has continued to create high-quality single-bevel knives that are prized in so many professional kitchens. If you want the ultimate precision in delicate kitchen tasks, single-bevel knives are still the way to go.
Uses of Single-Bevel Knives
Single-bevel knives are perfect for getting paper-thin slices. The angle is consistent so you can cut through food without crushing or tearing it. Whether it’s a daikon radish, a carrot, or a cucumber, single-bevel knives can slice it.
The thin, slightly concave blade of a single-bevel knife gives you a consistent cut when dicing fruits and vegetables. Dice large vegetables cleanly and accurately.
A single-bevel edge is perfect for chopping herbs or cutting meat into thin strips. Cilantro, parsley, or mint are no match for a single-bevel knife.
A single-bevel knife’s blade angle can create precise, clean slices, which is perfect for cutting sashimi-style fish. The urasuki, the concave part on the “flat” side of the blade, helps prevent the fish from sticking to the knife.
A single-bevel knife is great for cutting fish, dicing vegetables, and slicing sushi rolls. Preparing sushi involves multiple cutting tasks, all of which require delicate cuts and precision.
A single-bevel knife is suited for these cuts. Plus, the sushi rolls won’t stick to the flat side of the blade, thanks to the concave shape of the urasuki.
How to Sharpen a Single-Bevel Knife
Sharpening a double-bevel knife is fairly straightforward, but the sharpening process for a single-bevel blade can be more complicated.
First, you’ll need two whetstones, one coarse and one with a finer grit. Start with the coarse whetstone.
You’ll begin by sharpening the beveled side of the blade. Hold the blade in your dominant hand, beveled side down. Use two fingers from your other hand to apply pressure away from you. Sweep the blade along the whetstone.
Once you’ve sharpened the beveled side, you can move to the flat side of the blade. Using the fine whetstone, lay the blade flat and make smooth sweeps away from you. This will remove the burrs created by sharpening the beveled edge.
One pro tip is to color in the beveled part of the blade with a Sharpie to see where you’ve sharpened the steel.
Most single-bevel knives are sharpened to an angle between 12-15 degrees. This angle produces a very sharp edge, perfect for precision slicing delicate fish, seafood, meat, and vegetables.
For a comprehensive tutorial on how to sharpen your single-bevel knife, watch the video below:
Are Double Bevel Knives Better Than Single Bevel Knives?
Double-bevel knives are not better or worse than single-bevel, but each type has advantages and disadvantages.
A double-bevel knife is generally more versatile and easier to use than a single-bevel knife. However, it’s not as sharp and won’t give you the same clean cuts that a single-bevel knife can give.
Beveled Knives: Conclusion
The difference between a single-bevel knife and double-bevel knife is largely due to their construction and intended purpose.
Single-bevel knives are more difficult to master, but they offer a consistent cut and unmatched precision in slicing. Double-bevel knives are more versatile better for the general public, but you won’t get the same edge as a single-bevel knife.