Shun Cutlery Classic Pro Deba 8-1/4-Inch Knife review:
A Beautiful Knife, But Will You Use It?
- Price:$214.95 - $269.00
All Shun Classic Pro knives look pretty badass, from the graffiti pattern on the high-carbon stainless blades to the ebony stain on the PakkaWood handles. The 8-1/4-inch Deba (VG0003) feels good in your hand, won't need sharpening very often, and performs a wide range of kitchen tasks.
It’s expensive. And unless you have large hands and a lot of forearm strength, it's unwieldy.
For most cooks this will end up being a trophy knife—a nice addition to a collection. It's an expensive knife you'll use for specific tasks, not an all-purpose workhorse.
Even five years ago, serious home cooks were showing off top-of-the line French and German chef's knives in countertop knife blocks like trophies. But in the last couple of years—after French chefs started wielding santokus and nakiris—Japanese knives have become essential for well-equipped home kitchens. Shun knives (pronounced “shoon”—it’s a Japanese term for "the sweet spot," that moment when a seasonal ingredient is in its peak state) are made in Japan by the 105-year-old Kai Corporation. They’ve made a big splash on the American market for moderately high-end knives in recent years, thanks in part to an advertising campaign featuring heavyweight chefs like Chris Cosentino. Kai plays off the association with samurai knives to brand Shun Cutlery as traditional and high-performing, which fits with the predominantly male demographic Shun markets to. The company has a broad product catalogue, and it has developed a couple of stainless steel alloys, which—depending on the line—have a characteristic graffiti pattern on the blade.
The handle (made from PakkaWood, a material that combines plywood and resin) has a traditional Japanese D shape (also called “chestnut”). The deba is a large knife, something that combines the utility of a chef's knife with the brawn of a cleaver. If you look at the base of the handle, you can see how it jogs out in a way that fits well in the crease of your palm. That is, as long as you’re right-handed (Shun makes reverse-grip knives for lefties, though we don’t know how easy it is to order them). The construction is known as "full tang," meaning the metal extends completely through the handle to the steel endcap. This makes the knife last longer, since the wooden handle is unlikely to separate from the blade. The part between the handle and the blade—the bolster—has a deep indentation that’s perfect for placing the tip of your thumb and the side of your forefinger, to help you keep your grip, and make slicing and chopping more stable. Blades in the Classic Pro line are a high-carbon stainless steel called VG10—even with heavy use, they should go six months or more before needing to be sharpened. The Deba has a wide blade with a deep right-side bevel. Weight: 8 1/4 ounces, a full ounce lighter than a French-style chef’s knife of the same size—pleasing in your hand, with nice balance.
We put the Deba through three tests that home cooks frequently encounter: chopping almonds, slicing and dicing carrots, and boning chicken breasts.
Chopping: The Deba’s blade has less of a curve than our French chef’s knife, so the rocking motion is limited in a way that makes it feel more stable, easier to control. We like the height of the blade, but the shape of the butt means you have to chop with your thumb and forefinger off the blade. That means more work to lift the blade off the board, and an arm that gets tired pretty fast. Score: B.
Slicing: The butt has a nice contour for holding a thumb and forefinger, making it easy to grip the blade during slicing. The bevel is nice for slicing, and the slices don’t stick to the blade. But the height of the blade means you have farther to lift before you can bring the blade down on the carrot again, making slicing a bit tiring. Score: B-.
Boning: Though a thinner blade is always better for boning, we do like to use one knife when we’re cooking, if only to save on cleanup. The Deba’s blade tip is straight enough to make boning pretty easy, and the blade is thin enough to be pretty nimble. But this all-purpose knife is a little too wide to be totally efficient for boning. Score: C.
Photos by Chris Rochelle