The Shun Premier Chef’s Knife is an elegant and beautiful knife in a traditional Japanese style. It’s a more delicate cooking tool, so it may not be for everyone, but it’s wicked sharp and aesthetically stunning. I’d recommend this knife for anyone preferring a lighter blade or who don’t do a lot of heavy-duty hacking and chopping.
This is one of Kershaw Shun’s top quality knives. The Shun Premier Chef’s Knife is a classically designed Japanese knife, though it isn’t hand-specific like some traditional Japanese knives. It’s designed to be both a superb knife and aesthetically pleasing. Personally, I believe it accomplishes these two goals admirably.
The steel of this knife is more complex than many knives on the market today. A core of extremely hard, high carbon steel is coated with 16 layers of Damascus steel (a softer, stainless steel). The combination results in an extremely hard, sharp cutting edge protected by the more flexible outer layers. The Damascus steel also provides the signature ripple effect and allows for the hammering of the flat of the blade.
The edge is at a much sharper angle than typical European blades: a double-beveled edge, each bevel ground to 16 degrees (instead of the European 22 degrees). For anyone not used to Japanese knives, this could be a challenge to make the adjustment during honing and sharpening.
Like many Shun chef knives, the handle is PakkaWood, a hardwood impregnated with a strengthening resin. Unlike many PakkaWood handles I’ve come across, though, the Shun Premier chef knife is done in a brown walnut stain instead of the typical black or very dark brown. The handle itself is an ergonomic oval with a weighted butt.
Lightweight – Between a slimmer blade, small bolster, and wooden handle, this knife is positively airy. Kept sharp, it glides through cutting and chopping. Such a lightweight knife is perfect for long periods of prep work.
Wicked Sharp – Between the sharper angle of the edge and the quality high carbon steel, this knife takes on a truly sharp edge. It needs it regular honing and maintenance, but chefs love how sharp they can get this blade.
The Look – Though many manufacturers make the Damascus steel blades, I really like the Shun knives’ look. They make me feel like part of a long knife-making tradition. And like a samurai. The patterned steel and the hammered steel are both stunning features of the knife and make a difference over a purely utilitarian chef’s knife.
Fragility – The Shun Premier 8” chef knife is lightweight for sure, but it pays for this in strength. Between a thinner blade and a narrower bolster, the knife has limits. Without a finger guard extending down from the bolster, the heel is sharp but poorly suited to heavy-duty tasks a German knife might be able to handle. There are reports of the blade breaking, though little is said about what the person was cutting at the time.
Hammered Surface – Though pretty, I’ve never really liked the dimpled or hammered knives. They are supposed to create air pockets to make slicing smoother and cleaner, but debris almost always accumulates in these little depressions.
Washing – Between the hammered surface and the wooden handle, it’s amazing that this knife is dishwasher safe. I wouldn’t risk it. And with the textured surfaces, there can be all kinds of sticky detritus stuck along the knife. And scrubbing it around the razor-sharp blade can be a dangerous operation. And with a non-stainless component, it’s important to wash it immediately and dry it afterwards.
This is a great knife, functional and beautiful, but it needs an owner who is willing to pay for the prestige with a little extra effort keeping it clean and stored properly. Treated with the proper respect, however, the knife will last a lifetime and perform extremely well in a home or professional kitchen.