Japanese knives are good for doing delicate work.
They are made to be sharp,
And have a lighter feeling when you cut ingredients compared to Western knives.
Japanese knives make the cross section of the food beautiful and fresh.
Their edges are usually made of hard metals so the sharpness stays longer.
Western knives are usually made of softer metals compared to Japanese ones.
So it is good for rough work, like cutting hard ingredients because softer metals have less chips.
1. Let’s compare a chef’s knife to a gyuto knife
Gyuto knives are the Japanese interpretation of Western chef’s knives.
And it is the first choice for most people who want to have a Japanese knife because you can use a gyuto knife as a chef’s knife.
Literal translation of “gyuto” is a beef sword.
When Western food was introduced to Japan, a chef’s knife was introduced too.
However, it was difficult to use for Japanese chefs.
It wasn’t sharp enough.
So blacksmiths there tried to improve it using their skills and technology for the Japanese market.
1. A typical Western chef’s knife looks like this…
2. A Gyuto knife looks like this…
Can you tell what the differences are?
3. The angle is different
A chef’s knife and a gyuto knife both have double edged bevels.
However, the angles of these bevels are sometimes different.
The angle of the Chef’s knife is even like this picture.
Japanese gyuto knife has uneven angles like 7:3 (not all gyuto knives look like this)
Why do they choose an uneven angle?
Because this angle can have both sharpness and strength.
This style is called gyuto-togi (“togi” means sharpening in Japanese).
Or some professional chefs sharpen their gyuto knives as a single edged bevel.
4. The biggest difference is the heel
Do you know what a heel is?
A heel is the part of a knife.
It is located on the opposite side of the tip of a knife.
You use the heel to chop tough ingredients like fish bones.
1. The heel of a Japanese knife looks like this…
2. The heel of a Western knife looks like this…
It seems the heel of a Japanese knife is designed as a part of the blade,
While the heel of a Western knife is designed as a part of the handle and bolster.
5. A Japanese knife has gained reputation because…
They are very sharp.
And have a wide range of variations.
Different shapes, sizes, materials, etc..
Depending on the purpose and ingredients, you can pick these knives.
So you can bring the best out of the ingredients.
And your dish will taste better.
6. Are you thinking…
“Yeah, I found out there are different kinds of Japanese knives, but I don’t know which one I should choose.”
I am the Master Yoda of the Japanese knife world.
Welcome to Dagobah!
Do you know?
There are two categories in Japanese knives.
7. One is called Yobocho.
Yobocho is a kitchen knife that has double edged bevels.
It was made from a chef’s knife from the West when Western food was first introduced to Japan.
In the beginning, it was made for Western restaurants in Japan.
Because a knife for meat didn’t exist there.
Almost all Japanese people didn’t have a custom of eating meat at the time.
Here are the types of yoboho you want to know…
1. Gyuto Knife
A Gyuto knife is the Japanese interpretation of a chef’s knife.
It has a pointier tip compared to a santoku knife.
When you use this knife, you usually move it back or forward to cut.
Usually its blade length is over 180mm(7in).
Long gyuto knives are especially good at cutting meat.
2. Santoku Knife
A Santoku knife is a mixture of a gyuto knife and a nakiri knife.
You can use a santoku knife for meat, fish, and vegetables very comfortably.
The tip side blade has the characteristic of gyuto, and the heel side of the blade has the characteristic of nakiri.
A nakiri knife is a knife that was widely used for cutting leaves.
When you use this knife, you push straight down.
This is the same usage as a nakiri knife.
Santoku knives are better at cutting vegetables than gyuto.
Because the edge of the santoku can cover a longer length to cut.
3. Sujihiki Knife
This is a Japanese slicer knife.
Originally it was designed for trimming a large meat block.
The shape of the sujihiki knife looks like a narrow gyuto knife.
Besides trimming meat, it comes in handy when you slice roast beef, hams, and sashimi.
4. Petty Knife
This is a Japanese pearling knife.
The word petty comes from the French word “petite”.
A petty knife has almost the same shape as a gyuto knife and the difference between them is the size of the blades.
The size of a petty knife’s blade is 80 to 150mm(3 to 6 in).
While a gyuto knife’s blade is over 180mm(7 in).
8. The other category is wabocho.
Wabocho knives are the traditional Japanese knives.
Almost all the knives have a single edged bevel.
1. Yanagiba Knife
This is a knife for slicing sushi and sashimi.
It has a long and narrow blade, and when you use it, you slice the fish meat with one move.
Because of that, you can make a beautiful cross section.
It is fresh because you can avoid crushing small cells of the fish meat.
2. Deba Knife
A deba knife is a knife for cleaning fish. The edge close to the heel of a deba knife is thick, so you can cut the fish head off.
And the edge close to the tip is thin and sharp, so you can easily fillet fish meat.
3. Nakiri Knife
This is a Japanese traditional knife but it has double edged bevels while other Japanese traditional knives have a single edged bevel.
Nakiri means cutting vegetables in Japanese.
It is great for cutting vegetables, peeling skins of root vegetables, trimming the edge of vegetables, etc.
4. Men-kiri Knife
You use a menkiri knife to make noodles. It is also called udon kiri knife or soba kiri knife.
You can turn a flattened and folded dough into noodle shapes.
Men in Japanese is “noodles”
And kiri is “to cut”.
5. Sushi-kiri Knife
This knife is for cutting sushi rolls. It is designed not to break rice, nori, and seafood in the roll while you are using it.
The shape is specialized for cutting the roll.
6. Funayuki Knife
Funayuki knife was originally for fishermen in Japan. Funayuki literally means “going on the boat”.
The blade is thin and light, so it is really useful on the boat.
Fishermen use this knife to cut bait for bigger fish.
Or to cook some simple snacks out of a catch.
It is considered as an all-purpose knife like a santoku knife.
You can use it for fish, meat, and veggies.