Different types of Japanese kitchen knives have been developed over the years to cater to the needs of various cooks. People who have never used them before, and even those who are familiar with them usually have questions about the different types and what they are used for.
Although these knives are mainly used in Japanese cuisine, they’re popular in western-style cooking due to their high-quality and versatility. In this article, we’ll tackle different types of Japanese kitchen knives and explain their uses.
- 1 Why are Japanese Kitchen Knives Popular?
- 2 How are Japanese Kitchen Knives Forged?
- 3 Different Types of Japanese Kitchen Knives
- 4 Single Bevel Japanese Knives
- 5 Double Bevel Japanese Knives
- 6 How to Maintain Japanese Kitchen Knives
Why are Japanese Kitchen Knives Popular?
Japanese style knives are known for their pinpoint precision. They’re used by the world’s top chefs to do different tasks in the kitchen. Here are some reasons why they’re so popular.
- The craftsmanship of Japanese kitchen knives goes back to the samurai era. When the swords were banned in the 19th century, blacksmiths put all of their experience into making high-quality razor-sharp knives.
- The sharper bevels on these knives mean that that the edge will stay sharp for a very long time.
- Japanese steel is extremely durable, guaranteeing that the knife will be robust.
How are Japanese Kitchen Knives Forged?
In Japanese-style knives, there are two methods of forging; Kasumi and Honyaki.
In this forging method, the knife blade is made by combining high-carbon steel with iron. The steel makes the blade resilient and robust, while the iron adds more flexibility.
Kitchen knives that have been forged according to the Kasumi style are less expensive and easier to use. They’re extremely popular, especially among cooking enthusiasts.
Most professional chefs use knives that have been hand-forged according to the Honyaki method. These knives are made of high-carbon steel. The hand-forging process takes time and a lot of experience, just like the technique used to forge swords.
The blade is extremely resistant and durable, so can withstand continuous use without going dull. These knives are the sharpest and most precise, but they’re more challenging to maintain.
Different Types of Japanese Kitchen Knives
These multi-tasking knives are widely used in all western-style cuisines, but some unique models are best used for specific tasks. Understanding the potential of each knife will help you add the right one to your cooking arsenal.
Japanese style knives are categorized based on their bevel style. This refers to the angle that runs down to the edge of the knife. If it’s on one side, then this is a single bevel knife. If the angle is on both sides of the knife, then it’s a double bevel knife.
Single Bevel Japanese Knives
These are the original Japanese-style knives that are mainly used in Japanese cuisine.
The Yanagi or Yanagiba is known as the willow-shaped knife because it has a blade that resembles the willow leaf and a single bevel. It’s one of the most traditional Japanese knives as it’s mainly used for the preparation of sashimi and other types of sushi.
The blade is designed to cut soft proteins, and the hollow-ground backside facilitates the release of the fish as it’s sliced. This is the number one fish slicer and usually measures between 240 and 360 mm.
Although it’s made for sushi, the Yanagi can be used for any task that requires precision. It comes with a Japanese-style handle, a chisel-ground blade, and a small angle.
This large knife is designed for heavy-duty tasks like cutting and filleting fish and chicken. The single bevel knife comes with a Japanese-style handle and measures between 165 and 210 mm and can be up to 9 mm thick.
The original and heaviest Deba knife is the Hon-Deba. For more delicate tasks, you can pick the Ko-Deba, which is used to cut smaller fish or the Kanisaki-Deba, which chefs and cooking enthusiasts use to cut lobsters and crabs.
Usaba means the thin blade, which is the main feature of this vegetable-cutting knife. Just like other single bevel knives, this one is a bit thicker at the spine, so it delivers excellent cuts as long as you’re using the beveled section of the knife.
The Usaba is an excellent knife for very thin sheet-like vegetable cuts like sengiri and brunoise cuts. However, less experienced users might find it more challenging to use.
This knife features a single bevel thin blade that can be used to make decorative vegetable cuts. The blade is shorter and thinner than the blade of a Usaba, so it’s more suitable for delicate work. The blade is rather straight to facilitate cutting in a single smooth motion.
This knife combines the functions of an Usuba and Yanagiba with a thin blade and a pointed tip. It’s more versatile than each one of them, so it can be used to do different cooking tasks. However, because of its lack of specialization, professional chefs mainly use it as it’s more challenging to handle.
This knife is primarily used to cut sushi rolls to perfection. It’s a single bevel knife with a straight edge to cut the rolls without crushing the rice inside and ruining the way the roll looks. It’s more suitable for cutting tasks that require long strokes.
Double Bevel Japanese Knives
These knives have been slightly modified to cater to the needs of western-style cooking.
This is the Japanese version of the western-style chef’s knife. However, Japanese knives have a thinner blade and are made of harder steel. The blade is double bevel and usually measures between 1.5 to 5 mm.
The word Gyuto literally means the cow sword, so this knife is best used to cut beef and other types of meat. Most people would start by buying this knife because it’s reliable and versatile. However, you should be careful while using it due to its rather flatter profile, so you can minimize the risk of chipping.
Some Gyuto knives have European style-handles, so they’re extremely popular in the US and Europe. This knife is usually between 210 and 270 mm long.
If you’re getting one Japanese-style kitchen, then you should start with this one. According to its name, this knife is called the knife of three virtues or three purposes because it can be used to cut fish, meat, and vegetables.
This is a multi-purpose knife that can be used to cook and prepare different kinds of food in the kitchen. It’s double bevel and is usually 165 and 180 mm long. Just like Gyuto knives, Santoku knives come with European or Japanese-style handles.
This is another versatile multi-purpose knife that can be used for different cooking tasks. The blade is flat on the backside so it can make short or deep cuts whether you’re working with meat, vegetables or fish. Moreover, the precise thin tip is suitable for the most delicate cuts.
The difference between Bunka and Santoku knives is that the Bunka excels at fine cuts like julienne and precision cutting like mukimono or vegetable carving. It’s quite popular among cooking enthusiasts because it can be used to do different tasks with excellent results.
This is a special vegetable cutting knife that is way flatter than other Japanese-style knives like the Gyuto. It measures between 165 and 180 mm long, and its flatness allows more of the knife’s body to be in contact with the cutting board.
How to Maintain Japanese Kitchen Knives
Japanese knives are designed to deliver exceptional cutting pleasure. Here are some tips to help you keep yours in perfect condition.
- Always use a plastic or wooden cutting board to protect the edge of the knife. Marble and glass can cause a lot of damage to the blade.
- Avoid lateral movements as Japanese knives are mainly designed to make up and down movements.
- Due to their carbon steel core, these knives are prone to rust if you’re not careful. Wash and dry the knife after every use.
- It’s best to wash the knife by hand as the dishwasher detergent can affect the sharpness of the blade.