The knife is the mainstay of any culinary arsenal. You need a dependable blade to chop and slice ingredients if you’re cooking anything at home. There are two types of knives available: Japanese knives, which are created in Japan, and Western knives, which are primarily made in France and Germany.
While most kitchens have some type of Western knife, Japanese knives are usually reserved for professional chefs or those who are really into cooking. So, what’s all the fuzz about them? Here are some pretty convincing arguments your kitchen set needs some quality Japanese kitchen knives.
What Exactly Are Japanese Knives?
Japan has a more than 600-year history of producing knives and swords, which is more than enough time to perfect the art. Since the samurai, who fought with razor-sharp swords, hundreds of years ago, Japanese craftsmen have been honing blades. And it shows.
Japanese knives are praised for their finely honed edges, quick accuracy, and lightweight design. They typically have steel that is stronger, thinner, and more able to maintain an edge for a longer period of time. They are also lighter and feel more balanced in the hand.
Are Japanese Knives Better Than German Knives?
Compared to German blades, Japanese knives tend to be lighter and sharper. Japanese knives typically require more care because they’re thinner and a little more prone to tip breaking or blade chipping. They are excellent for fine, delicate jobs like slicing fish or cutting vegetables due to their thin, light build.
Sushi, the most popular Japanese meal, is a good illustration of this. Since it’s not treated with heat, the freshness of the ingredients and how it’s prepared is what separates great sushi from mediocre attempts.
How to Choose the Right Japanese Knife for You?
It’s important to note that Japanese knives are made with a particular purpose in mind. They generally fall into two basic categories: double-edged (hybrid) and single-edged (traditional).
Japanese hybrid knives are honed on both sides and have two edges. They can be cut at either a 70/30 or a 50/50 angle.
Gyutou (Chef’s) Knife
The word “gyutou,” which translates as “chef’s knife,” literally means “cow sword,” but this medium to large (7 to 10 centimetres) knife has an all-purpose blade that works well for a range of vegetables and meat. This would be an excellent place to start if you just buy one premium knife.
Petty (Small utility) Knife
Petty knives are ideal for fine, delicate work like slicing small vegetables and fruit. They are typically 4-6 centimetres long. Using this knife for precise chores like cutting delicate herbs is also a fantastic idea.
Santoku (All-Purpose) Knife
This design is quite common in Asian kitchens and typically measures 6-7 centimetres in length. Its name, which means “three virtues,” provides a clue to its multi-functionality.
Your knuckles will remain somewhat higher off the cutting board thanks to the blade’s minor height advantage over the typical chef’s knife. It works well for both cutting and chopping when used in a rocking motion.
Nakiri (Vegetable) Knife
For veggies, its blade’s square form is similar to a butcher’s knife. It effortlessly cuts through tougher veggies like pumpkin, squash, potato, and melon while producing uniform batons of all types of vegetables.
For carving roast meats and slicing thin parts of other proteins, including fish, this long, thin blade is the ideal tool. Use it to make crudo, sashimi, and sushi.
Honesuki (Boning) Knife
This knife’s thicker spine and pointed tip make it ideal for tiny butchering operations like quickly severing fragile joints and dissecting whole chickens
Traditional Japanese kitchen knives are meant to excel at a single activity and are sharpened on a single edge. These are the three most common forms, though different parts of Japan do have some differences in shape, finishing, and tip shape.
Sushi experts most commonly use this knife. It’s basically a long fillet knife that allows for precise cutting while handling delicate fish.
This blade, which is bigger and heavier than a nakiri, is the key to performing the intricate and exact cuts used in Japanese cuisine, such as katsuramuki, which results in long, wafer-thin slices of vegetables.
The deba’s broad spine and razor-sharp edge are crucial for dissecting fish and slicing through bone.
After determining the kind of knife you require, one of the key choices is between carbon and stainless steel. There are some stainless steels that have similar edge retention capabilities to carbon steel, so it’s not always as simple as that to say that carbon steel offers a harder edge and stays sharper for longer. It also depends on the heat treatment the blacksmith applies.
Since carbon steel is a reactive metal, it will react with the moisture and acids in your components as soon as you start using it, leading to the development of a patina. If you’re only used to using stainless steel knives, the sight of a carbon steel knife changing colour, developing a patina, or possibly rusting can come as quite a shock if you’re not expecting it. It’s also possible for carbon steel to rust if not dried properly after use, but it’s quite normal and nothing to worry about.
On the other hand, stainless steel performs just as you would anticipate. It maintains its beauty, is simple to maintain, and with many of the steels used in Japanese knives, heat treatment and blade geometry, they frequently perform on par with carbon steels.