Important things to know about Japanese knives

Tips and information about Japanese kitchen knives

 

The Japanese knife conquers the Western world

In the last couple of decades, the professional chefs from Europe started to have a special admiration for Japanese cutlery. Sure, the Japanese culture as a whole has increased in popularity in recent years thanks to the media and the phenomenon of globalisation. However, the rise of Japanese knives in the Western world is not just the result of globalisation; the rising popularity of Japanese knives responds to the Western cooks' desire of sharper blades.

Indeed, Japanese knives are mainly characterised for having ultra sharp blades that not only cut better but also remain sharp for longer time before needing to be sharpened again. This is explained in great part by the type of steel used in Japanese blades, which often have a high carbon content that allows them to be harder and more rigid. Let us also add that the renowned Japanese expertise and traditional know-how in the manufacturing of blades for swords, sabres, and katanas has also helped Japanese manufacturers to create remarkably sharp kitchen knives.

Nowadays, Japanese knives in Europe are appreciated not only by professional chefs but also by home cooks. For that reason, the team of MyChefKnives is happy and proud of offering you a great variety of knives from some of the best Japanese brand in the market such as Kai, Tojiro, Miyabi, and many more!

The main types of Japanese knives

When you think of the different types of kitchen knives, you probably think automatically about the small paring knife for the fruits, the bread knife with its serrated blade, the chef knife as the all-purpose kitchen knife... Those are indeed different types of kitchen knives, but those are the types of knives commonly used in Western countries. When it comes to Japanese knives, there are other types knives with different shapes and designs that are little by little starting to invade our kitchens. If you don't know them, here we give you a brief description for each one of them:

 

- The santoku knife: this is the most common and used type of Japanese knife. It is the all-purpose model of the Japanese knives. The Japanese term "santoku" translates as "three virtues", which refers to the three different types of cuts that you can make with this knife: mincing, slicing, and dicing.

Learn to identify a santoku knife thanks to our advice

- The gyuto knife: it is the equivalent of a Western chef knife. Although it could technically considered as versatile as the santoku knife, the gyuto knife is used in Japanese cuisine mostly for cutting meats.

Japanese cooks use the gyuto knife for cutting meats

- The deba knife: this knife is for boning and cutting off the head of fish. It is usually a robust knife with a single beveled blade, meaning that it is sharp only on one side of the blade.

Deba knives are perfect for cutting fish!

- The nakiri knife: its name is translated as "vegetables cutter", and that is exactly what it does. It has a rectangular blade that ressembles that of a cleaver. This type of knife often has a single beveled blade, too.

This is what a nakiri knife usually looks like

- The yanagiba knife: this is the ideal knife for preparing sushi and fish fillets. Its slender and single beveled blade cuts with great precision. The term "yanagiba" means "willow leaf" which makes reference to the shape of the knife's blade.

 

MyChefKnives explains you evrything abou the yanagiba knives

- The chutoh knife: it is designed for slicing meats and fish. Its Western equivalent would be the carving knife.

 

A chutoh knife is ideal for slicing meats

 

- The shotoh knife: this is the ideal Japanese knife for peeling and cutting small fruits and vegetables. It is the Japanese version of the Western paring knife.

 

Shotoh is a Japanese term for "small knife"



The beauty of a Japanese knife

A beautiful, damascus blade with a hammered finishAnother important characteristic that has put Japanese knives on high demand in the European market is their beautiful designs. Whilst most Western kitchen knives have classic designs with steel blades and riveted handles, a great number of Japanese knives stand out for having aesthetic blades and beautiful, D-shaped handles. Very often, Japanese knives are also sold in elegant boxes with Japanese characters that add cachet and originality to the overall experience of entering the Japanese cutlery world.

Although there certainly are Japanese kitchen knives with riveted handles, the traditional Japanese handle is different to the one of a Western knife. You can often find Japanese handles are made of exotic materials such as honoki wood or birchwood. The D-shaped design of most Japanese handles enables a comfortable grip, which is highly appreciated by professional cooks.

When it comes to blades, originality and beauty can reach high levels that you could have never imagined possible in a kitchen knife. In Japanese cutlery, it is common to find damascus knives with blades made of several layers of steel. The outermost steel layers are usually visible on the blade's surface forming original wavy patterns. Another well-known aesthetic feature found in several Japanese blades is the tsuchime finish. This consists in hammering the blade (manually or with a mechanical press) to create an irregular surface. On top of giving a wonderful look to the knife, the hammered finish also helps to reduce the blade's stickiness.

Taking care of a Japanese knife

Quality and beauty have a price tag. To preserve the sharpness and the good look of a Japanese knife, you must take good care of your knife, and it is important to you give it proper maintenance. It is true that a Japanese knife remains sharp for longer time than a Western knife, but when the time to sharpen it comes around, it is important to know what exactly you need to use. Furthermore, Japanese knives are overall more fragile than Western knives, thus they are less resistant in several areas. 

These are the main care tips for a Japanese knife:

- Always wash the knife by hand. The dishwasher is highly discouraged not only for Japanese knives but for any high-end type of kitchen knife.

- Do not let the knife dry by itself. After washing it, you should immediately dry it using a soft cloth that won't scratch the blade's surface.

- Avoid humidity. The high carbon content in Japanese knives makes them less resistant to corrosion. Hence, you should avoid leaving them soaking in water, and you should always store in a safe, dry place.

- The most recommended type of sharpener is the sharpening stone. Preferably, opt for a Japanese whetstone when you sharpen your Japanese knives.

- It is important to hone the blade before it becomes blunt. Never let the blade's edge lose all of its sharpness before having a new sharpening session. Also see our article on how to sharpen a kitchen knife.

 

Now that you have a deeper knowledge about Japanese kitchen knives, you are now ready to choose the right knife for your kitchen. If there is anything that you didn't understand or if there is anything else that you would like to know, please do hesitate to send us a message via our Contact page and a member of our team will be glad to help you :)

 

Get a Japanese knife for your kitchen here on our website!

Discover our large selection of Japanese knives