The World-Famous Japanese Kitchen Knives and What Makes Them So Special
Last updated ago
7 min read
By 
Michael Way
Published 
March 3, 2022

The World-Famous Japanese Kitchen Knives and What Makes Them So Special

Last updated ago
7 min read
By 
Michael Way
Published 
March 3, 2022

Every cook's dream is to own a luxurious knife to be their trusty companion in the kitchen. A knife is an all-around piece of equipment. It is used to chop ingredients for the most sumptuous meals and to carve and slice down food to make it look aesthetically pleasing, among many other kitchen applications.

There are tons of kitchen knives for you to choose from. There are different builds for every knife, from the blade's steel, the handle material, and forged. But many chefs around the world prefer a Japanese kitchen knife set. So what exactly makes a Japan-made knife so desirable to chefs all over the world? 

This blog post will examine the different styles, builds, and special features of Japanese knives to determine their unparalleled selling factor. Read on and maybe get yourself a new kitchen buddy. 

Get to Know the Different Japanese Knife Styles 

Different knife styles help you do specific tasks like boning, filleting and slicing with complete accuracy. So let's get to know each of them better to help you make an informed decision for your next purchase. 

Gyutou 

Gyutou in Japanese means "beef knife." The Gyutou knife style is equivalent to a chef's knife compared to other brands. This knife is designed to be a multi-purpose tool used in most kitchen tasks. The Gyutou has harder steel and thinner blades than other knife brands, and you can sharpen the blade from the end to the tip so you can use its full length while preparing food. 

Santoku 

Santoku is another multi-purpose knife like the Gyutou but slightly differs in the build because the blade is much taller. The name Santoku translates to "three virtues." The Japanese believe that the three virtues in the kitchen are the knife's capability to cut meat, vegetables, and fish. 

The Santoku is very effective for chopping chunky ingredients up and down slicing motion. 

Sujihiki 

The Sujihiki knife is equivalent to the slicer. These knives are forged by master artisans who use traditional knife-making techniques to stand out among the others. The blade is made from premium steel, which has better edge retention. In addition, the blade of the knife is significantly longer than a chef's knife and thinner, which makes this perfect for filleting and carving food.

Petty 

The petty knife is a paring knife that is great for small food items. This utility knife can give you more precision than bigger knives like the Gyutou and Santoku. Items like herbs and small vegetables work well with this knife. 

Honesuki

Honesuki is a specially designed boning knife. Honesuki is not your ordinary boning knife. The blade has a triangular shape and has a very solid blade with very little flexibility. The Honesuki is great for deboning chicken meat and cutting through soft joints. The blade is short in length and height, making it the perfect paring knife. 

Honkotsu

Honkotsu is another Japanese boning knife. The key difference with the Honesuki and Honkotsu is that the Honkotsu has a thicker spine, the design is symmetrical, and this knife has no flexibility. This knife is great for deboning and cleaning hanging meats like pork loins and beef. 

Nakiri

Nakiri is the Japanese vegetable knife. This knife has a straight blade design with double edges. This knife is excellent for julienne, brunoise, and other cuts for vegetables. In addition, the Nakiri has a tall blade which you can put pressure into when cutting vegetables with thick skins like pumpkins or squash. 

Yo-deba

Yo-deba is the perfect knife for butchery. The knife is designed to be heavy, robust, and have thick spines so that it can cut through tough meats. This knife is a versatile knife suitable for left-handed and right-handed chefs. 

Another version of this knife is called the “Deba.” The Deba is shorter and has a thinner spine which is excellent for butcher fish and poultry meat. 

Yanagi

The Japanese knife set wouldn’t be complete without a sushi knife. Yanagi is a traditional Japanese knife. Another variation of this knife is called "Takobiki," which originates from Kyoto, Japan. These knives allow the chef to draw long motions for precise and perfect sushi cuts. These sushi knives are single-edged so that you can sharpen them to their full potential. 

Japanese sushi knives also have a unique feature where the tips of the knife are blunt because chefs tend to prepare the food close to the customers, so master artisans removed the sharp tip of a knife to keep the customers safe. 

Pankisi 

The Pankisi is the Japanese version of the bread knife. This is your knife of choice for pastry and baked goods. The serrated teeth of the knife are perfect for crusty food items, and they can slice the bread and crumbly food without crushing it.

Asian kitchen uniform and knife set

Built Different: The Key Features of Japanese Knives 

Now that you know the different styles of Japanese knives, here are some of the key features of why these knives are top choices for chefs worldwide.

Forging

Did you know that a high-quality Japanese knife takes about 42 days to finish? That’s more than a month! This is why Japanese knives are more durable compared to western knives. Master artisans start forging the blade by repeatedly tossing it in the fire and hammering it until the blade forms its desired shape and hardness consistency. 

This process is repeated for days, and the forging of the blade continues by layering different metals to achieve great strength and excellent edge retention. The knife is then finished with a shiny look or signature water ripples. 

Knife’s blade

A standard kitchen knife is made from stainless steel. This is an excellent choice for a semi-pro chef because it can last long and serve its purpose. But most Japanese knife brands use high-carbon steel. Carbon steel is a premium quality metal, so Japanese knives are a bit more expensive than other brands. 

High-carbon steel blades are harder and stay sharp longer than ordinary stainless steel. It also has anti-stain and anti-corrosion properties. Carbon steel is also significantly lighter and feels balanced in your hands when using them. 

Handle material

When you buy a knife, you should always consider the handle. The look is not enough; it should also be ergonomic and feels perfect in your hands. Japanese knives use wooden handles on their knives. Other materials such as rubber or metal can be too heavy and slippery. 

The premium wood handles on Japanese knives offer a good grip, which makes it perfect even on wet countertops and slicing slimy and slippery meat. Wood is also not easily affected by chemical reactions and will last long. 

Weight and flexibility

Heavy knives are not always the best choice. That said, Japanese knives are thin and lightweight but also durable. A standard knife scores between 56-58 on the Rockwell hardness scale, while a Japanese knife rates at 60 and above, which is categorized as a premium knife. In addition, a lightweight knife is also easy to use and beginner-friendly. 

Japanese knives give you several options for blade flexibility. This feature allows you to be more precise in your cuts. There are also specialty knives for ingredients such as octopus and sashimi. 

Edge retention

Japanese knives keep their edge retention significantly longer compared to other knife brands. As a result, sharpening can be frustrating, especially for an inexperienced cook. But Japanese knives don't need sharpening all the time, which means the blade will have a longer product life. 

Aesthetics

No one can argue how beautiful a Japanese knife is crafted. It is created by master craftsmen, which brings out its full functionality while being a beautiful piece of art in itself. In addition, some Japanese knives use Damascus steel, which is an excellent blade material and creates pleasing patterns when finished. 

The handles are also designed using traditional Japanese painting techniques that embody the beautiful Japanese culture. 

Japanese chef slicing sushi

Keep Your Blades Sharp

Even the best Japanese knife set needs regular maintenance and sharpening to retain and build quality. As a cook, you should make it a habit to clean and maintain your knives after using them. We want to help you maintain your sharp knives, so here are some useful tips for you. 

  • Kitchen knives have different shapes and curves, so you must hone your knives every once in a while. When you use your knives on tough meats, the blade deforms. You can put it back to the proper angle of the knife with honing steel. 
  • There are different tools you can use for your knives. It is easier to use a sharpening rod if you're a beginner. On the other hand, if you want razor-sharp knives, it is recommended to use a whetstone. But observe the proper way to do it, or it may damage the blade. 
  • Use the right knife for the correct item. Yes, there are multi-purpose knives, but there are also specialty knives that can make your task easier and help your products last long. 
  • Use an appropriate chopping board for your knives. Avoid having your knives in contact with hard surfaces or metals. Hard impacts can chip your knife and can cause an irregular shape. 
  • Place your knives in proper storage. Please put them in a stand to keep the blades upright and avoid deformities. It also protects your knives from unwanted acid that can damage the blade. Magnetics boards are great too. Just keep them out of children’s reach. 
  • Hand wash your knives using mild soap and water. Tossing them in the dishwasher or using a strong cleaning agent can damage the blade. 
  • Always wipe your knives dry before storing them. The moisture can start rusting on your knives and affect their sharpness. 
  • Sharpen depending on how many edges your knife has. If your blade is a single-edge, don't sharpen the blunt side because it will only ruin the blade quality. 

Final Thoughts

A good kitchen knife can make or break things in the kitchen. Maximize your productivity with the famous Japanese kitchen knives and get the smoothest cooking experience. Everything about these knives is premium quality from the build quality, the balance of the blade in your hand, the handle material, and everything about these knives are top-notch. 

Invest in a good kitchen knife. Cut and slice your way in the kitchen with speed and accuracy. The only thing coming out of your kitchen is good food. You can find our other blogs for other knife brand options available for you. 

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