When it comes to premium knife sets, Japanese knives usually come into mind. It's every chef's dream to own a set of Japanese knives because of their excellent edge retention and functionality. There are different types of knives, each with its own uses to make food preparation and presentation easy and convenient for cooks. Moreover, there are special Japanese knives that can develop your knifing skills.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the well-known Japanese knives and when to use them. We'll also throw in some useful tips on how to sharpen a Japanese knife to help keep your knives sharp.
You should at least have a pair of Japanese knives to complete your kitchen knife set. So if you're considering getting one, take note of these popular Japanese knives and see what suits your cutting needs the most.
The Gyutou and Santoku knife is the equivalent of the western's chef knife. These knives are multi-purpose, and you can use them for vegetables, meat, and fish. Both of these knives are usually 8 inches long. The key difference between the Gyutou and Santoku is the style of the blade.
The Gyutou blade has a slight curve blade which is perfect for rocking motions. On the other hand, the Santoku knife is thinner, wider, and flat, which is better for up and down cutting motions. Furthermore, the flat blade of the Santoku knife makes it easy for you to scoop into the blade the chopped ingredients.
The Sujihiki knife is the perfect blade for a more precise cutting. This knife is longer than your typical chef’s knife. Sujihiki knives are 12 inches long and perfect for very thin cuts of meat and fish. The long blade allows you to cut the meat in a singular motion with great precision.
Moreover, this blade has excellent edge retention compared to other Japanese knives. As a result, you don't need to sharpen as often as other knives. The precision cuts with the Sujihiki are also good for food carving.
The Honesuki and Hankotsu knives are utility knives specially used for deboning meat. These utility knives usually have blades that measure between three to six inches. The Honesuki knife has an asymmetrical shape and a very flexible pointed tip. This feature helps you separate the meat from the joints easier and cleaner. The Honesuki is also great for deboning small to medium-sized fish because of its flexibility.
The Hankou knife has a thicker spine and a stiffer blade; that is why this knife is better for deboning hanging meat. The stiffer blades are excellent for tougher meats like beef and poultry.
The Nakiri Japanese kitchen knife is the equivalent of your cleaver knife. These knives are wide, flat blades without a pointed tip. The knife's blade has a single edge design, making this a great knife for cutting vegetables. Moreover, the wide blade can handle tough vegetables and fruits like squash and watermelon.
You can use the blade for the push cutting method when a single swipe of the blade cannot penetrate the ingredient. The knife is designed to withstand significant impact without bending and breaking.
Having a Pankiri knife on standby in your kitchen is always handy. The Pankiri knife is also known as the bread knife in standard knife sets. It has a serrated blade that allows you to slice bread, cake, and other pastry cleanly.
The Pankiri Japanese knife is more angular and has a unique angular design. This feature helps your cut soft and coarse ingredients without ruining their form. This also prevents crumbling, so you can use as many ingredients from your food.
Even premium knives need regular sharpening to maintain their edge retention and blade quality. There are several tools you can use to sharpen your Japanese knives. Let's learn the different sharpening methods for your knife's maintenance.
There are several ways you can sharpen your Japanese knives using stone. There is the whetstone and water stone. Technically speaking, any stone where you can sharpen your knives is categorized as a whetstone. You grind your knives on the stone repeatedly to sharpen the edge.
The water stone sharpening method is more popular in Japan. But since you are sharpening Japanese knives, you might also familiarize yourself with the method. In this case, the sharpening stones are submerged in the water for at least ten minutes. The water acts as a lubricant that washes off unwanted particles in your knife's blade. In this method, the blade is ground against the coarse side of the water stone and is finished with the finer side to achieve the ultimate sharpness.
Growing up, you have probably seen many honing or steel rods in your parent's kitchen. Steel rods are not as precise as whetstones, but it's still an excellent tool for sharpening. The main use of sharpening rods is realigning your blade into a straight line to keep its sharpness. Knives tend to bend after some heavy use, and you can grind them against steel rods to get your blade in the original position.
Just a word of caution, not all Japanese knives are compatible with steel rods. For example, honing steel can damage single-bevel knives like the Yaganiba and Deba knives. But you can easily sharpen a Gyutou or Santoku using this tool. Moreover, if you have no experience with sharpening knives, it's good practice to start with steel rods.
If it’s hard to do sharpening manually, you can always opt for an electric knife sharpener. Japanese knife sets are safe to use in electric sharpeners. However, electric sharpeners can cater to a limited knife size range. So, if you own longer Japanese knives like the Sujihiki, you may find the electric sharpener harder to use.
Japanese knives are on the rage in the market today not because of their cool names and place of origin but the functions and performance of each knife. Japanese knives are also one of the most expensive knife lines on the market, but this investment is guaranteed to be worth every penny. We hope this overview of the most popular Japanese knives helps you decide which blade to pick.
If you want to know more in-depth details on different Japanese knives, visit our blogs. We also have articles on different knife brands, knife accessories, and the step-by-step process of how to sharpen Japanese knives with a whetstone.