Japanese knives are highly sought after by professionals and culinary enthusiasts alike due to their extravagant detailing and exotic design. Compared to German knives, which have equal brilliance, the blades of Japanese knives are much lighter and thinner so that the user can weave and cut through the ingredients with utmost precision.
Cutting delicately through different food items will enhance and preserve them while improving the flavor of the meal. For chefs who use kitchen blades for more than 40 hours a week, a heavy-duty Japanese knife can be the best knife, while the Yanagiba slicers are popular among Japanese chefs willing to prepare cleaner cuts as they pull through the food. The types of Japanese knives are many, and each of them comes with its specifications and usage.
1. Deba knife
This knife is a pointed carving knife that was initially used to fillet and behead fish before preparing sushi. It is also a brilliant tool for cutting through the meat but may be very thick for slicing vegetables.
The Deba knife is an indispensable tool for any Japanese chef having to behead and cut the entire fish.
These knives are equivalent to the chef's knife widely used in Europe. These knives serve all purposes in the kitchen as they can be used for most jobs without any fuss. These knives are much lighter and thinner and constructed from rugged steel, which adds to their ultra-sharpness.
The design of the Gyuto knife is such that there's nothing that can obstruct the edge of the knife's handle. This allows easy sharpening of the entire edge. Initially devised for cutting large pieces of beef, a Gyuto knife translates to a cow sword'. The thickness of the blade remains typically between 1.5 and 5 mm, while the regular length lies from 210mm to 270mm.
The Japanese Kiritsuke knives come with a hybrid design that combines features of the Japanese Yanagida and Usuba knives. Yanagiba knives are used for slicing raw fish for making sushi, while the Usuba knives assist in cutting vegetables. This remarkable combination implies that the Kiritsuke knives are meant for an all-purpose and can prepare various ingredients needed for traditional Japanese cuisine.
Many of these Japanese kitchen blades are equipped with a single-bevel design of the two knives they are devised from, and therefore, users should be aware of the usage and maintenance of these knives. Some manufacturers also make double bevel Kiritsuke knives, and they are called Kiritsuke Gyuto. The reverse tanto profile of these knives creates an exquisite pointed knife, while the thin flat profile is very useful in push cutting and easy chopping.
Nakiri comes with a square-tip and is crafted specifically for slicing and dicing vegetables. The design of the Nakiri knife is entirely flat and has a skinny blade so that the user can cut through the vegetables and fruits without any risk of crushing them.
As the edge has no curve, this kitchen tool is typically suited for a straight and pushing cut. It is a versatile vegetable knife that shouldn't be used for cutting harsh ingredients.
The Japanese utility knife is called a putty knife, and it's suited for handling precision jobs like peeling vegetables and fruits. Quote contrary to paring knives which are shorter and heftily built.
The Japanese petty knives can be used effortlessly on a chopping board due to taller heels' longer blades. Whenever space constraints or a large knife may be very unwieldy, the petty knives come in handy. It can be used practically for everything from slicing cakes, cheese, vegetables, preparing garnish and deboning meat.
The most distinctive and popular of all traditional Japanese knife types, the Santoku is an all-rounder. The name Santoku means three uses since it can cut everything from fish to meat and vegetables. Japanese knives developed these knives as a viable alternative to the japanese chef knife, called the Gyuto in Japanese.
First of all, the sharp point of the latter is replaced by another kind of tip called the sheep's foot. Here the backstrap or the top of the blade curves down sharply for meeting a more gently curved edge.
As a result, Santoku is more suited for performing a pushing style of cutting, which is a convention in Japanese cuisine. Secondly, as the blades are very thin, they are made of more rigid materials. This means even though the blades have a very sharp edge, they are comparatively more brittle.
The Sujihiki in Japanese means flesh slicer', and the knife does the same job that its name says. It is widely used for slicing and carving roasts, raw meat, turkey, and all other forms of boneless protein.
These knives have an extensive blade length that allows the user to slice the protein with a single long stroke rather than sliding the knife in a saw-like motion. Also, the minimized surface area shields the blade from getting stuck to the surface of the meat.
With a Sujihiki knife, you can get a skinny slice of brisket without extra pressure or manoeuvring.
The Japanese Usuba knife is a traditional Japanese kitchen blade used for working with vegetables. One of the most spectacular features of Japanese cuisine lies in the stress on the beauty of the seasonal herbs and vegetables.
The name Usuba' translates to thin blade', which is extremely useful in making thin slices of vegetables and fruits.
Without an Usuba knife with an incredibly sharp blade, the cell wall of the fresh herbs and vegetables would have been destroyed, causing a quick change in colour and a reduction in flavor.
The Kamagata Usuba is a conventional Japanese knife that's used for decorative carving and has a pointed tip contrary to the Kanto version of the Usuba knife.
These are traditional Japanese kitchen blades that come armed with a long and thin blade initially devised for slicing thin fillets of raw fish for preparing sushi. It is also used for cutting large meat pieces in the modern kitchen.
Typically, these knives have a blade size between 240 mm and 360 mm. According to some professionals, the Yanagiba knives are also helpful in performing various kitchen jobs that call for precision.
The two most distinguishing features of the Yanagiba knives are the chisel ground blade with a very tiny angle point and the sturdy Japanese handle. The name Yanagiba' translates to a willow' in the Japanese language since the blade of this knife looks like a willow leaf.
Characteristics of Japanese Knife
What's the standard item that chefs and cooking experts own? It's types of japanese knives that are highly valued everywhere around the globe. But what is the reason behind that? Let's take a look at a few essential characteristics of Japanese knives:
- Hardness: Japanese knives have a range of around HRC 58, which may shoot up to HRC 65. These kitchen blades are made from rugged and premium quality steel, ensuring that the edge remains sharper for longer. You may have noticed that some chefs use an elongated steel blade for sharpening their kitchen blades. But Japanese doesn't require much maintenance or sharpening compared to other variants of knives.
- Quality of steel: A Japanese knife maker uses a wide array of steel and alloys based on the finish level and the knife's end-use. Traditional knives are prepared from hard steel in which a layer of soft iron serves as the backbone. Some modern Japanese blades come with three-layer steel or Damascus.
- Weight and thickness: A Japanese knife is typically much lighter and is equipped with a thinner blade. Thinness, hardness, and sharpness are three fundamental attributes of any Japanese knife.
- Blade angle: Most premium-grade Japanese angles can be sharpened to produce a much sharper angle at the edge of cutting, owing to the rigid steel it is made with. This makes the knives very strong and allows them to cut through the food effortlessly without excessive pressure on finger joints and muscles.
If you want to refine your culinary arts with the suitable knives, you shouldn't be late investing in a high-tech Japanese knife. There are loads of Japanese knife brands like imarku that produce kitchen blades capable of precisely cutting through the meat for smooth separation of cartilage, flesh, and bone. The knife blade also undergoes some cosmetic transformations for making it an extraordinarily flexible and razor-sharp culinary tool.
The Bottom Line
Japanese artisans have been experimenting with steel for centuries together now. And they are invariably more proficient in making the best wood planes, swords, chisels, and kitchen blades. The evolution of technology has combined with generations of expertise in creating different types of japanese knives which are genuinely mechanical wonders.