How to Select the Perfect Japanese Knives for Your Kitchen

Japanese blade craftsmanship is well-known throughout the world. Although their work has shifted from weapons like the katana, the methods of making outstanding blades have shifted into items that we use in our daily lives today. In the kitchen, having Japanese knives brings quality to how the food is prepared for everyone who partakes in it. However, choosing the perfect knife set can be daunting, with limited information on which ones to add to your cutlery. Here are some tips when deciding on which Japanese knives will best suit you:

1- Types of Knife

The first thing you’ll deal with is what type of knife to buy first. These knives are not cheap, but your investment in the best Japanese knives will last you for many years while maintaining its edge and beauty. You can start with the ones that you frequently use in the kitchen, here are the common types of Japanese knives:

– Gyuto

Translated as “cow sword,” this knife has a relatively bigger blade and can handle different functions in the kitchen. Just like a Western blade, it has a smooth body that allows for easier slicing of meat. You can also chop vegetables and fish though there are other knives more purposely designed for such tasks.

– Santoku

This is commonly used as a general-purpose knife in the West rather than the Gyuto. It combines the design and size of the Nakiri and Gyuto. It has a flat edge and angled sharply at 60 degrees. It allows for rock-chopping with a slight angle to the cutting edge, which helps in efficiently cutting up vegetables. Normally, you’ll have a Santoku that features a double beveled edge. It does have limited use, though not entirely,  for cutting up meat because of its shorter length.

Lastly, the height and the shape of the tip allow for scooping. This is a perfect knife to start with as Santoku means “three virtues,” referring to its suitability for cutting the basic ingredients in cooking: meat, vegetables, and fish.

– Bunka

The Bunka knife is also suitable for several functions in the kitchen, but it is more suitable for finely slicing shallots, herbs, celery, etc. as well as scooping them. It also has a double beveled edge, which makes it perfect for chopping, however, it is thinner than a Santoku, which makes rock-chopping not advisable. You can use this for lean meat and fish as it provides dexterity for fine use. They are quite expensive because they are usually made in small numbers.

– Deba

Traditionally used in Japan for cutting and slicing fish, and because of its thick and weighted head, it’s perfect for butchery purposes. This knife is well-known, however, for filleting a whole fish. The heft allows you to run it through the head and bones while the sharp point and edge make it easy to fillet the meat from the bones. It’s also good for other meats as well.

– Petty Knife

A Petty Knife looks similar to a small chef’s knife, which has a blade length of 11-15 cm. It also allows you to do small and big jobs in the kitchen by enabling you to peel and make detailed cuts of vegetables and fruits for presentations and garnishes. The versatility of this knife makes it an essential part of your cutlery.

2- Material and Method

One of the biggest factors when choosing your knife set is the price. The range varies from relatively affordable ones to those that cost thousands of dollars. The materials and the process of manufacturing the Japanese knives are factored into their price. Stainless steel is more resistant to corrosion but is hard to sharpen, while carbon steel is sharper and has better retention, but it rusts easily. Knives that are handcrafted by artisans through all facets of the process are more expensive than blades that underwent mass production.

3- Handles

The handles are also a worthy consideration when choosing a perfect Japanese knife. Forgers prefer the Japanese Magnolia wood because it doesn’t get slippery when wet. They are carved into an oval or D-shape to aid in improving the user’s grip on the knife. The principle for the handles in Japanese knives is simplicity and ease of use subsequently, there lies the beauty of each handcrafted blade handle.

A lefty may want to consider the handle and bevel of the knife to make your cutting life better. A quick tip for lefties is to use a single-beveled blade with a left-facing grind or choose a Yo (Western handle), so you won’t have to worry about which is your dominant hand.

The Japanese forgers have prided themselves in challenging the methods and science in creating the perfect blade. With its rich history and culture of producing quality blades, you can be sure that you’ll be bringing that excellence to the food you’re putting on the table.

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