The Sharp Edge of Japanese Knives

What You Should Know About Japanese Knives

If you’re a serious chef or wishing to become one, you’d dream to possess one of those tools you can’t do without – the Japanese kitchen knives. Known worldwide for their excellent quality and artistic beauty, Japanese kitchen knives are also cloaked in heavy mythology and romance. This makes it difficult to see through the glint and make the correct choices. But truly, Japanese knives are great treasures to keep.

Hagane is a type of carbon steel that Japanese knives are traditionally made from; and they come in various gradations. Knives and other cutting tools made with hagane can hold an extremely sharp edge. This is the material they forge samurai swords. However, the relatively soft steel has to maintained regularly or they will become dull, chip and rust. That is why professional chefs sharpen and take care of their knives every day. So if you are willing to put much time and effort in knife care, this is the one for you.

The type of Japanese knife that is very easy to maintain is made of stainless steel. It also holds a sharp edge and doesn’t rust. However, once a stainless steel blade loses its edge, it takes skill to sharpen these knives properly so it is best to have these professionally sharpened. Ceramic knives are ultra sharp and stay sharp 10x longer than steel. They are ideal for slicing fruits, vegetables and boneless meats. They also won’t brown foods or transfer metallic taste or smell. They are rust-proof, stain-proof and germ resistant.

Do you prefer a single- or double-bevel bladed knife?

Most traditional Japanese-style knives have a wide, deep-angle bevel on one side of the blade, while Western-style knives (and most popular modern Japanese knives) have a shallow, narrow bevel on both sides of the blade. Double-bevel knives are also generally thinner and lighter than single-bevel knives of similar size. Double-bevel types are more for home use, easier to handle and not too difficult to sharpen. Both stainless steel or hagane-clad stainless steel knives are best for home use.

Need a sturdy knife for everything – meat or fish to vegetables – go for a chef’s knife, which is called a gyūtō (cow knife). If you prefer lighter, thinner knives, a santoku bōchō is great choice. Santoku means “three virtues,” meant for meat, fish and vegetables. If you have small hands, a smaller version of the santoku called a petty knife, is for fine cutting tasks or general chopping.

Other knives are the nakiri or vegetable-cutting knife, with its square, thin, double-bevel blade; the deba, single-bevel pointed knife used for breaking down fish and meat; a smaller version of the deba called the ajikiri, for small fish like Pacific saury (aji); and the long, thin, elegant yanagiba (willow blade), to delicately slice fish for sashimi and sushi.

Visit us at Wild Wasabi Lynnwood

If you love sashimi or nigiri, you can see how our fishes are carefully sliced at Wild Wasabi Lynnwood by our sushi chefs.