What to Look for When Shopping for a Gyuto Knife
Japanese knives are undoubtedly the coolest culinary tools that you can have in your kitchen. They are highly specialized so you can always find the right Japanese kitchen knife for every task be it for slicing, chopping, dicing or carving. Thanks to this high level of specialization, the Japanese knives have developed something of a cult following in the culinary world. They are preferred not just by the professional chefs but also by home cooks who also love their unique artisanal craftsmanship. In fact, the beautifully-crafted Japanese kitchen knives are known to make cooking a delight, constantly drawing you onto the chopping board to conjure your best dish yet!
One of the most popular Japanese kitchen knives is the Gyuto knife. It is the Japanese variant of the conventional western-style chef’s knife. It is a versatile and multi-use kitchen knife that is a must-have in your cutlery set as you can use it on a host of produce and ingredients including vegetables, herbs, fruits, fishes and meats.
The Gyuto kitchen knives have flatter heels that are suited for a number of chopping styles such as push-cutting, tap-chopping and pull-cutting. The slight belly on their edges towards the tip of the kitchen knives means they also easily lend themselves to rock-chopping uses. They have pointed tips that are ideal for making those precision cuts.
Easy enough. Once you have figured out that you want a Japanese-style chef’s knife such as a Gyuto knife, it should be breeze dropping onto a convenience store, picking any gyuto knife and you are good to go! Except that it isn’t always that straightforward. You have to pick a Gyuto kitchen knife that will be suited for your particular needs and size. For example, Gyuto kitchen knives have blade lengths that range from 180mm to 300mm. You’ve got to figure out your ‘sweet spot’ based on the ease with which you can hold and wield the knife as well as the particular applications that you are planning to put it into. Choosing a Gyuto knife can be particularly dicey if you haven’t used them before and gotten a feel of the right size and style that will work for you. The knife also has to be stable and comfortably balance in your hands for you to use it efficiently.
Here is a look at some of the factors that you should consider when shopping for a Gyuto kitchen knife: -
- Type of steel used
- Handle styles
While the Gyuto kitchen knife sizes can range from 180mm to 300mm, the most popular and most recommended sizes lie in the spectrum of 210mm to 240mm. This is the best size range for Gyuto kitchen knives at which they are stable, comfortable and easier to wield. This size should also suit most adult chefs.
When deciding on the right Gyuto knife size for your needs, you should consider the following factors: -
- What is the size of your kitchen workspace? What is the size of your prep area or chopping board? Are they big enough to accommodate the size of Gyuto knife that you are planning to purchase?
- What are your most commonly used ingredients and produce? How big are they? If your food prep routinely involves the cutting and slicing of larger produce and ingredients such as cabbages, then you will need a longer Gyuto blade such as 240mm. However, if you mostly work with smaller-sized produce such as chicken breasts, meat, small fish and vegetables, then a Gyuto knife of size 210mm would be comfortable and adequate for your needs.
- Your cutting technique also has a bearing on the type of knife to select. A larger knife is better suited for rock-cutting techniques than a shorter Gyuto knife as it allows you to minimize the extreme up-down motions with the knife’s handle when you are handling larger produce. A larger knife will also work nicely with the tap-cutting actions than a smaller knife thanks to its longer cutting edge which enables you to swiftly work through the ingredients.
Type of Steel Used in the Gyuto Knife
The choice of steel type used in Gyuto knives boils down to caron steel vs stainless steel. When choosing the type of steel for your knife, the key performance characteristics to keep in mind include the edge retention of the material, its ease of sharpening, its resistance to rusting and corrosion as well as the general durability of the material.
When you are shopping for a Gyuto knife, determine which of these performance characteristics is most important for you. If you want a corrosion-free knife, you should choose a stainless-steel knife. However, if you prefer a knife that corrodes with time and gradually develops a patina after years of usage, choose a carbon steel knife. Carbon steel knives also give you better edge retention and are easier to sharpen. Due to the fact that carbon steel knives are more susceptible to rust and corrosion, they require greater care and maintenance.
A dark patina will eventually form on your carbon steel blade. Some chefs love this.
In the Japanese smithing tradition, there are two popular types of carbon steels used in knifemaking or bladesmithing. These are the shirogami (White Steel) and aogami (Blue Steel).
Stainless steel also has its merits. Not only is it cheaper but it also tougher and with excellent corrosion resistance. On the flip side, it is harder to sharpen and has poor edge retention. There are various stainless-steel types used in making Gyuto knives such as AUS-10, VG-10 and Swedish Stainless Steel among others.
The handle style of Gyuto kitchen knife might probably feel like an afterthought when you are shopping for a kitchen knife but it just as important to the optimal use of the knife. It is integral to the performance of the kitchen knife. The knife handle also has a bearing not just on its balance point but also on the comfort and the ease with which you can wield it.
How the knife is gripped varies from user to user and this also determines the handle style to go with. If you wholly hold the knife by its handle, you should go for a tapered or shaped Western-style knife handle as this shape will almost be intuitive to hold. Like in a typical western handle, the Gyuto knife handle is closer to the back or middle of the blade.
For the pinch grippers, the traditional Japanese-style knife handle or ‘wa-handle’ would feel more familiar and comfortable in the hand. To complicate matters further, the ‘wa-handles’ are also available in various shapes: octagonal, oval and D-shape. The octagonal and D-shapes will give you a more ergonomic grip but at this level, it is simply a question of taste and preference. The ‘wa-handles’ are commonly used in the Wa-Gyuto kitchen knives which have a balance point farther forward towards the tip rather than at the middle like in the typical Gyuto knives with western-style handles.
The types of finishes used in the kitchen knife is simply a matter of taste and doesn’t serve much functional value. However, every finish has its advantages and disadvantages. The main types of finishes used in Japanese kitchen knives include the following: -
The finishes pretty much represent degrees of polish. Finishes such as Kurouchi give the knife a less polished and more rustic touch while finishes such as Migaki give it a more polished and less rustic touch. With Damascus patterned finishes, you get very beautiful ‘organic’ patterns etched on the surface of the blade.
There is a mystique and romance surrounding Japanese kitchen knives and we naturally assume that these knives are eye-wateringly expensive. On average, Japanese kitchen knives tend to be more expensive than their western counterparts due to the premium quality steel used, the larger forge welding as well as the many layers involved. Some also feature very impressive finishes such as the Damascus-patterned finishes. The cost will also be determined by the size of the knife. Most of the high-end Gyuto knives are also forged in small numbers in artisanal workshops and are therefore one-of-a-kind creation. They exude the soul of the bladesmith. All these factors drive up the cost of the Gyuto and other Japanese kitchen knives. However, you can always find a Gyuto knife that suits your budget.