Different Types of Japanese Chef’s Knife Sets
Let’s have a look at some of the knife properties that you should consider.
Type of Material
Different kinds of steels are used in knifemaking but the most common are undoubtedly stainless steel and high carbon steel. Each has its advantages. Stainless steel has great corrosion resistance and ductility while high carbon steel is easier to sharpen and has a good hardness which means the knife can maintain its edge for much longer. Some chefs like knives whose aesthetics adapt to the environment and which will show some patina after extended usage and are likely to go for carbon steel knives.
Blade shapes also vary widely. Some profiles are flat while others are either rounded or curved in the belly. As you will discover, certain blade shapes are better suited for chopping, slicing or push cutting.
Thickness is also one of the key considerations that you will be looking at when shopping for a chef’s knife. The Japanese blades tend to be very thin. Thinner blades are usually better suited for cutting tasks as the knife easily moves through the food. A thin knife doesn’t pack a lot of weight and you can use it for a longer period of time without getting tired. The European blades tend to be thicker. There are kitchen cutting tasks that require thicker blades such as when cutting meat, bone or filleting fish.
Type of Bevel
Knives can also be single bevel or double bevel. Single beveled knives are thin and with delicate edges that should be sharpened with care. The cutting action between single and double bevel knives is also different. With double-beveled knives, you have a straight cutting action. However, single beveled knives cut in such a way that the cut will wander away from the bevel; there is some handedness in the cut and you must therefore take note on whether the bevel is left-handed or right-handed.
A larger knife is generally ideal as it enables you to rapidly process the ingredients. However, when going for the larger knives, you won’t want overkill. The most common knife length is usually 8 inches. This is particularly so for Japanese knives. Western chef knives tend to be shorter, although not considerably.
Look at the tang design. The tang is the steel that extends into the handle. The handle can either feature a hidden tang design or a full tang design. Hidden tangs are generally not suited for heavy cutting applications. Full tangs give you a more robust handling and are better suited for heavier cutting applications.
Other considerations that you can look at in the knife handles include the handle shapes and materials used. These are generally a question of personal preference as well as an individual’s chef’s handling of the knife and their comfort levels.
Before you purchase a chef’s knife, whether Japanese or Western, try to hold it to get the feel and balance of it.
Japanese Chef’s Knives
Some of the most popular Japanese chef’s knives include the following:
The Sujihiki knife is your Japanese equivalent of the slicer but it features a thinner blade than the traditional European slicer. The Sujihiki is also forged from harder steel so you get better edge retention with this Japanese blade. It is mainly used for slicing through boneless meat.
This super slicer has a double bevel that is sharpened at a sharper angle to give you a very precise cut. You can use this Japanese knife to make those one-stroke cuts on your meat. Use them for filleting, carving, and other general-purpose cutting applications in the kitchen. If you aren’t familiar with double-beveled knives, you can use the Yanagiba which is Sujihiki’s single beveled relative.
The Japanese word “Gyuto” literally translates to “cow sword”. Its European equivalent would be the chef’s knife. This is one of the most popular Japanese knives and it is preferred by many chefs. It is an all-purpose chef’s knife so you can put it into a multiplicity of uses in the kitchen be it in cutting vegetables, meat, or the spices.
The Gyuto knives are generally thinner and lighter than their European chef’s knife equivalent. They have also been forged from harder steel and will have better edge retention. You can sharpen the gyuto through the entirety of the blade as there is nothing to obstruct the edge of the handle as well as that of the blade.
If you are in the market for a suitable Japanese knife and are unsure of where to begin, the gyuto knife would be a sure-fire choice to start with.
Nakiri in Japanese translates to “vegetable chopper” and this is the use for which these knives are best suited. They are double-edged and have a straight blade that makes them ideal for chopping various kinds of vegetables.
If you need some precision cuts for your allumette, julienne or brunoise, then this is just the knife for you. You can also use them to cut up some of the harder skinned produce like squash and pumpkins.
The Nakiri Knives are increasingly becoming a ubiquitous item in our kitchens as the global diets and lifestyle turn green and we consume more vegetables.
The traditional Japanese Deba knives have a single bevel and thick spine and shorter blades. They are typically heavier and sharper and are suited for chopping and filleting fish. In Japan, these knives are synonymous with the fishing industry. They are used widely by fishermen and chefs preparing fish dishes. Although you can also use Deba knives to cut up poultry, they find a more organic application in fish preparation.
The Deba Knives come in a variety of sizes which are dependent on the size of the fish that you want to fillet.
There is a heavier Deba variant known as Yo-deba which is characterized by its thick spine and heavyweight. Deba knives are generally quite durable. The 50/50 weight balance in these knives makes them ideal for both left-handed and right-handed users.
Bunka knives, like santoku knives, are general-purpose chef’s knives that you can use for vegetables, fish and meat. If you are planning to do some heavy-duty chopping in the kitchen, then this workhorse will adequately serve you.
It has a thick spine that runs through its entirety and it is heavy enough that you can use it to chop even some of the harder skinned vegetables such as pumpkins and potatoes. The blades of the Bunka knives are designed with dimples that prevent starchy vegetables from sticking onto it.
Petty Knives are smaller in size and better suited for doing the smaller and delicate cutting in the kitchen. If a cutting task is too small for the chef’s knife, you can accomplish it with the Petty knives. Use them to cut or chop herbs, small fruits as well as vegetables.
Santoku in Japanese translates to “three virtues”. The santoku is an all-purpose Japanese knife that you can use to cut not only vegetables but also fish and meat, hence the term “three virtues.” These knives have a flatter belly and easily be used for up-and-down chopping motions.
Rounding Up thoughts on a Chefs Knife collection....
A great chef’s knife is indispensable to the culinary art. Any chef worth their salt must have their sets of favorite blades with which they can quickly slice, chop, and dice the different kinds of foods during the preparation process. Yet, as we will discover, no two sets of chef’s blades are the same.
There is a great deal of variety and difference not only in the design, but also in terms of the materials used, weight, and type of construction.
A chef might choose a particular knife because they prefer the length, or the handle, balance, type of bevel, blade shape, handle shape, and much more. There are so many variables and nuances into picking a cooking knife that the final arbiter is ultimately how comfortable you feel with the knife. Just like an artist with their tools of the trade, you need a chef’s knife that you can connect with. You are the one that will be using the blade after all so it ought to be one that you can seamlessly use for chopping, cutting, and dicing and with which you will have lots of fun in the kitchen. Your efficiency and comfort level in the kitchen has a lot do with the type of chef’s knife that you pick.
Now that we have established the knife as the cornerstone of great cooking, how do you go about picking the right knife for your needs?
There is a common adage that if you ask three chefs what their favorite knives are, you will probably get six or seven answers. It is not an easy decision and picking the right knife for your cooking craft is something that comes with practice.
When it comes to picking the right cooking knife sets, you will typically be torn between two options. On the one hand, there are the Japanese chef’s knives. The Japanese have refined the art of knifemaking down to a science and you can practically find a knife for almost every cooking need, including knives that are suited for filleting certain kinds of fish, for cutting vegetables, meat as well as all-purpose knives.
On the other end of the spectrum are the Western knives and here, you will be mostly confined to the German knives and to an extent, the French knife selections. However, the Japanese and Western chef’s knives aren’t too dissimilar. Some chef’s knives in fact blend aspects of these two knife cultures.
While there are differences between the Japanese and Western knives, your choice of the best knife to use will ultimately be dictated by the design and construction considerations.