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How to Care for and Maintain Your Gyuto Kitchen Knife

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How to Care for and Maintain Your Gyuto Kitchen Knife

Like other Japanese kitchen knives, Gyuto knives generally have a reputation for excellence and artistic beauty. There is a great deal of romance and mythical quality surrounding these knives that some might find them a little intimidating. However, their relative affordability and flawless functionality make them an indispensable piece of cutlery in any Western kitchen. 

Before you purchase a gyuto kitchen knife, it is generally advisable to understand its make and quality. For example, apart from the fact that they have thinner blades than the conventional Western Chef’s knives, the Gyuto knives, which roughly translates to “cow blades”  in Japanese, mostly feature a double grind. Typical blade lengths can range from 210mm to 270mm or 8.27” to 10.63” and the typical blade thickness will range from 1.9mm to 5.0mm or 0.07” to 0.2”. All of these properties will affect the kind of care and maintenance practices that you will need to undertake to keep these knives in the best shape for the duration of their usage. Fortunately, thanks to the predominantly high-quality carbon steel construction and excellent edge retention, Gyuto kitchen knives tend to have excellent durability. There are also Gyuto kitchen knives that are made from carbon steel and these, too, have their unique care and maintenance requirements. 

Before you purchase your first Gyuto knife, it is important that you understand the time and effort that you will need to care for these knives. This will, to a large extent, also depend on the type of material used in forging the knife. 

Like other Japanese kitchen knives, Gyuto knives are made using a high-quality steel-type known as tama-hagane or simply hagane. Hagane steel refers to a high-carbon steel that is available in various gradations and which has been used to forge Japanese knives and swords since the ancient times. Hagane is a steel type that imbues the knife with excellent edge retention delivering superb cutting performance. Gyuto knives made from a hard hagane steel will hold very sharp edges but to maintain the extreme sharpness, the edges have to be sharpened and the blade maintained on a regular basis depending on the frequency of use. Professional chefs typically sharpen and maintain the edges within just a few months of use. If the knife is not sharpened and maintained, it will quickly lose its edge and quickly become dull, rust or chip. 

Apart from carbon steels, Gyuto knives can also be made from stainless steels. These have the advantage of being easier to maintain than carbon steel Gyuto knives. However, unlike the harder carbon steels, the stainless-steel Chef’s knives are harder to sharpen. They have excellent rust and corrosion resistance and will also hold their sharp edges for a long time. If the stainless steel loses its edge, you will certainly have to expend some effort in sharpening the knife and restoring it to its original ultra-sharp shape. Most chefs and home cooks prefer to have their stainless steel Gyuto kitchen knives professionally sharpened. 

Apart from carbon steel and stainless-steel knives, Gyuto knives can also be made from ceramic materials. However, in this article, we will focus on how to maintain and care for the steel knives which are the most commonly used Japanese kitchen knives

Gyuto knives are double-bevel or double grind kitchen knives which are easier to handle than single-bevel kitchen knives. You can, therefore, sharpen these with relative ease after few rounds of practice. Single-bevel knives require some specialized sharpening skills and you will invariably have to rely on professional sharpening to restore their sharp edges.

Below is a lowdown on some of the measures that you can undertake to keep your Gyuto kitchen knives in good shape: -

How to Clean Gyotu Kitchen Knives

Stainless steel knives are the easiest to take care of. They are also relatively easy to wash. However, contrary to expectations, stainless steel knives are not necessarily stain-proof and if you don’t take proper care of them, they may eventually develop some rust or corrosion. 

Carbon steel knives are trickier although still relatively easy to wash. If you have carbon steel knives with unique aesthetic finishes such as Damascus patterned steel finishes, Kurouchi finishes, Migaki finishes, Tuschime or Nagaki finishes, it is advisable to wash them with a soft material as an abrasive material will rapidly ruin the beautiful finishes on the knife’s blade. 

Wash your kitchen knives by hand using a mild and soapy detergent. Make sure that you wash your kitchen knives immediately after use. Dry it immediately after washing using a soft towel. Carbon steel knives, particularly, require careful attention and extra care as they are susceptible to rust and corrosion when left wet or dirty. They must therefore be thoroughly dried before storage. 

DO NOT wash your Japanese kitchen knives in the dishwashers as this is likely to damage the edges of the knife’s blade. Using a dishwasher might also tamper with the chemistry of the material used in making the knife which can fasten its deterioration through rusting, corrosion and a general degradation of the material. This will likely shorten the lifespan of your Japanese kitchen knife. The typical dishwasher blends extreme temperatures with harsh salts and lots of movements and collisions all of which are not conducive to the delicate care and maintenance required to keep your Japanese kitchen knives in tip-top shape. The dishwasher can be particularly destructive to your expensive and high-end Gyotu kitchen knives. They will ruin every aspect of the knife right from the blade to the edges and even the chemical balance and aesthetic finishes. In fact, many sellers and manufacturers will void your warranty when you wash your high-end Japanese kitchen knife in a dishwasher.  

Proper Usage

One aspect for the proper maintenance of your kitchen knife is learning how to use your Gyuto knife correctly. For example, avoid using your Gyuto kitchen knife on cutting tasks above their ‘paygrade’ such as using them to cut very hard or frozen items like as bones or produce with tough outer shells as this may lead to the chipping and cause general damage to the edges of the kitchen knife. 

When you are cutting using your Gyuto kitchen knife, employ a smooth and clean cutting motion. Avoid twisting the knife in the midst of a cut, particularly when you are cutting harder foods such as squash. You should also avoid flexing or bending the knife as this can crack the blade or cause it to chip.

Ensure that you use proper chopping or cutting surface. Never use your Gyuto knife on a glass or metal surface. An ideal cutting board for use with the Gyuto knife and other Japanese kitchen knives is an end-grain wood board. The poly or bamboo cutting boards may be too hard on the extremely sharp edges of the Gyuto knife. 

Watch Out on Acidic Foods

Stainless steel knives have excellent corrosion resistance but carbon steel kitchen knives can react with acidic foods which might speed up their corrosion. When used incorrectly with acidic foods, carbon steel Gyuto knives may have a slight impact on the taste, smell and even the color of the acidic foods. Over time, the knives will also patina, which might be a good or bad thing depending on your preference. 

Sharpening Gyuto Knives

Gyuto knives will ship with extremely sharp edges and will not require any sharpening for months or even years, depending on the frequency of usage and the type of produce it is commonly used on. If you are a professional chef, you may need to sharpen these knives after one to three months of use. Home cooks can use them for six to twelve months before resharpening their knives. 

Gyuto kitchen knives are best sharpened with Japanese whetstones. These will sharpen the face of the blade and deliver impressive results, producing extremely sharp outcome. 

Refrain from sharpening them with electric sharpeners, handheld devices, grinding wheels, belt grinders, pull through sharpeners and the like. The sharpening should ideally be done by a professional for the best results. 

If you’d rather sharpen your Gyotu knives yourself, then you will have to learn how to use a whetstone properly. 

If you can’t access a whetstone, a good substitute would be a ‘Pull-Through’ sharpener. It is fairly easy to use but it only sharpens the knife’s bevel so you may have to employ them more frequently. They won’t give you as good a result as whetstones but they can keep you going in the absence of the latter.

Storing Your Gyuto Kitchen Knives

In general, Japanese kitchen knives shouldn’t be piled together or on top of one another. The best way to store your prized Gyuto kitchen knives safely is by putting them in a chef’s case, a block or even a magnetic rack. This puts them largely out of reach, ensuring you only reach to them when you want to use them. It also helps protect and preserve the knives for longer. However, as far as knife storage goes, there are plenty of ideas that you can shop for to give you the ideal storage solution that is not only safe but one that also makes the most of the design and size of your kitchens. The storage solution should be convenient. Some of them even add a feature to your existing workspace or kitchen décor and fixtures.

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