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Japanese knives

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Q: Hi Ryki, I have been a follower of your channel on Youtube for a decent time now, and I have always wanted to ask you one question.  Why are you not done a video about different Japanese knives and what each is for?  I wanted to buy my first Japanese knife, and since I am a vegetarian, I tried to find a knife that is well suited for vegetable cutting.  I searched your Youtube channel and did not find a video about the Types of Japanese knives and what each knife is for.  I ended up googling.  As usual, the results are mixed… Please do a video about this and suggest which knife or knife is suitable for handling vegetables.  I want to keep the budget around  $200.

 

Ryky: The topic is knife shapes and what to use them on is more subjective to the user’s preferences.  You can use any of the knife shapes below on vegetables.  Some people want a knife that can “do it-all,” while others are willing to invest in multiple blades for fish, poultry, vegetables, etc.  I will summarize the following blade types, and you can decide which will suit your needs best.   Please keep in mind that these are the more common types of Japanese knives.  There are dozens more specialized shapes and sizes that I will cover in future posts.

Gyuto: A chef knife or gyuto is the all-around knife in the kitchen. Other than tasks reserved for tiny knives, such as peeling skin from potatoes or carving skin from an apple – such tasks that a 3″ paring knife excels at, chefs/gyutos can do anything.

 

 Read “Top 5 Japanese Chef Knives for Beginners” for my top recommendations for Japanese knives under $100.

This Yoshihiro Aogami Super Gyuto is a top pick for around $200.

This Kaishi “Thin Series” Aogami Super Gyuto is also a fantastic performer.

 

ryky knife
Santoku: The word "Santoku" means "three virtues" or "three uses." I will be honest and tell you I have never liked santokus. I have used santokus and gyutos side-by-side and have never found a use case where the Santoku outperformed the gyuto. In every case where a santoku was used, the gyuto was just as adequate, if not better suited. 
I have at least one Santoku in my home, and it is because my wife prefers the typical 165mm length of a santoku over the 210mm or 240mm length of chef's knives.

Unless you only plan to cut small to medium-sized ingredients, a chef's knife or gyuto would be a better knife to buy since they are better suited for more significant ingredients, whether cutting vegetables or significant cuts of meats. If you want a dedicated blade for greens, a nakiri or bunka would be my preferred knife.
 

Nigara makes knives with excellent fit and finish.

 

Moritaka’s Santoku has a linear cutting profile suitable for push-cutting.

 

Mcusta Zanmai offers great fit and finish with uniquely shaped handles.

 
santoku
Zanmai santoku

Kiritsuke: Double bevel kiritsukes are similar to gyutos but have a pointed tip. They will likely have an identical cutting profile if you hold up a double-beveled kiritsuke and gyuto from the same maker.  

 

 

Yu Kurosaki offers some of the most exotic tsuchime (hammer marks). 

 

 

Tanaka Hamono offers incredible performance at moderate prices.

 

Tojiro’s DP line of knives is always a top recommendation for budget-minded buyers wanting high-performance blades.

Kurosaki kiritsuke

Bunka: A bunka is a knife you may not know much about. They usually are 165mm in lengths like nakiris and santokus and have a pointed tip. A more straightforward explanation is that they are nakiris with a pointy end, similar to kiritsukes, are gyutos with a pointed tip. Because of their height, bunkas generate much cutting power, though not as much as a nakiri. The flatter and linear cutting profiles are more enjoyable than the relaxed rocking profiles.

 

Seki Kanetsugu offers gorgeously made SG2 core steel.

 

Yu Kurosaki continues to offer his incredible tsuchime design.

 

Miyabi offers a moderately priced line of ZDP189 knives.

zuiun knife

Honesuki: This style of knife is designed for butchering poultry. It has a wedge shape, unlike any other knife shape. It gives precise control to the user and can move the knife around bones and joints efficiently. You typically will find this knife as single beveled, but several knife makers do offer them in a symmetrical or double beveled cutting edge. Due to their size and shape, they also make a good utility knife for the occasional cutting of fruit and vegetables.  

 

Zanmai offers a curved honesuki suitable for filleting as well.

Misono UX10 series features a very stiff blade, an aggressive cutting profile, and a well-shaped handle.

Moritaka offers a very value with a Kurouchi finish unlike any other.

 
Misoni UX10

Chuka Bocho: Chuka Bochos are cleaver equivalents. If you ask someone well-versed with cleavers, they will likely tell you it is the only knife you will ever need in the kitchen. Though I do not share this sentiment, I agree they are fantastic tools. Cleavers have the length of a chef knife but the cutting profile of a nakiri, but twice the height. In so being, it generates a tremendous amount of cutting force. The cutting profile makes push cutting as efficient as possible. A well-made cleaver has to balance cutting power while remaining versatile and agile enough to handle cutting fish, country, beef, pork, and all sorts of vegetables. The only thing I did not enjoy using a clear for in my testing was skinning fruit or potatoes. Cleavers are just as versatile as gyutos and chef’s knives, except for those two things. 

 

 

 

Tojiro offers a great value with good steel material and finishing combinations.

 

Mizuno is known for its exceptional traditional Japanese knife designs, but they also make great cleavers.

 

Sugimoto is the most well-known Japanese made maker offering cleavers. 

cleaver
chuka bocho

Petty: A petty is your Western paring knife counterpart, though they can get much longer than a typical paring 3.5-inch length. Although You can find petty knives in the 90mm or 3.5-inch size, it is not uncommon for knife makers to offer mostly 150mm or 6-inch lengths – making them as long as western utility knives.  

 

Sakai Takayuki by Itsuo Doi offers incredibly craft knives with rustic finishes.

 

Misono offers full carbon steel knives with the Swedish series.

 

Nigara offers a kiritsuke-styled petty, which are aggressive and efficient cutters.

itsuo doi
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