Knives

Japanese Knives: What, Why and How To Use Them

Chef Yuuki and Chef DavidThis past January, ICC Professional Culinary Arts alumnus, David Israelow, and Chef Yuuki Tanaka, a highly regarded Kaiseki chef from Tokyo, Japan, gave a demonstration on The Art of Japanese Knife Skills and Sashimi.

Throughout the demonstration, they shared their vast knowledge of Japanese knives and the vital role they play in preparing Japanese cuisine. Below, read about what you should know about Japanese knives, why you should choose one, and how to properly use them!

What Should I Know About Japanese Knives?

Japanese knives are used by chefs all over the world for their thin and flexible blades, precise craftsmanship, and light weight.

chef yuukiTraditionally, Japanese knives have one bevel on the right side of the knife. In addition to the years of practice that it takes to become a Sashimi master, Japanese chefs attain beautifully plated Sashimi fish by using these precise blades. Even though it is common to find single bevel Japanese knives, nowadays, companies are also making double beveled knives to attract more mainstream use, much like the German made knives that are high in demand. This means that they can be used to cook other cuisines in addition to Japanese food, although there are some caveats.

Why Should I Use Japanese Knives?

chef yuuki slicingThere are many different reasons that chefs use Japanese knives in their kitchens. In addition to their flexibility and light weight, they also have different angles than German knives. These angles allow for the precision that is needed in Sashimi preparation, but also allows for chefs in general to make straight cuts.

Japanese knives also have an extremely sharp blade that tends to stay sharp for longer periods of time, depending on the use of the knife. On the Rockwell scale, which is used to determine the hardness of steel, Japanese knives are anywhere in the 60-70 range, which is why the blade stays sharper for longer. In contrast, German knives fall in the mid 50s on the Rockwell scale, which makes the steel softer, but is also one of the reasons why German knives are thicker. This then causes German knives to dull faster with more frequent use.

How Should I Use My Japanese Knives?

knifeIn contrast to the thicker and more durable German knives, Japanese knives should not be used for tough kitchen tasks, like breaking apart chicken bones. The flexibility of the knives allows for precision in cooking and presentation, but also means that the blade is more easily chipped. During this demonstration, Chef David Israelow and Chef Yuuki Tanaka showed this flexibility and precision through the use of five different knife techniques:

  1. San mai oroshi – a 3 piece filet style for round fish
  2. Go mai oroshi – a 5 piece filet style for flat fish
  3. Hegi zukuri – a sashimi cutting style from the left which produce biased cuts on an angle
  4. Hira zukuri – a sashimi cutting style from the right which produce straight block cuts
  5. Sukibiki – a scaling technique where the knife is used to cut the scales off

If you’re ready to purchase a Japanese knife for your kitchen, check out our friends at Korin Knives! They are NYC’s leading experts on Japanese knives and will help you pick out the right knife for your hand, sharpen it, and even show you the proper way to use it!