[Let's Learn About Knives - Part 1]
Compare Thoroughly About The Knife's Differences in Types and Materials


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What kind of knife do you use on a regular basis?

Whether it's for your family or for yourself, kitchen tools are crucial for people who are cooking every day.

If it's possible, you absolutely want to be able to use your kitchen tools for a long time, right? Although there's also a lot of people who think that they "somehow will use the kitchen tools they choose for a long time".

To be honest, I myself, as a housewife, also that kind of people.
So, to focus in one thing, I think we should know about kitchen knife first.

To begin with, I will introduce the type of kitchen knife.
In addition, there's also thorough comparison up to difference of the materials and types.

Various kinds of kitchen knives are made according to its purpose and food materials. The kitchen knives' world is a very deep world.

包丁アイコン Various kind of Kitchen Knife

There are wide-ranging variety of kitchen knives. Kitchen knives' types are categorized according to the function of cutting certain types of food material, but due to the difference in structure, they can be roughly divided into two types, which is "Western knife" and "Japanese knife".

Western Knife

It's a general term for kitchen knives used mainly in Western cuisine.
Originally, it was made with the purpose of cutting meat, and it has developed mainly in Europe and the United States.


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Structure/How to Cut

Youbouchou (Western knife) is a knife with V-shaped and "double-edged" structure with symmetrical blade cross section.

The main purpose of this knife is pressing and cutting (push-cutting).

Using the weight of the kitchen knife, while pushing the knife forward, cut by applying force from the cutting edge towards the blades.

Cutting in this way makes it easy to cut even solid or hard food materials.

Because this "push-cutting" technique can apply firm and strong force, it is suitable for cutting bones, hard and streaky meats, and coarse fibre vegetables.


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Variety

Western Kitchen Knife has wide-ranging varieties with various purposes.

Because western cuisine composed mainly of meat, there are many kitchen knives especially just for cutting meat, such as Gyuto knife (chef's knife), Sujibiki knife (meat carving knife), Nikukiri knife (meat chopper knife).

However, on the other hand, there's also kitchen knives used for slicing and peeling vegetables, fruits, breads, such as petit knife (small knife) and bread cutting knife.

Recently, even one kind of western kitchen knife is being used extensively.
For example, if you have gyuto knife, not only for cutting meat, you also can use it for carving and peeling/skinning the meat. You also can use it for another raw material.

Santoku kitchen knife (all-purpose kitchen knife) is often used in Japanese family.

Gyuto Knife (Chef's Knife)

Originally, it is a thin, long blade cut knife, primarily to slice and disjoint large cuts of meat (carcass).

It is widely available in various size, varies from 18 cm for household use such as vegetables and bread cutting, up to 40 cm for meat cutting.


Click here to see Gyuto Knife Products

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Sujibiki Knife (Meat Carving Knife)

A long slender kitchen knife with the purpose to cut large blocks with hard streaks when cutting meat into smaller blocks.

You can also use it for carving roasted beef.

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Meat Cutting Knife (Butcher's Knife)

This is a special kitchen knife with purpose to cut meat, mainly used in a meat shop.

It is used in an application such as peeling the bones from the body, to peel the skin, and to cut the meat into appropriate quantity or certain shape.
The person who does the meat cutting in the shop called "butcher".

Slicer

It is a knife used mainly for slicing sliced meat, sashimi, ham and such. The cutting edge has round and slender shape.


Click here to see Slicer Knife Products

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Honesuki Knife (Boning Knife)

It is a knife used for cutting the meat off the bone. Honesuki Knife also called Sabaki.

Santoku Knife (All-purpose Kitchen Knife)

Santoku Knife is an all-purpose kitchen knife commonly used in Japanese houses.

Since the blade is thin, you can use it to cut vegetables, meat and fish, that's why it's called santoku (all-purpose). Santoku knife was created by combining Nakiri Bocho knife (Japanese traditional knife used for cutting vegetables) and Gyuto knife, because after the war ended, the number of making meat dishes and western food at home increased.


Click here to see Santoku Knife Products

Petit Knife/Small Knife

Small utility knives with wide-range applications such as peeling vegetables and fruits, decorating fruits for cocktails and cakes.


Click here to see Petit Knife Products

Bread Cutting Knife

Some of them are corrugated blades to make it easier to cut soft bread, the blade is thin, and the width is narrow, so it can cut soft bread without crushing it. Bread cutting knife sometimes also called bread knife or bread slicer. To slice bread in a certain thickness, you need to use a special guide.


Click here to see Bread Cutting Knife Products

Butter Knife, Cheese Knife

A small knife used for slicing butter and cheese.


Click here to see Butter Knife/Cheese Knife Products

Japanese knife / kitchen knife that compatible with delicate beauty of Japanese cuisine

It is a Japanese kitchen knife used mainly in Japanese cuisine.
Japanese people has a fixation to be very particular about Japanese cuisine as their meal.
Their cooking is very delicate, even with the cutting operation such as carving, or peeling, it can be said that it is a series of detailed work requiring the accuracy of the chef's fingertip.

Japanese knives have developed while adapting to the delicacy of the Japanese cuisine.
It is said that the prototype is from the Japanese sword, and its sharpness can be said to be identical with the Japanese knife.


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Structure/How to Cut

Many Japanese knives are based on a single-edged structure.
The back is flat surface, with only an oblique grinding surface on the front side.
When you look at the cutting edge from the side, the section looks like a letter "L".

Compared to double-edged structure, one-edged structure is easy to separate from the blade when cutting food, making it possible to quickly perform operations such as carving and stripping.

The main technique is hikikiri (cut by pulling) technique.
Using the entire blade, slide while pushing and cut it off.
By slicing while sliding the blade, you can cut it at a sharper angle than the actual kitchen knife blade, so you can finish the cut surface more beautifully.
When cutting soft food materials such as fish, cut it with hikikiri technique, so that the meat tissue is not destroyed as much as possible, and the beauty of cut surfaces from the sashimi stand out.


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Variety

Japanese knives have its own function according to the food materials and various kinds of knives are made depending on the application.

For example, to cut soft raw materials like fish and chicken meat, when you want to cut or beheading the fish, you use the Deba bocho (pointed carving knife), and if you want to do delicate slicing method such as making Sashimi, you can use Sashimi bocho (sashimi knife).

If you want to cut vegetables, you can use Nakiri bocho (Japanese knife for cutting vegetables).

While Nakiri bocho is used for regular use in household, Usuba bocho (thin knife) which also for cutting vegetables is widely used for professional chef because Usuba bocho is suitable for peeling and fine workmanship.

Unlike Western knives, Japanese knives are also prepared for right-handed and left-handed user.

Deba bocho (Deba Knife)

Deba bocho is primarily used for cutting fish, chicken, and such.

The blade is thick and heavy and the shape is triangle. So even if you put your strength, you can use the cutting edge without bending.

It has been called "Deba bocho" from the first time the knife was developed by the blacksmith in Edo Period.

Depending on the size, it may be called a large blade, medium blade, small blade.


Click here to see Deba bocho Products

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Usuba bocho (Usuba Knife)

Usuba bocho is traditional Japanese vegetable kitchen knife to cut general vegetables, has been used by the Japanese since long time ago.

The blade is thin and very versatile for Japanese cuisine, can be used for specialized cuts such as katsuramuki (shaving a vegetable cylinder into a thin sheet).

Sometimes it is also called "kogata usuba bocho (small rectangular-shaped thin-bladed knife)" or "kawamuki bocho (peeling knife)".

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Nakiri bocho (Nakiri Knife)

Nakiri bocho is Japanese kitchen knife mainly used for cutting vegetables.

Though it is similar in shape with Usuba bocho, Nakiri bocho is double-edged knife with a rounded tip, widely used for household. The function is different from Usuba bocho, it can't be used for professional work such as professional carving and cutting work.

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Sashimi bocho (Sashimi Knife)

Sashimi knife is a knife used especially for making sashimi.

If the blade is reciprocated when you use it to cut the raw fish, the cut surface of the fish will get damaged. The long blade allows you to cut the fish in a single stroke.

Originally, there are Kanto type and Kansai type. The Kansai type is called "Yanagi-ba" because of its sharp and pointed shape. In recent years, Yanagi-ba has become mainstream nationwide including in the Kanto area.

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Takohiki bocho (Takohiki Knife)

This is the Kanto version of Sashimi bocho. It has straight blade and rectangular end, slightly thinner than the Yanagi-ba.

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Mioroshi bocho (Mioroshi Knife)

It's a variety of Deba bocho (pointed carving knife). The blade of the Mioroshi bocho is narrower and thinner. It is possible to slicing sashimi all with one knife.

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Funayuki bocho (Funayuki Knife)

Funayuki bocho has similar shape with Mioroshi bocho, but with thinner blade.

It’s an all-purpose knife that able to cut fish and vegetables. The original purpose of this knife was as a multipurpose knife for being used on fishing boats because the fisher can't carry many cooking utensils.

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Unagisaki hocho (Unagisaki knife)

Unagisaki hocho is a special kitchen knife with the purpose of cutting/filleting eel.

It is made to be easy to handle the surface of the eel which is very slimy and slippery. The sharp tip of the knife is able the cut the eel, then slid along the body of the eel to open up the entire length of the eel at once.

The shape varies depending on the region.

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Fuguhiki bocho (Fuguhiki Knife)

Fuguhiki is a special kitchen knife to cut fugu (pufferfish) to make it into fugu sashimi.

It has long and thin blade, the body width is thinner compared to sashimi knife. In order to cut the pufferfish beautifully thin, it is made with emphasis on sharpness.

In addition to this, there are quite a variety of Japanese knives according to the type of fish, for example; Maguro bocho (to cut tuna), Anago hocho (to cut conger eel), Hamo kiri (to cut the bone of daggertooth pike conger), Fu hocho (kitchen knife to shape kamaboko, Japanese fish cake), Katsuo hocho (to cut bonito/sardine), etc.

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Menkiri bocho (Menkiri Knife)

Kitchen knife specialized for cutting thin and long textured batter into noodle shape, such as soba or udon.

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Sushi kiri bocho (Sushi kiri Knife)

Sushi kiri bocho is a special knife used by professional sushi chef to cut rolled sushi such as futomaki (thick roll sushi) and makizushi (rolled sushi).

The blade has a rounded shape like a kamaboko (Japanese fish cake), and it can cut without crushing the rice and ingredients inside the sushi roll.

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Mochi kiri bocho (Mochi kiri Knife)

This is a knife dedicated to cut mochi. Since you can cut with both hands, it is suitable for cutting hard rice cake.

Besides the above, there are various kinds of special knives made according to the nature of the ingredients to be cut, such as special knives to cut agar-agar, confectionary, tofu, watermelon, etc.

Other Variety of Knife (Chinese Knife)

There is also a kitchen knife that isn't categorized as Japanese knife or Western knife.

Variety

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Chinese Knife

It is an all-purpose knife with a wide blade for Chinese food.

Usually the blade has rectangle shape. In the Chinese kitchen, only Chinese knives are used to handle most of ingredients.

References: Wikipedia

"Do they really have that many kinds of knives?"
I think many people were surprised by the variety of kitchen knives.

Although this kitchen knife is plenty prepared, actually there were many other special things that professional chefs use.
So, when we actually want to use it at home, what kind of kitchen knife should we choose?
Next, we would like to see which kitchen knife is best for household according to the ingredients and uses.

包丁アイコン How to Choose Kitchen Knife


Choosing according to the raw materials

There are various kinds of knives, it’s a good idea to choose which kitchen knife is best depending on the raw ingredients and art of cooking.

We will introduce it separately depending on the circumstances for your reference when you are unsure what kind of kitchen knife you should choose and use.

To Cut Meat

■ General cut of meat: Gyuto Knife

■ To cut the muscle part: Sujibiki Knife

■ To cut meat from bones: Honesuki Knife

To Cut Fish

■ To cut and fillet: Deba Knife

■ To cut into Sashimi: Sashimi Knife

To Cut Vegetables

■ To cut: Nakiri Knife

■ Peeling and decorating: Usuba Knife

To Cut Bread

■ To slice: Bread Knife

To Cut Fruit and Small Ingredients

■ Slice and Peeling: Petit Knife

To Cut Any Raw Ingredients

■ To cut meat, fish and vegetables: All-purpose Knife

As you can see above, for meat, fish, vegetables, even the same kitchen knife is different depending on the application.
Originally, it is best to use it properly according to its function, but it may be difficult to arrange all the knives above.

So, if you want to cut meat, you can use the general knife for meat "gyuto knife",
if you want to cut fish, you can use the relatively short in length and easy to store "deba knife",
and if you want to cut vegetables, you can use the general knife for vegetables "nakiri knife".

With that, we think it's good to prepare one for each different raw ingredient.

But, in case of you can't really prepare many kind of knives and just want a multi-purpose kitchen knife that can be used for all ingredients, we recommend you the multi-purpose kitchen knife called "santoku knife".

Choose by Material of Kitchen Knife

Besides of choosing knives according to the application, it is also important to choose the material of your kitchen knife.

Depending on what material is used for kitchen knife, its properties greatly different, and the method of care will also different.

Please make yourself a reference while taking into consideration of your own preference of knife, whether to choose it by sharpness, rust-resistant, easy sharpening, etc.

Steel (Carbon Steel)

It is a hard metal containing iron as its main component with carbon, silicon, manganese, etc.

Carbon steel which contains carbon in general is used for kitchen knife. Steels containing carbon are said to be more suitable for making knives than iron with a purity of 100% because it can raise the hardness at once by adding heat when tempering.

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The greatest feature of knife using steel is the sharpness.

On the other hand, it also has the disadvantage of being easily get rust.

Because the carbon contained in it is weak against rust, if you leave it without regular maintenance, it will rust. However, in terms of sharpening, steel knives are generally said to be easier to sharpen than stainless steel knives.

That’s why, it is highly recommended for those who don’t have time to spare for sharpening by themselves and want to use it for a long time.

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Steel for kitchen knife is famous for the material called "Yasuki steel".
Yasuki steel is steel manufactured at Hitachi Metals, there are types such as blue paper steel and white paper steel.

Blue Paper Steel

It is used for high grade kitchen knife.

Components such as chromium and tungsten have been added to the blank steel. Chromium is a component that strengthens steel and makes it hard to rust. On the other hand, tungsten prevents property change during heat treatment and increases the hardness of steel, as a result, it has superiority in strength, rust-resistance and abrasion-resistance when compared to plain paper steel.

It has a very sharp cutting edge.
Its sharpness is said to be the highest peak, among the materials of kitchen knife.

As a result, many professional chefs and other professionals are using it.
It is more expensive than the white paper steel.

White Paper Steel

It is steel which removes impurities such as phosphorus and sulfur which deteriorates the properties of steel.

The sharpness is somewhat inferior to blue paper steel.
It has unique sharpness that you can use to cut hard food ingredients.

Blue paper steel and white paper steel are distinguished from No. 1 and No. 2 from those with more carbon, depending on the carbon content.
The higher the carbon content, the better the hardness (sharpness) and abrasion resistance of the blade.
In addition, blue paper steel has the rank of "Super Blue Steel" as the highest quality.

Stainless Steel

Actually, stainless steel is the same metal as steel.

Although iron is the main component, both are classified according to the content of components such as carbon and chromium.

Compared with carbon steel, stainless steel has a very small amount of carbon, and conversely it is a metal which contain a lot of chromium. Carbon has a property of being rusty, on the contrary, chromium has a rust-resistant component.

Therefore, stainless steel is hard to get rusty, and has the advantage of excellence durability.

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The rust-resistant ability is the greatest asset of stainless steel.

Although it doesn't get rust, it isn't comparable with steel. The stainless-steel knife's sharpness is still inferior to steel.

For that reason, it has been said that stainless steel knives are not suitable for business use.

However, in recent years, efforts have been made to add a small amount of carbon to stainless steel,
and many stainless knives with hardness and toughness (tenacity) have appeared.

Molybdenum Steel

Molybdenum is a material added to stainless steel.

When molybdenum is added, steel can be kept without deteriorating its properties and keep its strength even at high temperatures. Adding molybdenum is very advantageous even in small amounts.
Generally speaking about the stainless-steel knife, there seems a lot of stainless steel knives using this molybdenum steel.

Molybdenum vanadium steel is made by adding vanadium in addition to molybdenum.
Vanadium is a component that makes steel stronger. It improves abrasion resistance.

By adding these two components to stainless steel, even though the stainless steel has a weak point, the strength of stainless steel increases and wear resistance increases.

Ceramic

It is made of non-metal zirconia ceramic material.

It is characterized by its high strength, strong heat, and light weight.

Due to its hardness, it can maintain a certain sharpness even if the blade is thin.

Also, because it is light weight, your hands won’t get tired easily even if you use it for a long time.

It is not metal, so it will not rust, and it is nice for those who wants to use it daily.

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However, on the other hand, it is easier to crack and tend to be chipped.

Because it is a material that is hard and supple, it may cause blade chipping when cutting hard items such as fish and meat bones, pumpkin, watermelon and big items.

It is a kitchen knife that suitable for things such as chopping vegetables, peeling or cutting leaves, but it is not suitable for large cooking such as handling big fish or cutting meat.

Also, ceramics knives can't be sharpened with ordinary whetstones.
It is necessary to sharpen with a dedicated sharpener such as a diamond sharpener, and it is quite difficult to clean it at home.

Other Materials


Damascus Steel

Damascus steel is a steel with a woodgrain pattern.

Derived from some parts of India, it used Iron ore as a raw material.

Although it was once valued as a material for swords, its manufacturing technology has been lost now, and it is difficult to reproduce it.

Damascus knives currently in general use molybdenum steel for the sword core, there seems to be a lot of things made by overlaying Damascus steel in layers.

By stacking Damascus steel on many layers and forging, a woodgrain pattern can be formed.

This unique pattern is the greatest feature of Damascus kitchen knife.

However, there is no particular impact on sharpness.
It is said that it is valued as a design with a high sense of quality.

Tamahagane (lit. Round and Precious Steel)

Tamahagane is a special steel mainly used for Japanese sword materials.

It's made from sand iron as raw material and manufactured by Japanese ancient iron manufacturing method called "tatara", which produced the good quality part which called "tamahagane".

However, both materials and manufacturers are limited, and due to the high cost of production, it is now considered extremely rare and difficult to obtain.

Because tamahagane is primarily used for swords, the people who are able to obtain it will be called "swordsmith".

There is even less tamahagane that used as kitchen knives, it seems that it’s very difficult to obtain the tamagagane knife nowadays.

Warikomi Process

This is one of the construction methods of kitchen knife,
for processing the material to be a blade,
squeeze hard metal to create the blade core.

In other words, it is a kitchen knife that uses two different materials.

It is common to see carbon steel such as blue paper steel or white paper steel as the blade core and both sides sandwiched between stainless steel.

Carbon steel is sharp, but it has the property of being rusty.

Therefore, by using stainless steel for the surface layer,
it is possible to suppress rust from appearing on the entire blade,
it is made to pursue the ideal state of kitchen knife "sharp and rust-resistant".

From the above, we explained mainly by dividing it into three materials.

To summarize it easily:

・If your priority is the sharpness …………「Steel(Carbon Steel)」
・Sharp + Rust-resistant …………………………「Stainless Steel」
・Easy operation and light weight …………「Ceramics」

It's difficult to give the perfect score for the materials because each has advantages and disadvantages.

For that reason, we think that it is good to first arrange the important point you think is necessary for kitchen knife, and then choose the right one that suits it.

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As mentioned above, we introduced various kinds of kitchen knives from various angles by classifying them into its type/variety, function, and material.

包丁アイコン Recommended Items for Steel Kitchen Knives


※Including those made by combining steel and stainless steel.

包丁アイコン Recommended Items for Stainless Kitchen Knives


How do you think was that?
By referring to this article, I hope that you can select the best kitchen knife that suits you.

Next, we will introduce the basic usage of kitchen knife, and the trivia knowledge about cutting.

Click the article's name to continue to the next part of the article,
[Let's Learn About Knives part 2] How to Use The Knife Well