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Japanese Chef Knife Guide

Japanese Chef Knife Guide

2020-06-23

Japanese kitchen knives are coveted for their beautiful and detailed design, as well as the cuts they produce. Their blades are typically thin and delicate, and prone to breaking if you don't take care of them properly — not ideal for the clumsy chef. They allow for thin, precise cuts and beautiful presentation; the ones you’d find in a five-star sushi restaurant.

The reason Japanese chef knife has become so popular around the world is for the very reason they're integral in Japanese cuisine: to enhance and preserve the ingredients, and accentuate the flavor of the dish.
People that are new to Japanese kitchen knives and even some more experienced users often have questions about what makes Japanese different and how the various knife shapes can be used.  What follows is our simple guide on the most common knife types and their specific uses.

  • Gyutou / Chef’s Knife
    Gyutou are the Japanese equivalent of a typical European chef’s knife. They are the ideal all-purpose kitchen knives and can be used for most tasks.  Japanese gyutou are typically lighter and thinner than a European knife, are made out of a harder steel and as a result, hold a better edge.  The design features nothing to obstructing the edge of the handle end of the blade, so it can be sharpened and thus used entirely.  The word gyutou in Japanese means ‘beef knife’.

  • Sujihiki / Slicer
    Sujihiki knives are the equivalent to a European slicer with a few differences.  First, the blade is typically thinner and made out of a harder steel, allowing for better edge retention.  Additionally, the bevel on the blade is sharpened at a steeper angle, allowing for a more precise cut.  Sujihiki can be used for filleting, carving and general purposes.

  • Petty / Paring
    Petty knives are small utility or paring knives that are ideal for small, delicate work that a chef’s knife can’t handle such as delicate produce and herbs, small fruits and vegetables.

  • Honesuki / Boning
    A honesuki is a Japanese boning knife and differs from its Western version, in that it has a triangular shape and a stiff blade with very little flex.  The honesuki works incredibly well for deboning poultry and cutting through soft joints.  Typically it has an asymmetrical edge although 50/50 balanced versions exist.  Due to its shape and height, the honesuki can also function nicely as a utility or petty style of knife.

  • Santoku /  Multipurpose
    Santoku, which means ‘three virtues’ in Japanese, is an all-purpose knife with a taller blade profile than a gyutou.  Its three virtues are the knife’s ability to cut fish, meat and vegetables.   Santoku have a flatter ‘belly’ than gyutou and can be used comfortable with  an up and down chopping motion rather than a ‘rocking’ type cut.


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