Recently, Japanese knives have become fashionable tools among cooking professionals and also among amateurs. They are known for their tradition, aesthetics, and performance, as they look great and cut even better.
The world of knives is vast, from the German to the French schools, through the different metals used in their forging. To delve into this world of cutlery is to enter into centuries of tradition, passion, and knowledge.
Japanese knives are generally lighter and harder (speaking to the flexibility of the metal) than their Western counterparts. Thanks to the different alloys used, they achieve incredible sharpness, allowing them to make those fine, precise cuts their refined dishes are known for. In addition, most traditional Japanese knives have “wa” handles where the balance is blade forward, as opposed to Western style knives with heavier “yo” handles.
Here are two Japanese knives that should be a part of any kitchen:
Without a doubt, one of the most popular Japanese knives worldwide, due to its great versatility and sufficient size, is the santoku, which in Japanese means “three virtues” or “three uses.” Useful for all kinds of ingredients, such as meat, fish or vegetables, this knife is ideal for chopping, slicing, or cutting. Its blade is wide and ends at the tip with a slight downward curvature that makes it very attractive looking. Generally, it is 15-20 centimeters long and easily adapts to all types of kitchens, large or small.
Of the European school, specifically French, gyuto are the Japanese version of the classic chef’s knife. They are long, relatively narrow and end in a sharp point for all those jobs that require precision. They are very versatile, as they can chop and cut all types of vegetables. Thanks to their size (between 21 and 27 centimeters), they can get through large cuts of meat, such as pork leg and beef steaks. Many cooks consider this knife to be the only truly essential knife.
At the end of the day, the decision on which knife to buy depends on its intended use, as well as comfort and ergonomics. Although there are still many aspects to address, such as the different metals and bevels, it is always worthwhile to learn more about a tool that you find in your hands on a daily basis, particularly one whose construction and history we rarely give much thought to.