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Japanese Kitchen Knives

28 Comments

Sales of Japanese kitchen knives are booming, but how many people have the skills to use these superbly crafted tools to full advantage? Now, renowned chef Hiromitsu Nozaki shares his expertise and insights in a book that will help anyone who owns a Japanese knife to maximize its performance.

In "Japanese Kitchen Knives," Nozaki teaches the reader how to use the three main traditional Japanese knives: the usuba, the deba, and the yanagiba. He explains many essential details, such as the importance of the angle of the blade and how force is applied through it, and illustrates these lessons by working with ingredients familiar to Western readers, such as everyday vegetables and rainbow trout. The instructions are accompanied by simple, easy-to-follow recipes that use the cutting techniques described.

As you read the book, you will gain basic knowledge not only about specific techniques using Japanese knives, but also about the knives in general, from basic cutting stance and sharpening techniques to knife anatomy, knife forging, and the enormous range of shapes these knives can take.

One of Tokyo's most renowned chefs shows how to maximize the performance of the world's best knives.

Color photos (from the chef's perspective) and detailed commentary cover the step-by-step process of cutting.

Each cutting technique is accompanied by recipes that call for its use. All recipes are very straightforward, using easily available ingredients.

Specialty knives are shown on location, from a unique unagi eel knife used in a specialty restaurant to a colossal tuna filleting knife wielded at the Tokyo fish market.

Other sections include a look at artisanal Japanese knife-making and information on sharpening, storing and identifying the variety of knives.

© Japan Today

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28 Comments
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According to some of the stroies I have read over the past years that it seems that some lunatics on the streets know how to use them.....not what they are intended for obviously.

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i suppose the technology of excellent kitchen knives is rather unfortunately related to making swords and other more obviously offensive weapons

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I have one of these knives. The sushi variety, made in Kyoto. It is friggen sharp. If you have the opportunity to buy one you have to do it.

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Yes, my in-laws are old sword makers from Seki - the home of traditional sword-making. They also make kitchen knives in the same fashion and they are unholy sharp.

Hand one to an uber-chef who "knows knives" and watch their surprise at just how sharp they are. Contact with the blade at any angle and at any speed will break the skin. Pain in the ass to keen clean and untarnished though as they are high-carbon steel - not the softer stainless steel of ordinary "sharp" knives.

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"softer stainless steel"

Stainless steel is actually harder than high-carbon steel. The steel in a sword needs to flex, if you used staintless it would snap.

Oh, and if they could make me a short sword or tanto for a resonable price let me know.

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i'm sure the blade is wonderful, but do you think they could try some new handle designs? doesn't look like it would be very comfortable to use. and how about a loop for easy hanging?

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Sales of Japanese kitchen knives are booming

Hmmm. Must mean more people are eating at home and learning to cook?

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No no no. Please don't change the handle. The handle should remain the way it is done the japanese traditional way, light and natural. Do not like pakka wood handles and no loop please. I don't like to hang my knives. Original magnolia and other fragrant wood gives a good feeling than plastic or any other material.

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No no no. Please don't change the handle. The handle should remain the way it is done the japanese traditional way, light and natural. Do not like pakka wood handles and no loop please. I don't like to hang my knives. Original magnolia and other fragrant wood gives a good feeling than plastic or any other material.

i don't see any logic in your argument. why not combine the traditional and the modern? needn't be a plastic handle, but with a knife as sharp as this i want to be sure i'll have a firm grip. so why not have a more ergonomically shaped handle? and you may not hang your knives, but some may want to, or have to.

by all means hold onto traditions with practical benefits, but holding onto tradition for the sake of tradition is foolish

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you may not hang your knives, but some may want to, or have to

When it's not in use, you do not want to have one of these babies dangling on the end of a chord. They belong in an enclosed knife stand (most Japanese kitchens have a knife-box on the back of a kitchen cupboard door), for safety's sake. Seriously.

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Ignore my comment about stainless steel being harder, its just more brittle, and less flexible. I dont want to propogate incorrect information.

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"superbly crafted tools"

henkels and wusthof are better

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hmm..i think we will ignore the parts about stainless steel being more brittle and less flexible than high carbon steel too.. These Japanese knives are made from a sandwich of high carbon steel in the middle and tougher/less brittle/more flexible steel on the outsides..it is the forming of this sandwich and its subsequent shaping into a knife(or sword) where the skill in the procedure is required.If you look closely at the blade of a Japanese hand made knife you will see something that looks like a mountain scene along its length this is the junction between the two metals that has been exposed in the sharpening process..called the hamon. High carbon steel can be sharpened to the finest edge but would snap under moderate flexing as it is so brittle so the blade is strengthened by the tougher metal on either side to making a useful tool.

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henkels and wusthof are better

Better than which knives, exactly? Japanese kitchen knives is a general term. They come in many qualities and so do the Henckels knives. I have an expensive set of Zwilling Henckels knives sitting in a woodblock. Never, never hang your knives. I also have a couple of rather expensive Japanese knives, for slicing sushi and a deba for other purposes. Without comparative data the above quote is meaningless.

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The reason I don't use Japanese knives is that they don't have finger-guards at the back end of the blades. Give me ergonomically designed, non-rusting German knives any day.

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With carbide steel in the middle and stainless steel on both sides ,japanese kitchen knives may be superb quality but I love my collection of Thailand stainless steel kitchen knives, Kiwi brand. With 200 dollars you can probably buy just one japanese knife ,but with that money I can buy whole set of Kiwi brand knive from fruit knife to carving knife to meat cleaver... and still have some money left .These knives are so sharp ,so light easy to use and so on, but beware of nasty imitation from China.

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I like Henckels too, but you don't really know what sharp is until you have used a professional Japanese kitchen knife.

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Thailand stainless steel kitchen knives, Kiwi brand

Oh, yes. I remember. Dirt cheap. For those on a limited budget. Their lifespan is limited as well. You will find out in a couple of years.

I do think amateur cooks/chefs don't need to spend a fortune on chef knives, but if you do spend a fair amount of time in the kitchen with the idea of preparing quality dishes you won't be very successful with low priced inferior knives. Cheap knives lose their cutting edge real quick. If you think Japanese knives rust, you have never seen a real Japanese knife. Wanna know more? Have a look here: http://reviews.cookingcache.com/kitchen-knives-review.html

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i'm sure the blade is wonderful, but do you think they could try some >new handle designs? doesn't look like it would be very comfortable to >use. and how about a loop for easy hanging?

I have used Japanese Hocho's for a few decades and I assure you that the very simple handle is extremely comfortable. Furthermore, it's more than just tradition. The simplicity itself allows a greater concentration and control at the cutting edge, a necessity as some aspects of Japanese cuisine which call for some almost unbelievably detailed cutting. There's no way that as modern "erognomic" handle could provide this as I have found from personal experience. The handle of Japanese knives made of wood also has an antibacterial aspect, a trait shared by many traditional Japanese cooking tools. NOTHING beats Japanes knives for reducing a whole fish into anything you want. That said, I still prefer my Wustoffs to prepare and carve my rib roast. Very few people in the U.S. "hang" their knives, most everyone relying on knife blocks for storage. There really is no need for loops or straps on ANY kithen knife. I've watched Japanese chefs keep their knives very carefully stored each one wrapped in cloth.

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The reason I don't use Japanese knives is that they don't have finger->guards at the back end of the blades. Give me ergonomically designed, >non-rusting German knives any day.

Japanese knives and German knives were originally designed for different cuisines calling for differnt cutting styles and methods. They really aren't interchangable. And if you really need a finger guard to use a kitchen knife you shouldn't be in the kitchen. The vast majority of German, French, American, and their collective Chinese knockoffs and such, don't have finger guards.

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henkels and wusthof are better

Silly comment. The range of "Japanese kitchen knives" is unbelievably wide startuing from low priced ones foun in any "home center" to the most sought after expensive ones. Henkels is better? Which ones, the Henkels International Series priced ultra low made in China crap, or the slightly better ones made in Spain or the good stuff made in Solingen Germany? I own both Henckels and Wustofs (same company now I believe) and they have their place for sure, but it's not the same as that for Japanese knives.

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tclh,

Yeah, those Kiwi knives are great aren't they? 8", $3.99. Assorted small ones, $1.50 each. I'd get the $8.99 cleaver, but I want to keep my fingers.

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henkels and wusthof are better

Those are bad knives. Go read anthony bourdain's book "kitchen confidential", Most professional chefs in america don't even use henkels and wusthof, they prefer global brand knives.

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I love mono-histories. I have read the history of the pencil, the toilet and most recently one about chewing gum. There are mono-histories for almost anything in the world. They are fun reads.

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Globals are fabulous. i must also say I am amazed at the extent of JT readers' knife knowledge. Seesm this book is redundant

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I've had a Swiss-made kitchen knife for 30 years. It's cut countless vegetables, chicken, fish, etc., I never sharpen it and it's still sharp as a razor! ( won't cut tin cans, though, like the kitchen knife in that commercial where they say "Wait - there's more!"

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I can just picture a Monty Python sketch with someone bumbling into hanging Japanese knives and coming out much the worse for it :-D Besides it being like having a razor hanging on the wall, the other reason not to hang, jostle or crash them about is chipping of the blades. It can be fixed, but why damage them in the first place?

I for an American knock-off of a Japanese knife, the shape of both blade and handle is identical (the handle is steel though) and one month on it won't cut butter :-D

If you go to a kanemonoya outside the city you can get really nice knives for about 8500 each. I wouldn't use anything else.

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I use a tanto in shira saya signed Sa for daily kichen use, that sucker is sharp !!

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