Japanese knives need no introduction to the world, especially for those who have a love for cooking. Whilst German knives have long been the center of attention for chefs around the world, Japanese knives have absolutely boomed in popularity over the recent decade, and rightfully so.
Growing up, you may have witnessed one or two knives being passed around the kitchen, used for chopping meat, slicing vegetables, paring fruit, and so on. Having that one general knife did make cooking easier and quicker, but what if the cook wanted something more?
Nowadays, when you go searching for a good kitchen knife, you’ll likely be bombarded with an entire list of Japanese knives, all with different purposes. This is one of the many reasons why their popularity has risen so much – they each serve a great purpose.
There are several other core reasons why many people consider Japanese knives the best in the world. These include their strong composition, intricately crafted angles, perfectly balanced weight, and their admirable aesthetics. We’ll explore the reasons below.
1. Blade Composition
One of the biggest reasons why Japanese knives are highly sought after is because of their composition. They have relatively higher carbon content, meaning they generally have a harder, tougher blade edge. Thus, they last longer and are more durable.
There are two ways to compose a Japanese knife: the honyaki method, where solid carbon steel is used, and the kasumi method, where hard steel is forged between soft iron.
Regardless, compared to European blades, Japanese blades scale at 58-65 on the Rockwell scale, whilst European blades scale at 52-56.
2. Knife Purpose
Unlike their western counterparts, where knives are created without a definitive core purpose and can generally be used for multiple activities, Japanese knives are specialized.
The intricacy in creating each blade means that each specific knife is meant for a single type of task. Everything is taken into consideration, from the weight of the handle to the length of the blade, to make knife use as seamless as possible.
3. Blade Angle
The bevel edge is where most people will actually see and feel the difference between Japanese knives and other knives. Most Japanese blades are sharpened at about 15 degrees compared to the average 20 degrees of western blades.
The thinner blade slices through food easier and provides a cleaner cut. This is particularly important for people preparing Japanese food, as dishes such as sashimi require precision preparation.
4. Knife Weight
Japanese knives are known to be artfully lightweight in any hand. During creation, they’re hammered to an extremely thin width, and designed to taper inside the handle. When compared to western knives, they’re much easier on the wrists.
The weight and shape of Japanese knives also contribute to the different cutting style when using it. Unlike western-style knives, where cutting is usually in a swift downward motion, Japanese knives are made to slice the food in a motion towards you. This is referred to as draw-cutting.
As you can imagine, with knives as thin, light, and sharp as Japanese knives, cutting through tough foods such as bones will damage the blade.
5. Blade Beauty
Incredible make and quality aside, one of the many reasons why people, even those who consider themselves amateurs in the kitchen, look at getting themselves a Japanese knife is because of the unique aesthetic.
In short, they are stunning.
You’ll find many knives at the shops looking quite average, and with most people only caring about how it helps make their lives easier in the kitchen, it’s not hard to see why.
However, for those looking for something with a little extra pizzazz, Japanese knives are the perfect addition to any kitchen. In line with the Japanese principle of ‘presentation is key’, Japanese knife-makers ensure that everything, from the handles to the box in which it comes in, is top-tier quality.
They’re known to make fantastic and welcomed gifts for family and friends!
If you are planning to buy Japanese Knives, make sure to check out this article about the 9 best Japanese knives.
Top 3 Most Common Japanese Knives
- Gyutou – The Chef’s Knife – This is the most versatile all-rounder knife which can slice through most foods easily and seamlessly. No Japanese chef can live without one.
- Nakiri – The Sharp Utility Knife – This is a thin and extremely sharp blade, perfect for chopping and slicing through vegetables.
- Santoku – The All-Purpose Knife – This knife is one of the most popular for Asian kitchens. The blade itself is slightly longer than gyutou, making it great for chopping and cutting in a back-and-forth rocking motion.
If you’re looking at Japanese knives, chances are that you have some disposable income! We all know now that they’re not cheap and are certainly considered higher-end kitchen utensil range. We highly recommend looking at getting a santoku knife first to test its ability and fit before looking at expanding your range. Happy shopping!