The Japanese chef knife is one of the world’s most desired and sought-after knives. Anybody interested in knives, particularly the culinary kind, wants to own one of these. Until almost a decade ago, owning the best Japanese chef knife was not affordable for the average home because of its expensive price. The real chef’s knives were found only in the kitchen of a professional.
There was good reason for this: It is, quite literally, the world’s sharpest knife. The knife-making technology is unique and tested over generations of Japanese craftsmanship deriving its roots from the Samurai generation of sword making. Imagine using a mini-sword in your kitchen. The experience of chopping with one of these is very exhilarating!
If you’re looking for a Japanese chef knife, there are several kinds, each with different features based on their purpose. The three main knives are Usuba, Nakiri, and Deba bocho. All Japanese knives are beveled on the right and come with traditional wooden or bamboo handles. Some of the different styles of the true Japanese chef knife are listed below:
What is the best Japanese chef knife?
Santoku: The name means “three virtues,” as this knife can cut, dice and mince. It resembles a French chef knife but is lighter, with the edge raised at a smaller angle which makes cutting easier. Some variations are seen in the blade-style – sometimes, the edge is straight and sometimes the cutting edge has depressions on them to reduce friction while cutting.
Usuba bocho: Usuba means “thin blade,” as these knives have relatively slender blades, and are used for chopping vegetables. They are tall, resemble a small meat cleaver, and give knuckle space while chopping on a chopping board.
Nakiri bocho: This is another vegetable dicing and chopping knife, and has a thin 2mm blade. It resembles a cleaver but should not be used like one. The blade of this knife brand is long enough to slice through a vegetable in a single motion.
Kazari bocho: These are vegetable carving knives with rectangular blades that narrow down to a point at the tip of the knife edge.
Deba bocho: This versatile knife doubles as both a cleaver and a chef’s knife. It’s typically used to cut meat, slice fish into large pieces, and cut fish bones. This knife has two variations in size, and the blade is thick and beveled on one side.
Fugu hiki knife: This is a special fish knife that is specifically for slicing Fugu fish into thin slices for sashimi. The blade is thin, flexible, and broad with a traditional wooden handle and the knife is shaped like a Fugu fish.
Japanese versus European kitchen knives
The Japanese chef knife differs considerably from its western counterparts. European knives, for instance, are made of softer metals. They are lighter and easier to use, but are known to lose their sharpness easily. On the other hand, American chef knives are made of harder alloys and stay sharp for a longer period of time, but they are harder to use.
Japanese knives Grades
Japanese forged knives are made of even harder alloys: A high carbon steel alloy which includes vanadium, chromium, molybdenum, and cobalt called V Gold 10 (an indigenously developed metal that the Japanese government refuses to export). The knife blade metal is folded many times which makes the blade both flexible and strong, retaining sharpness for a longer time. Therefore, the unique materials used and the process of folding together puts the Japanese chef knife on a level of its own. This is also the reason for its expensive price tag.
If you are looking to cut the thinnest slice of meat or fish, chop crisp vegetables with a touch of the master chef, then a Japanese chef knife will be a great asset.