About Japanese knives

About Japanese knives

Japanese kitchen knives are dramatically different from western cutlery. The blades are generally much thinner, the grinds of the blade are asymmetrical, the edge angle is much more acute and the steel used in the knife is significantly harder. This design has evolved to match the delicate and precise cuisine in which they were intended for.

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The craftsman in Japan favour very high carbon steels in their cutlery, the additional carbon in the blade aids in achieving a much higher hardness after heat treatment. Many of the forges in Japan are family run operations that have been in operation for many generations, the intimate understanding that the Japanese bladesmiths have developed for their craft has stemmed from ancient swordmaking techniques, these legendary swords are renowned as some of the most metallurgically advanced weapons ever produced. Through careful forging and heat treatment the Japanese smith is carefully controlling and refining the steels microstructure, by refining this crystalline structure they are increasing the hardness and strength of the blade, this also makes them capable of the very highest levels of sharpness due to their very fine uniformity. Harder knives are capable of supporting much finer edge geometries, the smiths take advantage of this and forge the blades much thinner than western cutlery to minimise the grinding work and give them and edge geometry with ferocious cutting ability.

Japanese chefs cut on the push, thrusting the blade gently forwards with the knife positioned closer to the edge of the cutting board. This precise cutting style preserves the edge of the blade; European cooks tend to roll the heel of the knife across the cutting surface, this technique subjects the edge to lateral force and will quickly cause the edge of the knife to roll over. Japanese knives are best utilised with a thrust cutting action as this will help protect the extremely thin edge.

To preserve a Japanese knife it’s important to avoid cutting hard ingredients especially bone. Hard surfaces like glass, steel and ceramic are not suitable for cutting on as this will quickly dull the edge of your knife and can lead to you chipping the blade. Handwashing is essential as the powerful detergents, heat and moisture in a dishwasher can ruin your knife and handle over time.