The Japanese chef knife in today’s modern kitchens
Recently, Japanese chef knives have been gaining popularity, invading even the western market. Although there are some who still feel that these knives will never replace the usefulness and versatility of a western chef’s knife, many more are learning that they are great additions to a chef’s essential knives collection.
One such Japanese made knife is the Santoku knife. Santoku, which means three virtues proudly lives up to its name of being good for dicing, chopping and mincing or its versatility in handling poultry, fish and meat. It is almost like a chef’s knife except that it has a thinner, shorter but wider blade which is best for more refined and delicate jobs. The usual blade length is only about 5” to 9” with smaller versions also, makes it a good choice for those with smaller hands. Its blade differ from the others because of it looks like a narrow-bladed cleaver which makes it ideal for slicing tomatoes, chopping and dicing vegetables and slicing cooked poultry breast best for sandwiches. It could also be used to make thin and even slices from a block cheese or boneless poultry and meat.
Despite its versatility in the kitchen, you might still need other types of knives for other uses and purposes such as paring, filleting or boning. Still, its cutting accuracy, very good balance and comfortable handling will make you its first choice in any kitchen requirement. Just don’t use it for prising or any kind of twisting or even for opening a can.
Santoku knives have very sharp edges and with some style sporting a scalloped or “granton edge” blades. The grooves look stylish enough although it is more for refraining the thin slices from sticking to the knife after slicing than for flair. The hollow ground or bevelled edge of the blades is also for the better cutting performance of the knife.
You might also need to adapt a new style especially in chopping because a santoku knife could not perform well a rocking motion especially used in chopping with the chef’s knife because of its form. It requires a different style of an up-and-down motion which many critics commented could dull the knife’s blade more quickly compared to its counterpart. This could cause a bit of a disadvantage as it is also not easy to sharpen this kind of knife. If in doubt, seek a professional to sharpen your knife rather than risk destroying it by your efforts to try to do it yourself.
Another Japanese style knife that’s being recognized is their version of the western chef’s knife known as Gyutou or Gyuto which is almost a replica except for some slight modifications. Gyutou or ‘cow sword’ does not have the bolster that could be found from the base of the heel in traditional chef’s knives. Because the blade is thinner and harder, it is the best option for those who are not too comfortable with large bladed knives but needs the ease and convenience of a longer knife for varied kitchen needs.
Gyotou knives are lighter than its contemporaries but its narrow bevel makes for precised cutting functions. The sharper and steeper edge makes cutting through the food better because it does not wedge in between as thicker knives do. Yet the hard steel of a gyotou makes sharpening harder or the tendency of some low quality ones to splinter if they are dropped.
So the next time you are in the market for knives, look out for these Japanese chef knives varieties and you might just find one that could be your kitchen partner to easily help you out with the different demands in cooking.