santoku knife

Japanese Chef Knives – The Santoku Knife

Japanese Chef Knives - The Santoku Knife

Japanese kitchen knives are legendary around the world.  The precision of Japanese cuisine naturally requires a range of incredibly specific tools, and for many, this is part of the fascination. Specialist tools like Sashimi knives play an essential part in this cuisine. However, few people realize that the real stalwart of all Japanese kitchen knives is the Santoku knife.  This versatile blade is a must for budding chefs with interest in Japanese cuisine. The market for Japanese knives Australia is burgeoning, with the love affair between Japanese cuisine and Australia driving this interest.  For home chefs looking for Santoku knives, Australia has plenty to offer, as the nation discovers the worth of this incredibly useful blade. .

Three Uses

‘Santoku’ means ‘three virtues,’ but in the case of the knife, it is closer to ‘three uses’.  This principle of three refers to meat, fish and vegetables.   Before World War II, the Nakiri knife was ubiquitous.  This knife cut vegetables efficiently. With vegetables used as a mainstay in Japan's cuisine, the use of the blade for vegetables made sense. After the war, the consumption of meat and fish increased. It led to the need for new Japanese kitchen knives better-suited to the purpose.  Enter: the Santoku knife.  This blade could work effectively with meat, fish and vegetables. Of course, the Australian palate ranges across all three of these.  As curiosity deepens regarding different Japanese knives, Australia will undoubtedly come to embrace the Santoku knife for this reason. .

The Perfect Starter Knife

Many of us are unfamiliar with Japanese knives Australia and need to know the best choice for a home chef.  Because of its versatility, the Santoku knife is the perfect choice for anyone wanting to make a start here. This knife can pretty much do it all.  Its slightly curved blade assists with the rocking motion that chefs use when cutting.  It has a sharp point, unlike the Nakiri knife, which is essential with meat and fish.  It is a versatile blade that is perfect for those just beginning their love affair with homemade Japanese food. Without direct experience of how Japanese kitchens work, it can be tough to understand Japanese kitchen knives.  True, there are some incredibly specialist tools.  For the most part, though, Japanese cuisine rests on the same principles as all cultures: making something delicious from whatever you have. Australians know and love this principle.  As it discovers Santoku knives, Australia will fall ever more in love with this unique cuisine and culture.  

Limitations

No knife is perfect.  The reason that more specialist knives exist is that sometimes, you need something purpose-built.  A Santoku knife can't cut a bony fish like a Deba knife.  It can't match a Sashimi knife for that perfectly thin slice.  But, these aren't necessarily tasks for beginners. For most of us in our home kitchens, the ‘goal’ merely is preparing something delicious without spending a fortune.  We don't need thousands of dollars' worth of new equipment — not yet!  Save that for when we're masters of the craft.  As it discovers Santoku knives, Australia is going to learn so much more about the versatility of Japanese cuisine.

The Japanese Knives Australia Needs

One last piece of advice: if you hear anyone saying that Japanese knives must be single bevel, ignore them.  The single bevel suits highly precise, specialist knives, but not the Santoku knife.  A double bevel is perfect.  This knife is versatile, and it's not worth paying extra for some fancy words that won't help you in the kitchen. The world of Japanese kitchen knives is vast and exciting. It might be worth branching out into some of the more exotic knives on the market.  For those of us just starting with Japanese cuisine, it's Santoku knives Australia needs to create delicious, elegant food.

Final Thoughts

It can take a little while to get used to straight chopping, and you may want to practice slowly at the start. But, it is well worth mastering, and you will see the obvious benefits to your cooking in no time when you master this skill. Why not consider transforming your cooking today with Nakiri knives in Australia? 

Kato SG2 Nakiri

Japanese Chef Knives – The Nakiri

Japanese Chef Knives - The Nakiri

Most of us know there's a Japanese chef knife for just about everything: knives for meat and knives for fish. Meanwhile, the Western-style chef's knife or Japanese Gyuto knife quite literally do everything. You've got great options when it comes to Japanese knives in Australia. But did you know there's a knife just for cutting vegetables, too? In Japanese cooking, that blade is the Nakiri knife. You might think that any blade will do to cut veggies, but that isn't true. For anyone interested in finding the right tools to hone their culinary skills, you will want to know about more Nakiri knives, Australia, and other markets offer.

What Exactly Is It?

If you speak Japanese, you will know that Nakiri means ‘vegetable cutter’ or ‘leaf cutter.’ This kind of culinary blade has the specific purpose of cutting vegetables, and it won't be much good chopping anything else. It has a high, flat blade with a straight edge, a square tip and a blade measuring around 160mm. Nakiri knives are small and light, which makes them ideal for the task of cutting vegetables.

The Origins And History

Before the Second World War, this blade was one of — if not the most — popular knives in Japan. Back then, meat-eating was growing in popularity as new food cultures entered Japan, and people became wealthier. However, people primarily ate vegetarian dishes at this time. The main ingredients were more widely available and more affordable. Given this context, the Nakiri knife was an immensely popular tool, regularly used by people at home and chefs in the kitchen. Naturally, as meat-eating became more widespread after the Second World War, the use of and demand for the Nakiri knife decreased. However, this background forever established the Nakiri blade as one of the classic Japanese knives.  

The Nakiri Knife Today

Just as culinary habits and diets evolved after the Second World War, so are they changing today. Vegan and vegetarian diets are growing in popularity for ethical and health reasons, and as people recognize the meat industry's impact on the environment. Where the Nakiri knife had started becoming less prevalent, that trend is beginning to reverse. For chefs and home cooks alike, you may find yourself turning to Japanese knives in Australia more and more in the future.

Using a Nakiri

Chopping with a Nakiri is not like using other knives, like a Gyuto for instance, where you can rock the blade. Instead, to chop using a Nakiri requires vertical chopping. There is no rocking motion, just cutting the vegetables up and down. The design of the blade means that this style of chopping has several obvious advantages, particularly for cutting vegetables. Straight chopping allows for quicker cutting compared with rocking, which can waste a lot of energy. Chopping vertically is generally more efficient. You don't always cut entirely through a vegetable when using the rocking motion, which forces you to go back and chop again. Another clear benefit for aesthetes and recipe purists is that it enables you to chop more consistently. This effect has obvious stylistic benefits if all your veg is consistent. It also makes cooking easier. Vegetables will cook at different speeds if they are not cut consistently.

Final Thoughts

It can take a little while to get used to straight chopping, and you may want to practice slowly at the start. But, it is well worth mastering, and you will see the obvious benefits to your cooking in no time when you master this skill. Why not consider transforming your cooking today with Nakiri knives in Australia? 

Japanese Chef Knives – The Gyuto Knife

Japanese Chef Knives - The Gyuto

When we talk about Japanese chef knives in Australia, the one you may be most familiar with is the Gyuto knife. It is the Japanese version of the western chef's knife and is very versatile — it can be used for everything from chopping vegetables to slicing different kinds of meat.  Let's dive into the origins and history of this tool, and the different ways you might use Gyuto knives in Australia.

What Exactly Is It?

As we've said, a Gyuto is a chef's knife in Japan. They are pretty long, measuring between 18mm and 24mm, and curve slightly in the midsection to make it easy to rock as you chop. They have sharp tips and a wide blade, the latter feature making it easy to move and transfer food using the knife.  Because this blade is so versatile, you can use it for just about anything. 

The Origins And History

Gyuto is a term that means Japanese-style chef's knife. Gyuto literally translates as cow or beef, making this knife ‘cow sword’ in Japanese. These blades emerged as a response to and inspired by western knives that Japan imported during the end of the 19th century, during the Meiji era. The supply of these knives increased for two reasons after this period.  First, until this time Japan had sealed itself off from the world, meaning very little foreign culture and few foreign goods were allowed to enter Japan. When Japan began opening itself up, western-style chef's knives flooded in along with European food culture. At this point, it became more common for people to start eating meat at dinner. The knife earned its name — Gyuto — because it was mainly used for cutting beef during the rise in meat-eating. As the culture of meat-eating was still evolving, the blade took its name owing to this association. The second reason these knives were produced is because swords traditionally made by were no longer in great demand. While they still produced katanas and other weapons, blacksmiths turned to making kitchen knives as their rise in popularity proved to be an increasingly lucrative trade. 

Using a Gyuto

As we've established from the history of this knife, the Gyuto is a versatile, multi-purpose knife. Its shape and size make it ideal for a wide range of chopping, from vegetables to various different cuts of meat.  Just like a western-style chef's knife, it is ideal for a range of different tasks: it is well suited to dicing, slicing and mincing. It is built to handle just about anything in the kitchen. Many chefs advocate that you only really need one good knife, particularly if you are just cooking at home for friends and family. So, if you want to follow this advice, we recommend that you choose a Gyuto. While Gyuto knives can be a more expensive option than many other models, they are well worth investing in because of their versatility. The sharp tip makes it excellent for piercing tough meat and making fine cuts, while its rounded belly enables easy rocking while you chop, and you can rock-chop stiffer produce. The blade length varies based on what you are likely to use it for. Shorter blades are more nimble but long blades give you more power. If this is going to be the one knife you rely on, it is best to opt for a medium-length blade. 

Final Thoughts

Rich in culture and history, the Gyuto knife would be a great addition to any kitchen if you're really interested in upping your home-cooking game. One of these blades is definitely worth the investment, as they'll be sure to last years with proper care. Search for your own Japanese knife in Australia today!

The definitive guide to Japanese knife steels

The definitive guide to Japanese knife steels

It’s the business end of the chef knife, the part that does the real work.

The core steel of your knife, or the cutting edge, is one of the most important aspects in determining how your knife performs. The grind, balance, weight and size of a knife are also important, but often the debate rages on what the best core steel is to use for a knife. 

Is ZDP-189 worth the cost? Is VG-10 any good? Carbon vs Stainless?

Each steel, like each knife type, has its own advantages and disadvantages, but a good knife steel is the foundation from which the rest of the knife is constructed.

Generally speaking, you’ll find a Japanese blacksmith will prefer to use a steel type that belongs to one of 3 groups:

  • Traditional High-Carbon Steels (Non Stainless), like Aogami or Shirogami
  • Stainless Steels (VG10, AUS10)
  • Powder Steels (ZDP-189, SG2/R2, Cowry X)

We’ll cover the steels in each of these 3 groups and what makes them different from your regular off the shelves.

Carbon Steel

Japanese blacksmiths prefer to use these traditional knife making steels that lack the stainless elements of their counterparts. Easy to forge to high hardness with good edge retention and excellent sharpness, they are the closest steels to ‘Tamahagane’, the steel ancient samurais used for their swords. 

They are, as their name suggests, very high in Carbon (C) content, the element which gives steel its ability to be hardened during the heat treatment process. As steel is hardened it becomes more brittle, a trade-off for it’s long lasting sharpness.

Shirogami/White Paper Steel

White Steel is known for 2 things: steel purity, and incredible, surgical sharpness. 

It has very little added elements, except for trace amounts of Sulfur and Phosphorous. It will rust and patina quite easily, so be sure to wipe down immediately after use, and beware when using a Shirogami knife on things like onions or potatoes, as it can leave orange or brown marks on food.

White Steel 1

  • High hardness, up to 65 HRC.
  • Carbon: 1.25-1.35%
  • Manganese 0.20 - 0.30 %
  • Phosphorus 0.03 %
  • Sulphur 0.004 %
  • Silicon 0.10 - 0.20 %

White Steel 2

  • Moderate hardness, up to 61 HRC.
  • Carbon 1 - 1.15 %
  • Manganese 0.20 - 0.30%
  • Phosphorus 0.03 %
  • Sulphur 0.004%
  • Silicon 0.10 - 0.20 %

Aogami/Blue Paper Steel

Probably the most commonly used carbon steel in Japanese chef knives, Aogami or “Blue” paper steel gets its name from the blue paper that Hitachi Metals supplies the steel in.

It comes in 3 variants, Blue 1, Blue 2, and Blue Super, who’s incremental carbon increases result in Blue Super being one of the highest hardness knife steels available when quenched and treated well.

It is a reactive carbon steel, essentially white steel with added chromium, carbon, and tungsten. This results in a knife that does not rust or patina quite as easily as White Steel, and holds an edge for longer.

Blue Steel 1

  • High hardness, up to 65 HRC.
  • Carbon: 1.25-1.35%
  • Chromium: 0.20-0.50%
  • Manganese 0.20 - 0.30 %
  • Phosphorus 0.03 %
  • Sulphur 0.004 %
  • Silicon 0.10 - 0.20 %

Blue Steel 2

  • Moderate/High Hardness, up to 63 HRC
  • Carbon 1.05 - 1.15 %
  • Chromium 0.20 - 0.50 %
  • Manganese 0.20 - 0.30 %
  • Phosphorus 0.03 % 
  • Sulphur 0.004 %
  • Silicon 0.10 - 0.20 %
  • Tungsten 1.00 - 1.58 %

Blue Super

  • High Hardness, up to 65HRC
  • Carbon: 1.40 - 1.50 %
  • Chromium 0.30 - 0.50 %
  • Manganese 0.20 - 0.30 %
  • Molybdenum 0.30 - 0.52 %
  • Phosphorus 0.03 %
  • Sulphur 0.004 %
  • Silicon 0.10-0.20 %
  • Tungsten 2.00 - 2.50 %
  • Vanadium 0.30 - 0.50 %

Stainless Steels

Often not quite as high in carbon content, stainless steels have added chromium which acts as a protecting element to oxidizing agents such as acidic foods and water. Generally speaking, when a steel has 12% or above in Chromium content, it is regarded as a stainless steel.

They can be hardened to about HRC 60, and as such a sharp edge will not last quite as long as their carbon steel counterparts. The main stainless steels used by Japanese blacksmiths are VG-10 and AUS10, and Ginsan.

For their versatile nature and minimal maintenance, stainless steels are very common across many knives manufactured throughout the world.

VG10

  • Moderate/Low Hardness, up to 60-61 HRC
  • Carbon: 0.95 - 1.15 %
  • Chromium: 14.50 - 15.5 %
  • Cobalt: 1.30 - 1.50 %
  • Manganese: 0.50 %
  • Molybdenum: 0.90 - 1.20 %
  • Phosphorus: 0.03 %
  • Vanadium: 0.10-0.3 %

AUS10

  • Moderate/Low Hardness, up to 60HRC
  • Carbon: 0.95 - 1.10%
  • Chromium: 13.00 - 14.50%
  • Molybdenum: 0.10 - 0.31%
  • Vanadium: 0.10 - 0.27%
  • Nickel: 0.49%
  • Manganese: 0.50%
  • Silicon: 1.00%
  • Phosphorous: 0.04%
  • Sulfur: 0.03%

Ginsan

  • Moderate/High Hardness, up to 63 HRC
  • Carbon: 0.92 - 1.10 %
  • Chromium 13.00 - 14.5 %
  • Manganese (Mn) 0.60 - 1.00 %
  • Phosphorus (P) 0.03 %
  • Sulphur (S) 0.02 % 
  • Silicon (Si) 0.35 %

Powder Stainless Steels

This is where the real fun begins! Powder steels are exotic modern alloys that combine the high hardness, high strength properties of carbon steels, with added stainless properties, resulting in superior performance in every way.

Whilst being slightly harder to sharpen and maintain, a cutting edge made from Powder Stainless steel will hold an edge much longer than most other knife steels.

The most common powder steels in japanese knife making are SG2/R2 (Super Gold 2/R2), ZDP189 and HAP40, with ZDP-189 bursting onto the scene in the last decade as being the go-to powder steel of choice for high end chef knives.

You’ll find that a knife with a Powder steel core is more expensive than most others, and for good reason! The steels are expensive and extremely hard to procure, and even then, in the hands of an amateur blacksmith, they are useless. It takes an extremely skilled craftsman to forge and laminate these steels together, resulting in longer build times and requiring nothing short of perfection in the manufacturing process.

SG2/R2

  • High Hardness, up to 64 HRC
  • Carbon: 1.25-1.45%
  • Chromium: 14.00 - 16.00 %
  • Molybdenum: 2.30 - 3.30%
  • Vanadium: 1.80 - 2.20 %
  • Manganese: 0.40%
  • Silicon: 0.50%
  • Phosphorous: 0.30% 
  • Sulfur: 0.30%

ZDP189

  • Extremely High Hardness, up to 67 HRC
  • Carbon: 3.00%
  • Chromium: 20.00%
  • Molybdenum: 1.40%
  • Tungsten: 0.60%
  • Vanadium: 0.10%
  • Manganese: 0.50%
  • Silicon: 0.40%

HAP40

  • Extremely High Hardness, up to 68 HRC
  • Carbon: 1.27 - 1.37%
  • Chromium: 3.70% - 4.70%
  • Molybdenum: 4.60 - 5.40%
  • Tungsten: 5.60 - 6.50%
  • Vanadium: 2.80 - 3.30%
  • Cobalt: 7.50 - 8.50%

The Patina – marks on your new knife

Why are there marks on my new knife?

It may come as a shock to some to find stains and marks on your new expensive knife. So what are they and why do they appear?

One of the most common questions we get asked following the purchase of a new Japanese chef knife are the dark marks that can appear on high carbon steel blades.

These marks don't wash away, and can result in discolouration that lasts for the life of the blade. Here, we’ll explain here the process behind a patina and how it can actually be beneficial.

What is a Patina?

What is a Patina? A patina in short is the discolouration or ‘aged’ look of a steel that lacks stainless steel elements (mainly chromium), which shows in shades of yellow, blue and grey.

There are particular types of steel that will show up a patina much faster than others, in different colours, as each steel has a different combination of elements. For example a patina will not only develop on steels such as Aogami and Shirogami, but also on copper and bronze which will show in shades of green and blue.

These steel types will not only show a patina, but due to their lack of stainless properties, they can also develop rust spots if not kept dry between uses.

patina
carbon steel knife

What causes it?

The main causes of a patina forming likely occur from the first use of your blade. These are moisture, acid, and salts. The acidity of citrus and the moisture of proteins will both cause different markings on the blade to form, all of these are unavoidable.

There have been many instances of japanese knives on display being touched by bare hands, and the moisture from fingerprints when unwiped afterwards, can cause patina or rust spots to form.

How is it a good thing?

Once a patina has been formed on your Japanese knife, it acts like a seal, and can actually protect the steel underneath from rusting. While your knife may not look the way it was when it was brand new, it is uniquely yours and carries with it the marks of many meals prepared.

Why aren’t all blades stainless steel? Wouldn’t that be easier?

Easier to maintain? Yes. Beneficial for all purposes? No. Stainless steel blades can be used in a much more carefree manner, as they are often softer steels which take more punishment, do not discolour, and can be left wet for longer without having rust appear.

However, a high-carbon steel Japanese chef knife can be hardened to a higher hardness (HRC), contains more carbon and other strengthening elements, and as such will have an edge that stays much sharper for longer. For a chef that uses his knives day in and day out, not having to sharpen his blades every couple of days can be hugely beneficial, with the trade off being they must be wiped down between uses.

There are however, exotic steel types that exist (SG2/R2, ZDP-189) that combine the high-carbon, long lasting edge retention with the high stainless elements that create knives with incredible performance and almost zero maintenance. These knives can only be made by skilled craftsman, and the steels are often expensive to procure and difficult to work with.

yoshikane bunka knife

Can I remove a Patina?

A patina can be removed using a knife polishing compound, or by using a whetstone to remove some steel off the affected area of the blade. This is a process that one must be competent in to accomplish properly. It is however likely that the knife will just develop another patina straight after it’s first use anyway.

How do I control rust?

Rust spots can form minutes after a blade is left wet or with food residue, so the best way to control rust spots on your blade is to wipe your knife down with a clean cloth after use, keep them dry, and stored away from any sources of moisture or salt.

A patina is an unavoidable result of purchasing a high-carbon steel knife, but with a little care and maintenance, can be a protector of your knife to ensure it’s prolonged use.

Why Japanese Knives?

Why Japanese Knives?

Take a dive into the wonderful world of Japanese chef knives, and why they're considered to be the best in the world.

There is a certain romanticism associated with fine goods that are crafted by hand. Japanese chef knives are forged with precision and care, steeped in tradition, and hold quality of the finished product above all else. They hold a special place in the hearts of many.

Deep down we yearn to own something special, something that has been meticulously designed and constructed, not stamped out on an assembly line.

Yes, they can be pricey, the price reflects the caliber of the build. A high-quality knife, with the correct care, will remain are the forefront of your kitchenware for years. Not only do they make light work of dicing onions, Japanese kitchen knives have numerous design features that make them outperform almost all other kitchen knives in the world.

So what makes Japanese kitchen knives so special?

Weight

Generally speaking European knives are heavy; this is due to the ‘full tang’ design feature. The steel of full tang blades continue through to the end of the handle, as pictured below. In some instances, the handle is also made of steel resulting in a knife which is overly heavy and cumbersome to use for long periods of time. As seen in the image below (courtesy of www.thespruceeats.com), all that extra steel in the handle adds much to the weight of the knife.

The steel of a Japanese blade quickly tapers off in size after it enters the handle reducing the overall weight of the knife.  This may bring the balance of the knife to be slightly forward heavy, a trait many chefs quickly get used to in order to take advantage of the Japanese chef knives superior performance. This image below shows an average Japanese chef knife in terms of the steel quickly dropping off as it gets into the handle.

Some Japanese chef knives may feature what is called a 'distal taper', where the thickness of the blade increases just before it enters the handle, adding weight to the rear of the knife to bring it back into balance. This increases comfort to the user making it perfect for all day every day use.

Grind/Bevel

The ‘grind’ or ‘bevel’ refers to the shape of the blade when you look down from the handle to the tip. On the whole, European knives have a thicker, heavier blade and the cutting edge itself is a short ~ 20-degree taper that is even on both sides (50/50), about 1-2mm from the tip of the blade.

The Japanese blade will be much thinner, and the thinner the blade, the easier cuts are made, and the more agile cutting work it can perform. The cutting edge of a regular Japanese knife is much lower than 20 degrees and starts much higher on the blade. Traditional Sashimi knives like the Yanagiba or the Sujuhiki (knives designed for long pull cuts) have only a single bevel, meaning that one side is flat, and the other side tapers off at a low angle. This pushes the food away from the blade once the cut has been made.

A thinner grind, although resulting in much greater sharpness, means that a Japanese kitchen knife may be prone to chipping or breakage if used improperly (torquing/twisting the blade while cutting, or hitting or chopping hard or frozen objects). Whilst European knives can be more robust, they are made of softer steel, go blunt quicker, and can’t make as precise cuts.

For most chefs, the trade-off for much better all-round performance is worth the small level of extra care and maintenance required of Japanese kitchen knives.

Exotic Steels

While many European knives will be made from some form of softer stainless steel, most Japanese knives employ the use of high-carbon steel combined with extra elements (nickel, chromium, vanadium, tungsten, molybdenum) to produce exotic alloys that have greatly enhanced corrosion resistance, hardness, and durability.

A Japanese traditional high-carbon steel such as Aogami Super (Blue Paper Steel) or Shirogami Steel (White Paper Steel) will not have the corrosion resistance of their stainless counterparts, and as such will need extra care and maintenance and can be reactive to certain foods, developing a multicoloured hue on the blade known as a ‘patina’.

It is common for Japanese knives to be crafted with a technique called ‘San-Mai’, by which a very hard cutting edge of reactive, high-carbon steel is sandwiched between 2 external layers of softer stainless steel. This guarantees fantastic cutting performance and an easy to maintain blade.

Hardness

Steel hardness can be graded by the Rockwell hardness scale. Softer steels such as Cromova can only be hardened to 54-56 which is considered quite low. These knives can take more punishment, and are less brittle, but will go blunt extremely quickly due to their softness.

Japanese knives are normally anywhere between 61-67 HRC, giving them their legendary edge retention and long lasting sharpness. This comes at a price, however, with extreme hardness comes the risk of chipping and damaging the blade from improper use as described above.

Tradition and Care

The Japanese consistently strive towards excellence in their craft, as is the age-old philosophy so widespread in Japanese culture. Individual Blacksmiths will always be creatively exploring ways to refine their processes and push the boundaries of what is possible in knifemaking, whilst preserving the traditions that have been passed on throughout generations.

Their aim is to ensure that every blade is as carefully and meticulously crafted to the same quality as the last and that the lust for Japanese kitchen knives, the finest in the world, continues for many more generations to come.

Choosing the right chef knife for you

Choosing the right chef knife for you

Never heard of a Gyuto? No idea what SG2/R2 is? Double or Single Bevel? Don't panic, we'll explain what you need to know when picking out a Japanese Chef knife.

If you’re in the market to purchase a Japanese kitchen knife, you might be looking for a timeless, meaningful gift, interested in the culinary arts, a chef, or simply wanting to cook a delicious meal for your loved ones.

There are many different Japanese knives, so much so it can be a little overwhelming to make a choice. Here, we cover a few main points to consider when choosing the right Japanese chef knife for you.

Blacksmith

Taking the maker of your knife into account can give you an idea of the overall quality you will be receiving. The manufacturer will influence the design, balance, performance, and price of the knife.

Different blacksmiths will also prefer to use particular steel, which may have some benefits over other knife steels available. As the craft of knifemaking is a traditional art form passed down through generations, it is something Japanese blacksmiths hold very dear.

Through the application of these varying techniques, each blacksmith continues the traditions of their forefathers, producing a knife that is unique to that families history, a culmination of (sometimes) hundreds of years of tradition. Some people prefer to have matching sets from one blacksmith, while others do not mind mixing and matching different blacksmiths to create a set that they are happy with. This is personal preference.

Style

The style of knife you buy depends largely on what you’re looking to do with it and what you are preparing. Whether you’re preparing sushi or peeling vegetables, the process of chopping and slicing is very different and a different knife will be required.

Make sure you know how you are primarily looking to use the knife so you can select the correct style. A home cook that would just like to own a high-performance knife might lean towards a Santoku between 160-180mm, whereas a professional chef with a wide variety of tasks to complete may opt for a Gyuto of 210mm length or more, and a petty or small utility knife to cover the smaller tasks at hand.

Blade Material/Steel Combinations

We could write an entire article just about this! (In fact, we might just do that!) The type of steel used in a Japanese chef knife may not seem overly important, (as long as it’s sharp, right?)

Not quite!

The blade material will impact many things; how long your knife lasts, how easy it is to sharpen, the overall look, and more. You may consider getting a knife made of the simpler AUS8, Molybdenum Vanadium, or VG1 steels if you are just entering into this market and feel overwhelmed by the choice. This type of knife is more chip resistant and a little tougher than other options.

If you’re a more advanced user of knives and you’re comfortable putting more care and effort into them, consider using some of the higher hardness, more complex stainless steels like VG10, R2/SG2, SRS-15, AEB-L, HAP40 or ZDP-189.

Then you must consider the carbon steels. They have a higher maintenance requirement, but they can be used by all skillsets. Most Japanese blacksmiths will prefer to use the traditional Japanese chef knife steels, made by Hitachi Metals. These are the White Paper Steels (Shirogami), Blue Paper Steels (Aogami). There are some slight variations of Blue and White paper steels, but they are essentially about as close to the samurai sword steels of hundreds of years ago we have today.

They are high in carbon content, resulting in the steel being harder than almost all other knife making steels, ensuring they will stay sharper for longer.

They are, however, what is called ‘reactive steel’. This means they will oxidize (rust) and form a ‘patina’ (a discolouration of the steel) and also develop rust spots if they are not kept dry between uses.

In some cases, 15 minutes left wet will be all it takes to form early rust spots. This is avoided by proper care and maintenance, but also by a blade construction technique called ‘san-mai’, which uses a core or cutting edge of high carbon steel, with a softer stainless steel clad on either side. This results in exceptional performance with minimal maintenance.

Size

A larger knife generally means you can perform more work with it, however, your workspace should also then need to accommodate a larger knife. The knife you purchase should not be longer than your cutting board is wide.

That being said, you don’t want your knife to be too small, or too large to perform everyday tasks. A general purpose knife for most like a Santoku of 160-180mm is, therefore, a great place to start. Once your Santoku becomes either too large or too small, it's time to expand! Look for petty knives around 100mm for smaller delicate tasks, and Gyuto's up to 240-300mm for larger tasks like carving meats, but beware of bones!

Handle Material/Shape

The handle material may impact how you grip the knife, how sturdy the knife feels as you use it, as well as the appearance of the knife.

A steel handle, a feature of many western knives may slip or not feel as comfortable in the hand and a timber handle crafted into the shape of an octagon. The octagon handle shape is one of the marks of a traditional japanese chef knife, as it allows the edges of the octagon to fit into the grooves of the fingers once the handle is grasped in the hand.

Chefs Edge has a preference towards the octagon handle, and as such we partner with craftsman worldwide to create stunning unique handles made from exotic timbers such as the range of Kaishin Bunkas.

Bevel Angle Ratio

The traditional Japanese chef knives (Yanagiba, Sujihiki, Deba etc) are designed to have a single bevel. This one-sided bevel angle is perfect for sashimi slicing, but is not well suited to everyday cooking at home or in a professional kitchen for general use.

The Japanese blacksmiths have realized this, and almost always craft the Gyuto/Santoku/Nakiri/Bunka with an even 50:50 bevel to accommodate the western chef with a varied set of kitchen tasks.

HRC

The HRC of a knife refers Rockwell Hardness Scale. A knife with a higher HRC, in general, will retain its edge for longer, but can be more brittle.

This is why a Japanese chef knife should never be used to chop bones, frozen objects, or hard foods (sometimes a big sweet potato is a no no!) It’s also important to remember that not all steels behave the same at higher hardness, and higher hardness is not the sole determining factor of knife performance.

Just because something has a high HRC rating doesn’t make it a better knife. A regular European chef knife made from a softer steel may be hardened to 55-56 HRC, but a Japanese knife made from Aogami Super or ZDP-189 may be hardened anywhere up to 67-68 HRC.

At the end of the day, there are a wide number of factors to take into account when choosing the right knife for you. If you get stuck, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by any of the channels on our website, or send us an email to [email protected]!

Japanese Chef Knife Types

Japanese Chef Knife Types

The myriad of different kitchen knife types can often be overwhelming. Let's break down the main differences between each of the main types.

Whether you’re a home cook, amateur chef or a professional, we all need a good set of knives in the kitchen.

For many chefs it’s what defines them, and a Japanese chef knife arguably is as good as it gets. Working with the right blade will ensure superior precision and maintain the integrity of the ingredients you’re working with.

Japanese chef knives are becoming increasingly popular with Western chefs, and it’s not surprising given their rich history and reputation for quality, sharpness and overall precision craftsmanship.

At Chefs Edge we specialise in high performance Japanese kitchen knives crafted by some of Japan’s most talented blacksmiths. We only pursue kitchen knives of the highest quality and the finest craftsmanship, and provide them to you at the best possible price, while striving to deliver the best customer service possible.

If you’re considering Japanese chef knives for your kitchen, it’s important to first understand the different kinds, to help you decide what’s right for you. The types of kitchen knives you need will ultimately depend on your level and style of cooking, and the techniques you’ll demand from your knife.

Gyuto

If you’ve never owned a Japanese kitchen knife before, the Gyuto meaning ‘beef knife’ is the most versatile choice to start your collection and obsession! One of the most commonly used knives in the kitchen, the Gyuto can cover a majority of kitchen tasks.

It’s similar to a classic Western style chef’s knife, except that it’s typically lighter and thinner. The Gytuo is typically anywhere between 18cm-27cm in length, depending on the required task. It has a long curve from heel to point and is ideal for rocking-cuts and precision work like mincing, fine preparation of vegetables and slicing meat.

Shop our range of Gyuto’s here

Santoku

If you’re looking for another good all-rounder, a Santoku knife is your next best choice after the Gyuto. This smaller multipurpose knife has a flatter blade profile that the Gyuto, and is great for dicing and chopping vegetables, fish and meat.

The broader blade also helps to scoop ingredients off the board with ease. The Santoku can range from 13cm to 18cm in length, and has a slightly flatter cutting edge than the Gyuto.

Shop our range of Santoku’s here

Bunka

A versatile blend of the Santoku, Gyuto, and Nakiri, the Bunka is a smaller and thinner than the Gyuto and Santoku, with a much higher taller blade, and a ‘K-tip’ which allows more specialised cutting tasks.

This general purpose knife is also ideal for push cutting and chopping vegetables, and can handle delicate work like trimming and paring with ease. (Plus, they look absolutely fantastic, our favourite blade shape by far!)

Shop our range of Bunka’s here

Deba

For Western Chef’s the Deba is the ultimate butcher’s knife alongside the trusty meat cleaver. Although the Deba is traditionally known for its uses in filleting fish, its structure merits its use for cutting through joints of meat and poultry.

You’ll notice that an authentic Japanese Deba will have a single bevel edge, while the Western version has a double bevel edge, which is why it’s also ideal in meat preparation.

The Deba has a thick spine, and is usually heavier than it’s Gyuto/Santoku counterparts. This extra weight helps make light work of more heavy duty cutting tasks.

Nakiri

As its meaning suggests, the Nakiri knife is a vegetable knife. Crafted with a straight double edged blade and no tip, it’s perfect for chopping and dicing.

You’ll find this knife to be everyone’s ‘go to’ in most Japanese homes. The flatter blade profile allows more of the cutting edge to be in contact with the board.

Shop our range of Nakiri’s here

Petty

The Japanese version of a French petit knife, the Petty knife is the quintessential paring and utility knife.

It’s nimble and perfect for small handheld tasks that the Gyuto or Santoku is too large for, such as peeling and cutting small fruit, vegetables and herbs. The small length of the blade makes sharpening a breeze compared to other types of knives.

Shop our range of Petty's here

Yanagiba

The original sushi knife! Traditionally used to cut sashimi, but these days can also be used to cut meat. This is a long, thin blade up to ~37cm in length, and is a single bevel, chisel ground edge. This ensures the meat falls off to one side and repeated cuts can be made to large pieces of meat in quick succession with excellent repeatability.

Other types of Japanese kitchen knives

Chukabocho – the Japanese version of a cleaver, it is large and rectangular in shape and great for preparing large veggies such as cabbage. The thin blade also means it can handle delicate tasks like trimming and mincing herbs. This cleaver is not designed to be used as a meat cleaver.

Pankiri – a serrated bread knife, only used for slicing bread and baked goods.

Usuba – a vegetable knife with a Kataba blade. This knife is a little more difficult to use than a Nakiri, but its shape and sharpness ensures a clean and crisp cut every time.

Whether it’s slicing and dicing, chopping or carving, you’ll find the perfect workhorse in the kitchen with a Japanese kitchen knife. If you need help deciding on what knife will best suit your needs, get in touch with the team at Chefs Edge. Once you’ve got your hands on a Japanese kitchen knife you’ll never look back!

Damascus Steel Kitchen Knives

Damascus Steel Kitchen Knives

All you need to know about current day Damascus steel chef knives.

The use of Damascus Steel in kitchen knives can be somewhat of a polarising topic and poses several questions. Is there any real difference in performance between a Damascus Steel kitchen knife and regular steel kitchen knife? Is it all just for looks? Why are some Damascus kitchen knives so damn expensive and some are so cheap? Here we’ll answer these for you, sticking to the facts and giving you the information you need to make an informed decision about whether a Damascus Steel Kitchen knife may be right for you.

 

Origins/Types

The term ‘Damascus Steel’ can actually refer to several different types of end product, each utilising different methods and materials. Damascus Steel, Wootz Steel, and Pattern Weld all hold some overlap with each other, but all epitomise a product that is the result of multiple steels that have been forged or cast together using different methodologies then etched to bring out a unique layered finish.

The first iteration of what is referred to as the ‘original’ Damascus Steel in first arose in Middle-Eastern sword making, of which the original technique has been lost for may hundreds of years. This Damascus Steel weaponry was the result of forging Wootz steel, produced in India and traded to the Middle East. Tales of the stunning beauty, strength, and sharpness of the weapons produced spread throughout the world, but the process for making Wootz, the critical component of Damascus Steel, was lost in the 1700’s, and with it, there went the original iteration of Damascus Steel itself. It’s original form has never been replicated, even after the efforts of modern day science.

This presents the argument that any kitchen knife currently available labelled ‘Damascus Steel’ is technically misleading, as all ‘Damascus Steel’ at present time is the result of Pattern Welding several different alloys together which are then forged and re-welded then ‘etched’ with chemicals to produce a Damascus-like pattern. This etching process eats away a particular steel in the blade, leaving the other steel(s) untouched. This process is subject to much experimentation by pattern weld Damascus Steel makers around the world and through arranging the varying steels in specific ways, incredibly complex shapes can be produced on the blade of the knife.

 

Materials Used

So what is modern day Damascus Steel made from?

The truth is, just about any combination of stainless or alternating high or low carbon steel can be used, in combination with nickel alloys and even in some cases, items like scrap metal, screws, and bolts.

The arrangement of these steels is sketched out and planned as to ascertain the final appearance and then welded together, forged and drawn out, then folded or cut and the process is repeated to attain as many layers as desired.

While these pattern weld Damascus steels are similar in appearance to the first Damascus Steels produced, their internal composition is entirely different.

Some types of modern-day Damascus steel are manufactured by layering stainless steel, resulting in a more subtle pattern. This layered stainless is then ‘clad’ onto a core of harder, more wear-resistant higher carbon steel.

Damascus Steel Kitchen Knives produced using this technique are more expensive, as the time required produces a blade of far superior quality that is durable, but also looks fantastic.

This is a process that has been favoured more and more by Japanese Bladesmiths in recent times due to its fantastic edge retention from the hardness of the inner core, and also the durability due to the layers of more flexible and stain resistant stainless steel on the outside.

Which brings me to the question, “Is Damascus steel better than modern day steel? In terms of strength, and durability, there are modern exotic alloys that can far outperform pattern weld Damascus Steel.

Often, the core cutting edge of a knife is made from high carbon steel and clad with Damascus steel, such as the Yoshimi Kato SG2 Gyuto. It's core is an exotic alloy, SG2 Powder Steel, and the cladding is alternating layers of stainless steel with added nickel, resulting in the Damascus steel appearance. 

But that doesn’t mean that a well made Damascus Steel kitchen knife is of any less use to a professional chef or home cook than a non-Damascus Steel one.

The true appeal of Damascus Steel lies in its unique and exotic patterned finishes, and whether or not they look better than non-Damascus Kitchen knives is entirely subjective.

Just like anything, you get what you pay for. Damascus Steel made the right way requires an extraordinary level of attention to detail, experience, and precision, and it all comes at a price.

If it’s cheap, it ain’t good, and if it’s good, it ain’t cheap.