Japanese Kitchen Knives is, I feel a worthy and relevant subject to include as a post here at Ethnic Foods R Us. Obviously, our main focus is on ethnic foods worldwide, and their preparation methods and instructions. Whatever ethnic foods you are going to prepare, however, you will do best with the use of fine cookware and fine cutlery. Japanese kitchen knives, as well as the Japanese Samurai Kitchen Swords are, without a doubt, the best of the best when it comes to fine cutlery.
Japanese Kitchen Knives are made with three different cutting edge profiles.
As you can see in the graphic image below …
… the blade’s edge may be angled either on both sides (as in example #1), or just on one side (example #2), which is the standard angle for right-handed chefs, or the other, left side (example #3), which is made for left-handed users.
It is the type of metals used and the method of forging these fine blades that separates Japanese kitchen knives apart from, and above, all other cutlery. They are made in much the same, millennia-old, traditional way that the fierce warrior samurai class has always had their swords hand-crafted.
In centuries past, Japanese kitchen knives were produced using the same carbon steel as the traditional Japanese samurai swords. However, the method of forging was a bit different. More on current forging methods below. Nowadays stainless steel is often used for Japanese kitchen knives, Suminagashi laminated blade construction (more on this also below) is used in more expensive blades to add corrosion resistance while maintaining strength and durability.
There are two traditional types of Japanese knife forging methods: Kasumi, and Honyaki. The difference between the two is predicated on the material used and the method of forging.
Kasumi knives are made using two materials: high-carbon, blue or white steel (called “hagane”), as well as a soft iron (“jigane”) are forged together. Kasumi knives, while offering a cutting edge equal in excellence to the Honyaki knives, have what many consider as an added benefit of being more “forgiving”. Forgiving in the sense that they are felt to be easier to maintain and resharpen.
Honyaki knives are considered as being in the class of “true-forged” knives. They are crafted from just one material. The entire blade is composed of a high-grade blue or white steel that is classified as top-notch knife-specific steel.
Kirenaga is a Japanese term that means “duration of sharpness”. Between the Honyaki class and Kasumi class, the Honyaki knives have superior Kirenaga, but again, they require more effort and skill when they do need to be maintained and sharpened.
There is another class of Japanese kitchen knives that are technically in the Kasumi class. These are knives made of
layers of high-grade steel. They are meticulously forged, layering and folding the steels together in exquisite fashions. These high-end knives are commonly known as the Damascus, or, in Japanese, Suminagashi knives, and they have kirenaga that is considered to be equal to the superb level of the Honyaki knives. Thus, although you pay a hefty price (one knife can cost a thousand dollars!) you get the “best of both worlds” – long lasting cutting edge sharpness, better corrosion resistance, and easier maintenance.
Here is a short, but very good video showing a Japanese Master Blacksmith forging a kitchen knife, in the Honyaki method.
Whether using Honyaki, Kasumi, or Damascus knives, you will have to acquire some skill when it comes to maintaining and sharpening your Japanese kitchen knives. The following is an excellent video that will tutor you on how to this. This chef is starting with a 1000 grit wet-stone, so the video does not cover removing dings from the blade’s edge – which requires a rougher grit, usually 250 to 400. But the technique he is teaching is spot on for whatever grit you are using or level of sharpness you are trying to achieve.
I hope you have enjoyed this short article on Japanese kitchen knives. If you would like to have some in your kitchen, you can purchase them on our online store – just click here.
You will also need top quality water sharpening stones, and to obtain those, click here. It is recommended that you have at least 3 different grits of stones: 250 to 400 grit for rough shaping the edge and removing dings, 1000 to 2000 grit for intermediate sharpening, and 4000 to 6000 grit for final sharpening and polishing. I myself use 5 stones: 250, 800, 2000, 4000, and 6000 grits.
Before you click off into the Blue Nowhere, please share with us … do you have experience using Japanese kitchen knives? How do you find them to work with and maintain? If no experience, what did the think of and learn with this article, and would you now consider trying some in your kitchen?
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