David L asked in Food & DrinkCooking & Recipes · 10 years ago

Questions about Japanese knives?

I am looking at some of the Japanese knives and I have a few questions. 1) What is the difference between a Gyuto and a western Chefs knife? 2) Is the only thing different about the Japanese knives is that they have a thinner blade? Is there anything else? 3) Are Japanese knives worth the high costs? 4) What is a Deba and what is it used for? Thanks

2 Answers

  • Visor
    Lv 5
    10 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    1) A Gyuto is Japanese version of the western chef's knife. WA-Gyuto would be a gyuto with traditional Japanese style handle. Difference with western chef's knife is mainly the philosophy, hard steel, thin edges and thin blades, as far as gyutos go. Gyuto resembles French style chef's knives, i.e. slender blade, less belly compared to German style chef's knives. However, if you like German chef's knives blade geometry better, than Shun makes gyutos that are have plenty of belly, while having all other qualities of Japanese knives.

    Here, bunch of gyuto reviews - http://zknives.com/knives/kitchen/ktknv/type/gyuto...

    2) Main difference between quality Japanese knives and western knives is the approach to the knife design. Japanese knives are more task specific than western knives. Besides thinner blades you mentioned, more importantly Japanese knives, at least most of them, also have considerably thinner edges, which results if far better cutting performance. Average edge sharpening angle on western chef's knife is about 20 deg. per side, or 40 total, while 15 per side is much more typical on Japanese knives and that's actually where they start, quality pieces have even thinner edges. The difference in cutting ability is huge.

    Steel used in the knives is also treated differently. Even when Japanese knvies are made from western steels, like Swedish Sandvik, they heat treat them to much higher Rockwell hardness than western knife makers. 54-56HRC is typical western kitchen knife, and sadly, for larger pieces like 6"+ chef's knife that value is closer to 54HRC than 56HRC, and for Japanese chef's knives 62HRC average, high end stuff easily goes into 64-67HRC range.

    It's the harder steel that allows for much thinner edges and much better edge holding ability. An edge sharpened at 10 per side on the western knife with 54HRC hardness will not last 20 minutes in the kitchen, while on hard steel it can go without major sharpening for weeks, at home use.

    Also, some of the Japanese knives are a lot thicker compared to western kitchen knives.

    More in depth review of western vs. Japanese knives - http://zknives.com/knives/kitchen/misc/articles/kk...

    3) There are lots of Japanese knives that are priced comparably with high end western knives - 100-200$ price range. Japanese knives are worth high cost if you use them for designated purpose, e.g. gyuto is not the knife to chop bones with, cleaver or axe would be better. And maintain them properly. Harder steel in in Japanese knives has all the benefits, but is also more delicate. Tossing those knives into kitchen sink full of other utensils and then putting a pot on top of it will not help either.

    4) Deba - Heavy, thick knife designed for cutting and filleting the fish. Can be used for butchering poultry, however cutting bones with it isn't recommended. As usual 165mm-200mm long blade. Traditionally single grind, although double grind versions, called Ryodeba are quite popular as well, Few makers do offer various Debas with western type handles as well, those would be Yo-Debas.

    Japanese knives types explained - http://zknives.com/knives/kitchen/misc/usetype/all...

    San-mai style doesn't have soft steel on the spine, only on the sides, Warikomi does and Ni-Mai as well - http://zknives.com/knives/articles/jpnknifecladtyp...

    Kasumi style baldes are easier to sharpen/maintain compared to honyaki, but honyaki will have better kirenaga/edge holding.

    All real honyakis are differentially tampered, otherwise they will simply break. Nowadays, Nenox, Susin and few other makers call their high end knives honyakis, which are neither high carbon(as in non stainless, because good stainless steel is also high carbon), nor even forged.

    While Honyakis do cost more than kasumi knives, many custom makers can definitely give you a better deal than 1000$ for 240mm gyuto.

    Sharpening honyakis is not that big of a problem compared to kasumi style. Does take some experience, but if you can sharpen kasumi style, it's not much after that.

    Source(s): 14+ years of knife collecting, sharpening and research
  • 10 years ago

    There are two classes of traditional Japanese knife forging methods: honyaki and kasumi. The class is based on the method and material used in forging the knife. Honyaki are true-forged knives, made entirely of one material: high-carbon steel. Kasumi are made from two materials, like samurai swords: high-carbon steel and soft iron forged together (known as san mai blades), with the steel forming the blade's edge and the iron forming the blade's body and spine. Honyaki and kasumi knives can be forged out of steel. Based on their kirenaga (duration of sharpness) and hardness, however they are more difficult to use and maintain. Additionally, there are high-grade quality kasumi knives called hongasumi and layered-steel kasumi called Damascus that have longer kirenaga.

    Originally, all Japanese kitchen knives were made from the same carbon steel as katana. More expensive san mai knives have a similar quality, containing an inner core of hard and brittle carbon steel, with a thick layer of soft and more ductile steel sandwiched around the core so that the hard steel is exposed only at the cutting edge. Nowadays stainless steel is often used for Japanese kitchen knives, and san mai laminated blade construction is used in more expensive blades to add corrosion resistance while maintaining strength and durability.

    Deba bocho (出刃包丁, knives used to cut fish, as well as chicken and meat. They come in different sizes, sometimes up to 30 cm (12 inches) in length. It is designed to behead and fillet fish. Its thickness, and often a more obtuse angle on the back of the heel allow it to cut off the heads of fish without damage. The rest of the blade is then used to ride against the fish bones, separating the fillet. The deba is not intended for chopping vegetables.

    Honyaki knives are forged from one single material, usually high-carbon steel. The finest honyaki are then differentially-hardened, the same method used for traditional katana. Their sharpness is the longest lasting of all Japanese blades. They are extremely difficult to forge, requiring a high level of skill and experience. They are also very difficult to sharpen and maintain, and easily damaged if not properly used. They are also more expensive than other knives (costing over $1000 for a 240mm gyuto). Kasumi knives, which are made out of two materials and are easier to forge and maintain.

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