A good kitchen knife is essential for perfect presentation, and there are few nations that take presentation more seriously than the Japanese. A sloppy plate of sushi or sashimi is a very rare site indeed, and this is partly down to the superior equipment that is used to prepare these dishes. Why are Japanese knives the best, and what is it that makes them the number one choice for top chefs the world over?
Why Are Japanese Knives The Best?
Japanese cooking requires exceptional knife skills and very sharp, precise cuts. Not only does this make the dish look impressive; because sharp knives sever the cells of the ingredients rather than simply crushing them as a blunt knife might, more flavour is retained.
Accordingly, Japanese knives are made from incredibly robust, high-carbon steel such as Damascus steel, which is characterised by its water-like patterns of mottling. Many are crafted in the same way as katana (Japanese swords), which involves folding the steel several times to give the blade superior sharpness and strength. Because of this, they don’t need sharpening very often and when they do, this is a far easier task. (With a professional knife sharpener, it’s a walk in the park.)
But there’s more to a good knife than strength and sharpness alone. They should also be perfectly balanced and streamlined to provide a high level of precision. Japanese knives offer excellent control, and this is largely down to the way in which the weight is distributed between the handle and the blade.
Practical concerns aside, Japanese craftsmen take a great deal of pride in the appearance of their knives, and like katana, they are often a work of art in their own right. Perfectly sculpted handles made from exotic materials like sandalwood contrast beautifully with the water-like shimmer of the mottled metal whilst maintaining a flowing, organic aesthetic.
Often, features that appear purely decorative in nature also have a practical purpose. One example of this is the dimple effect (tsuchime) found on many Japanese knives, which make it easier to cut through sticky foods like meat and cheese.
So whether you’re a professional chef or a budding Jamie Oliver, a Japanese knife should be your secret weapon of choice. Choose a high quality santuko knife (all-round chef knife for meat, fish and vegetables) or gyuto knife (a versatile blade, ideal for chopping, filleting and preparing meat and fish), and pair with a small, petty knife for those extra fiddly cuts.
The Japanese Shop supplies a great selection of high quality Japanese knives at excellent prices. They all weigh in at 60 – 61 on the Rockwell measure of hardness – a very impressive figure for domestic kitchen knives. Browse the full range on our website and don’t forget to make the most of our free gift wrapping service if you’re ordering for Christmas.
Lifestyle images courtesy of Therese Loreskär.