What To Know About Japanese Knives

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All Your Questions about Japanese Knives, Answered: Are they the right knives for you?

Why are Japanese knives so special?

There are a few main features that make Japanese knives differ from German/European knives. Firstly, they often are made out of carbon steel, as opposed to stainless steel. This is a harder material, but in reality, the blades are actually more brittle, as the blade is thinner. The carbon steel is more delicate and high-maintenance, as it corrodes when exposed to acid or moisture. Secondly, the thinness of the blade makes them ideal for precision cutting. If you think about how they’re used for cutting raw fish, this makes sense. The blade is sharper, and has no bolster. The bolster is the joint that melds the blade and the handle. This blade thinness also makes them much more lightweight and easier to manipulate than German knives, which heaviness is better suited for heavy chopping.

The final difference is that Japanese knives are traditionally single beveled, while German knives are double. This just means that Japanese knives are sharp on one side, while German are sharp on both sides.

Japanese knives are really fine tuned precision tools that may not be necessary for the amateur home chef. Though they are beautiful and great knives for any experience level.

Do chefs prefer German or Japanese knives?

Most chefs in the United States would use a German knife for everyday use just because they are hardier and don’t require as much special attention to maintenance. Japanese knives definitely get a lot of use in professional kitchens for Asian cuisine and seafood restaurants.

How long do Japanese knives last?

These knives will likely last a lifetime, or at least over 20 years for the home chef, assuming it is properly maintained. For heavy use in a professional setting, this life span is greatly reduced, as there is only so much one can sharpen a knife before it becomes useless.

How often should you sharpen a Japanese knife?

You should sharpen your knife once a month, or every other month, depending on how much you use it. At least, it should be sharpened a few times a year.

Are Japanese knives harder to sharpen?

Yes, I would say that Japanese knives are harder to sharpen because they require a little more attention and speciality than their European counterparts. You should never using a honing rod on your Japanese knife. Also, never use a belt sander, electric sharpener, hot grinder, or any pull through sharpener. Instead, you should only use a Japanese whetstone to sharpen them. It is greatly recommended that you seek out professional help with experience with Japanese knives if don’t know what you’re doing—it’s just not worth damaging your valuable knife.

What can you not cut with a Japanese knife?

Since the blades of these knives are more brittle, be sure to refrain from cutting on very hard surfaces such as stainless steel, glass, stone, bamboo and hard plastic. Also avoid cutting very hard foods that are frozen solid, hard bones, and hard shells/nuts. Additionally, you should refrain from bending and twisting the knife, as this can cause chips and breaks. Of course, you should never use your knife as a can opener, screwdriver or chisel, as this will definitely cause damage.

Can Japanese knives go in the dishwasher?

No, Japanese knives (or any chef knives, in general) should never go in the dishwasher. The dishwasher will dull the blades. Additionally, the high moisture environment and harsh detergents in the dishwasher will also rust the blades of your Japanese knives. All knives should be washed by hand with a mild dish soap, and dried immediately. Don’t let your knife air dry, as rust will form. This care is very important, as washing improperly can ruin your knives, and void warranties and guarantees.

Final Thoughts

Japanese knives require more special care and attention than European knives, which are workhorses of the kitchen. If you’re a home chef, you probably don’t need to shell out on a Japanese knife if you already have quality German knives. However, Japanese knives are surely a wise investment if you are a pro, and especially like making fish and seafood, and value precision.

Be sure to check out our thorough reviews on German knives to get the full lowdown on cutlery: Wusthof Classic vs Gourmet, and Wusthof Classic vs Ikon vs Classic Ikon.

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