Knife Choices

The idea of cutting without rocking your knife on the chopping board, no quick handle flick or double-handed chopping. It is all about total control, and in the end the cut is uniform and precise.

So what is the difference between a western knife and a Japanese knife? Generally western kitchen knives are only made of stainless steel. It is said that stainless steel is strong against rust and easy to maintain, though it is so weak that the sharpness will not be continued. The stainless steel is far from the steel Hagane for seeking sharpness. The steel Hagane is so hard that it enables the knives to keep on sharpness much longer than any other material.

I have been using Japanese knives for over twenty years and I am asked about knife choices, should I buy a Japanese knife and the answer is yes and no. Japanese kitchen knives have a worldwide reputation for quality, beauty and resilience. The trouble is, how much time and effort you’re willing to put into taking care of your knives. Any blue steel or white steel knife must be wiped after each cut and it isn’t advisable to leave them unattended or sitting on the counter or risk someone hurting themselves.

Lets keep it simple: blue steel is the top grade, very costly $500 and up, white steel is second category and then there is the rest. The rest means a number of different combinations of steel, folded or otherwise, and the bottom line is budget and skill. There is no reason to buy a Usuba unless you intend to maintain it, and of course sharpening a knife is a basic necessity.

Japanese knives are traditionally made with a type of carbon steel which are called hagane (edge steel) and shingane (core steel).

Cutting implements made with hagane can hold an extremely sharp edge, which is why this material was also used to forge samurai swords. However, hagane edges are relatively soft steel to be maintained regularly.

All Japanese professional chefs sharpen and take care of their knives every day while stainless steel, on the other hand is very easy to maintain and it doesn’t rust, but it doesn’t compare. Once a stainless steel blade loses its edge, it takes some effort and skill to sharpen properly, so many people prefer to have them professionally sharpened. Personally I think ceramic is ideal for cutting tomatoes and apples as well as other fruits. I won’t get into the topic of ceramic but every kitchen should have at least one ceramic knife.

The major consideration when looking at knives is whether to choose a single or double bevel blade. Most traditional Japanese-style knives have a single bevel and on one side, and Western knives types have a short bevel on both sides of the blade. Double-bevel knives are also generally thinner, lighter and easier to use.

For home use, most prefer a double-bevel blade as it is easier to handle, and they aren’t difficult to sharpen. If you prefer lighter, thinner knives, a santoku is a suitable knife but there is no doubt if you have any intention to cut as I do, a Japanese knife will guide you through to micro precision.