You can only achieve great results in the kitchen by using the correct blade knife on the ingredients you need to cut. Japanese knives, such as the kiritsuke, are less familiar to some home chefs – and like most knives, they have certain uses they work best for.
The kiritsuke knife is a Japanese style slicing knife that is used mainly for thinly slicing fish, vegetables, and fruit, using push/pull cutting. It is traditionally only used by executive chefs because of its difficulty of use and significance as a symbol of status in the kitchen.
Choosing the correct kitchen knife is an essential part of preparing meals in the executive kitchen or at home. Continue reading to discover more about how to use the kiritsuke knife.
Uses of a Kiritsuke Knife
A kiritsuke knife is a cross between a Japanese yanagi blade, used for slicing raw fish extremely thin as for sushi, or as an usuba, a blade used to cut vegetables in very thin slices or julienne style.
The precision of the blade – and the experience of the chef – marry together to achieve expert results: fine, even slicing and even, delicate chopping.
But the Kiritsuke is a multipurpose Japanese blade and can also be used for:
- Cutting Herbs
- Slicing Meats
- Dicing Vegetables
It’s not an easy knife to use, which is why it is reserved for head chefs. If you want to use one at home, you need to know the proper technique – and expect to do some practice. After a while, you may find it as comfortable in your hand as a Western chef’s knife.
Properly Using a Kiritsuke Knife
Also known as the Japanese master chef’s knife, the kiritsuke knife takes practice and patience to get used to and use to its full potential.
Because these knives are extremely sharp, they must be used slowly and carefully while practicing, so you do not accidentally injure yourself. Here are some tips and tricks for proper use of a kiritsuke knife:
- Position your feet. Keep one foot back and to the side a bit to shift your body and allow your arm for better range of motion. This video illustrates the position:
- The “pinch grip” is used. Take your index finger and thumb to hold the base or bolster of the blade while your other three fingers wrap around the handle.
- Pull up toward yourself and push down and away from yourself. Not as much of a rocking motion as with other knives, unless the blade of your kiritsuke is curved.
- Tip of the knife cutting. Japanese chefs tend to use the tip of their knives more than traditional western chefs. The tip of the knife goes down on the board to get very precise, clean slices.
Construction of the Kiritsuke Knife
These knives are traditionally made by forging in fire, a process of heating and hammering out of a single piece of high carbon steel called hagane.
Made of wood that is burned in and friction fitted that is porous and fine-grained, making it less likely to split while giving it a firmer grip.
A kiritsuke knife is heavier handled with a lighter blade. The most common wood used in making the handle of a kiritsuke knife is chestnut, and the shape of the blade is often hexagon, with the heel being flat.
The blade grind comes in two variations of angles on a kiritsuke:
- The single bevel (or edge)
- The double-beveled also called the kiritsuke gyutos.
Generally, the smaller the angle, the sharper the knife. In a single bevel knife, the blade is formed only on one side. While on a double bevel knife, the blade angle is formed on both sides like most Western-style knives. Both the single and double bevel kiritsuke have a tall, rectangular blade with a clipped point.
Quality stainless steel is forged using traditional procedures passed down from one Japanese generation to another.
Pliable steel is used on the outside, covering a tough and hard high carbon steel in the center, creating an extremely sharp blade that has a long life and is easy to sharpen.
Because of the harder steel used, Japanese knives can be sharpened to a much finer angle at the cutting edge, which contributes to a sharper knife.
Are All Kiritsuke Blades Forged?
When shopping for a kiritsuke, you will often hear the terms forged or stamped. Traditional Japanese blades are forged; however, modern methods of knife-making include stamping, in which the blade is pressed and cut out from a large sheet of steel rather than a rod of steel. This is a less time-consuming method and, therefore, produces a less costly blade.
Why Is a Forged Kiritsuke More Expensive?
Although it is more expensive and time-consuming to create a forged knife, it tends to be harder and able to hold an edge better.
Forging the steel makes it stronger, and the process creates a blade that is less flexible and more durable.
To forge a knife, a single rod of steel is heated to a high degree and then hammered out repeatedly. There is a bolster at the end of the blade, which is a wide lip that meets at the handle. The bolster helps to balance the blade by adding weight near the center of the knife when held correctly.
This additional handcrafting and care create a more durable blade – and a knife that could last a lifetime.
Some Highly Rated Kiritsuke Knife Options
If you are looking for a kiritsuke knife, you’ll find options in several price ranges. Here are some of those we selected for their high ratings and customer satisfaction:
- TUO Kiritsuke Chef Knife Features forged high carbon stainless steel. This knife is 8.5” and ensures strength, flexibility, durability, and maximum performance.
- Damascus Kiritsuke Knife Is made of 67 layers of VG-10 high carbon steel for platinum durability with an 8” cutting blade.
- Findking Dynasty Kiritsuke Knife Has an African rosewood handle and is made from 9CR18MOV steel to provide efficient, precise cuts.
- Yoshihiro Mizu Yaki Super Kurouchi Kiritsuke this forged, multipurpose kiritsuke is made of high carbon steel with a “kurouchi” finish of a carbonized coating – and has rock-hard durability.
Similar Japanese Kitchen Knives
A kiritsuke is one of many high-quality Japanese chef knives, including the deba and usuba. It has been described as a cross between the gyutou and yanagi, although the kiritsuke is longer in length with an angled tip.
|Gyutou||The gyutou, or beef sword, is shorter in length than the kiritsuke knife but has a similar curved belly making it perfect for rock chopping vegetables easily. It is a double bevel knife and is similar in shape to Western knives. The pointed tip makes it slightly easier to use than the more angled tip of the kiritsuke and helps chop stiffer produce to produce fine cuts.|
|Yanagi||Also called a sashimi knife, it has a willow shaped blade that is long and extremely sharp. Typically used to thinly slice fish because of its long and thin blade, the yanagi has a pointed tip, unlike the kiritsuke knife. It is used to prepare sashimi and sushi because of its ability to slice fish paper-thin.|
|Usuba||Literally meaning “thin blade,” the usuba knife has a tall, thin blade compared to other knives and is used for specialty cuts of vegetables such as katsuramuki, which is the shaving of a cylinder vegetable.|
|Deba||This pointed carving knife has a large single bevel knife that is heavy in weight with a thin edge and is shorter than the kiritsuke knife. The deba was originally created to behead and fillet fish. Like the kiritsuke, the deba is able to thinly slice fish and other meats with extreme precision. It is unable to cut through large bones, however.|
Caring for Your Kiritsuke Knife
All knives need regular care to maintain their full function and not become dull or rusty. Properly sharpened kitchen knives complete tasks more efficiently and help maintain safety while in the kitchen. Follow these basic tips while cleaning your knives:
- When not in use, keep your clean, dry knife in a sheath to protect it.
- Wash your knives with warm and soapy water – never in the dishwasher.
- Dry by hand with a soft, clean towel.
- Sharpen your knives regularly to prevent dull edges.
- Oil regularly to prevent oxidation of the blade.
A whetstone or sandpaper may be used to sharpen a kiritsuke. The honing steel used for the softer metal of Western kitchen knives can actually damage the thinner, harder blade of a Japanese knife. Use of a whetstone is a bit like an art form in itself and is crucial to the sharp edge needed for the precision slicing of a kiritsuke knife.
Consider adding a kiritsuke knife or one of these other four professional Japanese kitchen knives to your collection. With proper care, patience and practice, the precision of the executive chef can be brought into your home kitchen.
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