Western vs Japanese Knives

Blade Styles

1) Western VS Japanese Style Knives

Almost every manufactures makes both Western and Japanese-style knives. What’s more, Japanese knives can also be made with either Western-style blades or handles, or even both. In other words, most companies offer a number of knives in Japanese and Western-style. Also, pretty much all European and American manufacturers produce various knives influenced by the Japanese-style.

But, why are Japanese-style knives so special? Namely, the edge of their blade is more long-lasting and doesn’t need frequent sharpening thanks to the harder steel it is made of. Plus, the Japanese-style knife is usually lighter and its edge is usually cut in a steeper angle. They are also specifically made for precision and exactness which means that you should be careful while sharpening or preferably take them to a professional sharpener.

On the contrary, Western-style knives are made of softer steel which doesn’t really mean that it is low-quality. But, it is true that the edge is less lasting than the Japanese-style knives and that it needs more regular sharpening. On the positive side, you don’t have to take them to a professional since they are much easier and simpler to sharpen and aren’t so delicate and brittle. And if you want your knives to be a bit heavy, they are the perfect choice for you.

2) Western-Style Knives (generally double-edged)

Ever wondered why there was a need to develop Western-style knives in Japan? Namely, they were created in order to fit the requirements of chefs who are preparing non-Japanese food. In general,their strong thin blade is what makes them stand out from Japanese-style knives. Plus, Japanese manufacturers are developing new advanced processes for making exceptional Western-style knives. Some of the advances in manufacturing include ‘sub-zero tempering’ and premium trademark-formulated steels.

3) Traditional Japanese-Style Knives (generally single-edge)

At first,carbon steel, the metal used for making the katana, was usually used for producing all Japanese kitchen knives. And you can find much the same quality in the more expensive knives having more than three layers. They consist of an inner core made of hard and brittle carbon steel and a thick layer of more ductile and soft steel. What’s more, the hard steel is only visible at the cutting edge because the thick layer of soft steel is sandwiched around the core. Today, Japanese-style kitchen knives are usually made of stainless steel whereas the more costly ones have a multi-layer overlaid blade that makes the blade resistant to corrosion while keeping its durability and strength. 

Double-Edged VS Single-Edged Kitchen Knives

Different characteristics apply to these knives. For example, a double-edged kitchen knife needs to be sharpened on both sides of the blade, it is mostly for left-and-right handed, and 50:50, or sometimes 60:40, sharpening balance. On the other side, a single-edged kitchen knife is usually sharpened on one side only, it is generally for right-handed, and 100:0 sharpening balance.

Also, Japanese and Western-style knives have different blades. The Japanese usually have single-edged blades, whereas the Western ones have double-edged blades in most of the cases.

Edge Angle

Usually, people think that the more acute an angle is the greater the sharpness it provides.However, that’s not really true. Namely, the sharpness and cutting ability of the blade isn’t affected by the angle at the edge point.

For example, if you want to cut something made of thin material with a sharp or an obtuse kitchen knife, there won’t be a huge difference in the sharpness. That’s the reason why professional sashimi knives have a 35~45 degree edge point blade.Still, they provide excellent sharpness with less-likely chipping. But, unlike professional knives, the usual household kitchen knives that serve for many purposes have a 25~30 degree edge point.

The only case when you may feel like sharpness is good is when you use a blade with a very acute angle. In fact, the smaller the angle is the better the sharpness it provides due to less frictional resistance. Yet, a smaller angle may result in easy chipping if you want to cut hard things like frozen foods. Last but not least, if you want to achieve the perfect balance between chipping and sharpness with a double-edged Western-style knife, go for 25~35 degree edge point.

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