Japanese knives guide header image.
Key for each illustration describing what a Japanese knife can be used for including Slicing, Dicing, Mincing, Julienning , Filleting, Carving
Japanese Gyuto Knife or Chefs Knife illustration

Gyutou / Chef’s Knife

Gyutou means “Beef Knife” in Japanese, this is because they were used in Japan for primarily cutting meat. It is the Japanese equivalent to a chef’s knife and like a chef’s knife it can be used to cut meat, vegetables, fish and because it has an extended tip it can smoothly be rocked back and forth for quick chopping or precious work. It is lighter than a European chef’s knife and also thinner and made out of a harder steel which allows us to hold its edge.

It can also be sharpened easily across the whole the blade because there is nothing obstructing the edge of the handle end of the blade. You will commonly find them in sizes between 210mm and 270mm although other variations can be found. It is a great first knife for an amateur chef or even a home cook, we find that people at home tend to go for a smaller knife and amateur chefs for a larger knife.

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Santoku / Multipurpose Knife

Santoku meaning “three virtues” in Japanese allowing it to be using for dicing, mincing and chopping. It may sound like it’s a copy of the the Gyuto/Chef’s Knife but actually it differs with both the shape and the way it can be used. The santoku knife has a taller blade and it also has a flat belly. The belly is the part of the blade where the blade’s edge is, this part of the knife is important as it affects the way the blade can be used, with a flat belly the Santoku knife cuts in a up and down chopping motion rather than the chef’s knife which is a more rocking type of cut. 

There is a go to knife for many home cooks as it normally comes in sizes between 130mm and 20mm which is relatively smaller in comparison to the chef’s knife. Also, many home cooks are used to a flat belly of the knife and normally cut the meat, vegetables or fish in a chopping motion rather than a rocking cut. 

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Sujihiki / Carving Knife

Sujihiki meaning “Pull Tendon” refers to its ability to carve out meat and fillet fish. It is the Japanese equivalent to the European slicer. It is thinner than a European blade and is made out of harder steel allowing for a better edge.

Also, the way the way is it sharpened allows it to be used for precise work. It has a long narrow blade that smoothly slices through larger roasts or larger fish. It can also be used for thinly slicing other ingredients such as vegetables or soft fruit. 


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Petty / Paring Knife

Petty meaning “Petit” in French means small. The petty knife is a general purpose knife that can be used for many different tasks in the kitchen. It is more nimble which allows you to reach the hard to reach places. It has a relevatiely narrow blade which allows you to make precion cuts.

The handle of the knife is commonly lighter which affects the balance of the knife by bringing it more in the centre, this also assists with creating precision cuts. It comes in a range of sizes from 75mm to 210mm although many people tend to go with a 90mm to 130mm, anything above that and you should consider getting a santoku knife. You will find this is in most kitchens and is the second knife we suggest to buy after the Santoku. 

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Honesuki / Boning Knife

Honesuki meaning “bone lover” in Japanese and is the equivalent for a European boning knife it has a pointed tip and triangular shape and is very stiff this allows it makes it really good for deboning poultry and filleting fish.

It can be used to cut through joints of a bird but not to cleave through the bone, for that you would need a heavy cleaver or a western deba knife. It can also be used a petty knife and is very handy in both the professional or home kitchen. 

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Hankotsu / Boning Knife

Hankotsu meaning “Rebellious” in Japanese is a boning knife that that differs from the Honesuki knife because its shape is more straight edged rather then triangular, it is used for cutting through hanging carcasses using a reverse cut grip which is the only time you should cut towards yourself.

It has a pointed tip and a short height which allows the user to turn to cut along bone, connective tissue or fat. Sometimes you find that they are unsharpened to give a very strong edge for tough work during the deboning process. It can be used for cutting poultry and fish but for that a Honesuki is a much better option. 

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Nakiri / Vegetable Knife

Nakiri meaning “Leaf Cutter” in Japanese makes it very easy to understand why this knife is used for cutting vegetables. People often mistake it for a cleaver because of its shape, although it should only be used for cutting vegetables, although it is similar to a cleaver in the way you use it to chop up and down rather than with a chefs knife where you roll it.

The blade is very thin, so it allows you to make those straight slice cuts, if used with small fish bones or meat you will find that it might shatter or crack. The Nakiri has a double bevelled edge as opposed to the Usuba knife which is a single bevelled edge. It can be used for chopping, slicing, mincing vegetables such as cucumbers, salad leaves, carrots and even fruits like banana, apples and oranges. It is a more specialised knife and so for that reason it would be great alternative to a Santoku knife/Multipurpose knife for someone that is a vegetarian 

Check out our range of Vegetable Knives here

Usuba / Vegetable Knife

Usasa meaning “thin blade” in Japanese is a vegetable knife with a single edge. This means that it has a much sharper edge and is favoured for precise vegetable work where presentation is key. It used by professionals as it requires more experience to use and because of its incredibly sharp edge, it can even slice through tomatoes which normally requires a serrated edge to penetrate the skin before slicing it. Just like the Nakiri knife it can be used for chopping, slicing and mincing. 

Check out our range of Vegetable Knives here

Yo Deba / Butchery Knife

Yo Deba meaning “Western Deba” in Japanese is a knife that has been created for the European market, therefore you will find that it has a double level edge which makes it ideal for cutting through lobster and crab shells.

Unlike the Deba knife it is thicker and has more weight because of the way it is used to cut through fish bones. It is not recommended to use the knife to cut frozen foods or very hard and thick bones as that will cause it to become damaged. 

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Deba / Butchery

Deba meaning “pointed carver” in Japanese are single bevelled knives that have an acute angles on their edges and that excel at cutting softer, thinner produce like fish. They first appeared in the Edo period in Saki and it was designed to behead and fillet fish.

Its thickness and obtuse edge on the back of the heel allowed the user to cut of the heads of the fish without damage. It requires skill in order to be able to maintain its sharpness because its single sided. 

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Yanagi / Sashimi / Sushi Slicer

Yanagi meaning “Willow Tree” in Japanese are single edged knives that are used to cut sashimi and sushi with precision, this is done through a long drawing motion rather than a chopping down or sawing method that you may see amateurs do with a chefs knife. 

They can also be used to fillet small to medium sized fish and are often used for skinning fish. The blade is so long it allows the user to cut from one of the end of the fish to the other making it a knife that requires skill to use. 

The reason this knife is used for Sashimi is because it helps to preserve the original flavour and texture of the fish, this is because of the acute blade angle which causes the fish to be sliced and then push away the other piece, this stops it from being damaged or squeezed which causes bruising and makes it harder to keep fresh. 

Yanagi are available in variety of blade lengths, typically ranging from 210mm up to 360mm, with the 270mm, 300mm, and 330mm sizes being particularly popular.

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