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If you are like me who loves to make sushi rolls almost every weekend, you will probably be a proud owner of a Japanese sushi knife (see my favorite one). Every time I wish to pamper my taste buds and that of my friends’ with delicious rolls, my sushi knife comes handy from cutting fish and vegetables to cutting the roll.
My friend once asked me ‘why are sushi knives one-sided? I looked up on the Internet and found that most Japanese knives are honed on one side to produce the sharpest possible edge. The other side is usually flat, while the sharp side is flat to a certain level and then it begins to slope to attain sharpness. This type of knife is also known as a single-beveled Japanese knife.
The single-bevel knives are much sharper than the traditional western-style knives that can be honed both sides and are known as the double-edged knives. In western knives, a cross section of the edge appears like a ‘V’ shape while in traditional sushi knives, it appears like a right angle. Read on to know more.
What’s The Difference Between Sushi And Sashimi Knives
Both sushi and sashimi knives are handcrafted to be used for specific tasks. They require specific instructions to maintain and handle different types of jobs. Most of the Japanese knives are made of high-carbon steel to attain extremely sharp edges but they can rust easily, hence they need good care.
While non-experts see no difference between a sushi and sashimi knife, chefs can tell you that they both differ a lot. A sushi knife is multifaceted to perform different activities like cutting fish, vegetables, meat, nori sheets, and rolls.
A sashimi knife like this is specifically designed to cut thin slices of fish and other varieties of seafood. The Japanese take the preparation of sashimi very seriously. As a result, they use an extremely sharp knife that is capable of making precise cuts.
Why Are Japanese Knives So Sharp
When it comes to professional use, the Japanese-style knives are known to be superior and sharper than their Western counterpart. They bring together a perfect blend of materials, structure and production methodology.
The traditional sushi knife is typically right-handed and they are meant to be held in the right hand while cutting fish, meat, or vegetables. The left-handed knives are better designed to cut shellfish. If you are a left-handed person, you may want a left-handed knife but they are usually custom-made and expensive.
A Sneak-peek Into History Of Sushi Knives
The technique of making handcrafted sushi knives go back to the 14th century. Most of the high-quality knives are made in Sakai in Osaka, which was the headquarter for samurai sword production.
With the modernization of Japan in the 19th century, it became illegal for common people to carry the samurai swords. As a result, a lot of sword craftsmen shifted their business to making sushi knife cutlery.
In any trade, the specific procedures and rules are passed down from master to apprentice, and sushi knives are no exception. With every sushi knife crafted by these skilled artisans, you get a piece of history. It carries years of experience and knowledge passed down from the generations.
Over the years, Japan has developed its art of food preparation with hard work and dedication. With their traditional samurai knives, the chefs celebrate the art of cutting with extreme precision to make fine fish and vegetable slices for sushi.
Different Sushi Knives Used By Chefs
The traditional sushi chefs use one of three different types of sushi knives for various cutting jobs involved in making sushi. The activities include peeling vegetables, slicing, dicing, mincing, chopping, and cutting the rolls. Let’s take a closer look at each of three sushi knives.
This is a heavy duty, yet small Japanese carving knife designed to cut through bones and cartilages. It can be described as a perfect mix of the gyuto knife and a meat cleaver. The knives come in different sizes ranging between 4 inches and 12 inches.
The blade is thick and one-sided beveled. It is usually designed as an obtuse angle at the heel, which makes it perfect for removing the head from the body of fish. The remaining area of the blade can then be used to remove the fillets.
Although this type of sushi knife is not a necessity for a home chef, it can certainly make life easier. It comes handy for the professionals who prefer preparing whole fish for a sushi dinner. The rest can buy frozen fish cut in blocks so there’s no need for a knife to remove the head or fillets.
This is another Japanese-style knife used primarily for cutting vegetables with precision. It comprises of a thin and straight blade present on the right side. The edge is present on one side only and it is known as kataba.
The high-end Usuba knives come with a small depression on the flat end of the blade. As a one-sided Japanese knife, it is easier to make very thin slices of vegetables or fruits. It takes a lot of skill to properly use a Usuba sushi knife.
Usaba is a Japanese term that means ‘thin blade’ and most of the Usuba knives are designed for the professionals. The standard Usaba knife has a square blunt edge on the front side. The tip can be used for making intricate designs in vegetables for ornamentation.
Yanagiba or Sashimi-bocho
Cutting fish for making sushi and sashimi is serious business in Japan. The sliced meat should be cut precisely to look smooth and shine like jewels. This level of precision is attained only by using a very special knife like the Yanagib.
This is a long and thin shaped single beveled Japanese knife used for making sushi and sashimi. You can also find the left-hand versions of Yanagiba but they are extremely expensive. This style of knife is basically designed to cut in one direction.
The user should cut fish or meat slices in one swift motion starting at the beginning of the heel and ending at the tip. Pushing action is not recommended as this would damage the edges and not result in a smooth cut. Due to the thinness of the blade, it can be pulled with little force and this further helps in cutting.
What Angle Should You Sharpen A One-Sided Knife?
To sharpen a one-sided knife, always maintain an angle between 15 – 17 degrees. This helps in producing a sharp and fine edge, which is essential for cutting meat, delicate seafood, and vegetables. As there is just one blade, the knives take less time to sharpen.
Furthermore, the knives are delicate in nature and a wrong step can ruin the blade. Hence, it is important to apply the perfect technique when using a whetstone to sharpen. Here are the steps to follow when sharpening with a whetstone:
Put the whetstone on the countertop or cutting board with the rough side facing upwards. You may place a wet towel below the whetstone to prevent it from sliding.
Grasp the knife handle in one hand and hold the edge against the whetstone at about 15-17 degree angle. Stabilize the blade using the other hand.
Apply moderate pressure as you slide the blade on the whetstone with forward and across motion to cover the complete length of the blade. Do this ten times and then sharpen the other side of the blade.
Rinse and dry the blade to ensure there are no metal particles.
Which Type Of Sushi Knife Should I Get First – Deba, Usuba or Yanagiba?
If you are a beginner looking for a professional sushi knife, I would recommend the Yanagiba (Learn More) . You can use the knife to make thin and delicate sashimi cuts of fish. You can also use it to slice through the Maki rolls with ease. A Yanagiba can perform jobs that you cannot imagine with your standard chef’s knife.
The jobs performed by Deba and the Usuba knives can also be done with a good quality and sharp chef’s knife until you can buy one of these. If you already have a Yanagiba, and are looking for a second knife to add to your collection, I would recommend Usuba that you can use to make extremely thin vegetable slices.
If you are looking for gyuto knives, read this article to find unbiased reviews of the best gyuto knives under budget and things to consider before buying them.
How To Slice With Your Yanagiba Knife
Get a good grip of the handle in your right hand and extend the index finger along the length of the blade to get better control. To make smart cuts, begin from the base that is closest to you and then draws the knife towards you to make a full cut in one go.
Tips for Taking Care Of Your One-Sided Sushi Knife
- Wash your Japanese sushi knife with soapy water and rinse well with clean water. Dry it properly using a towel to prevent rusting.
- Always place the knife back to the case after use. If you don’t have a case, wrap it up in newspaper and store in a separate section of the rack or drawer.
- Never use a sharpening steel to hone the blade of your Japanese sushi knife. You must only use a whetstone like this or water stone
- When slicing acidic fruits like apples, lemons, or sushi, make sure you wipe the knife frequently
- Never attempt to cut frozen food using your delicate sushi knife or you may chip the blade.
- You must never roast knife over the fire as this can degrade the sharpness of the blade considerably.
How to sharpen without a whetstone?
I strongly recommend sharpening a knife with a whetstone. However, if you don’t have one, you may use the back of a ceramic bowl. Place a ceramic bowl upside down on the counter, grasp the handle, and run the blade (back and forth) over the bottom part. Make sure you cover the entire length of the blade to make it razor sharp.
How to prevent rust while storing knives
Let the knife dry completely before storing it back into the case. Cover the knife in a newspaper because the newspaper contains some oil that can prevent rusting. Cleaning the blade with some vegetable oil before storing can also prevent rusting.
See More Here’s How to Save Rusty Knives
Why do you need razor-sharp blades in a sushi knife?
As these blades are razor sharp, the fish cells don’t get crushed, the natural juice is retained and the flavors of the food also remain intact. This results in high-quality taste and presentation.