Essentials of the Japanese Kitchen

Japanese Knives: Part I

包丁

A variety of knives are used in the Japanese kitchen. In this episode from the series Essentials of the Japanese Kitchen, Michelin-listed chef Shimizu Akira of AKIRA restaurant introduces a selection of some of the most versatile types that can be used in combination to prepare almost any Japanese dish.

Gyūtō ('chef's knife')

A gyūtō is a typical ‘chef’s knife’ with a double blade which means it is bevelled on both front and back. It is strong, resistant to rust, and can put up with a certain amount of rough handling.

A gyūtō is versatile knife used for many different tasks in the kitchen which makes it a good first knife to acquire. According to Akira, it shouldn’t be too large — a blade length of 210~300 mm is ideal — and the handle should fit your hand comfortably.

Santoku

A santoku is characterized by a 'sheepsfoot' tip whereby a sickle-like spine curves down to meet the tip of the knife. It is a versatile, multi-purpose Japanese knife that combines the functionalities of a gyūtō and a nakiri (vegetable knife).

Its precise, strong blade can be used to cut meat, fish and vegetables. Akira advises that the ideal blade length of a santoku is 145–165mm.

Petit

A petit knife (also known as a petty knife) is a small handy knife, shaped like a gyūtō with a blade length of around 120mm.

It is ideal for cutting or paring vegetables and fruit, as well as making fine cuts or working on small ingredients. Akira has used many different types of knives in the past, but these days he finds that one sturdy knife and one small petit knife are enough to prepare almost any Japanese dish.

A selection of santoku, nakiri and petit knives, forged by craftspeople in Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture, is currently available for purchase in The Shop, on the Ground Floor at Japan House London.