Japan is renowned for its amazing blade production. From the mighty Samurai sword to the humble kitchen knife, this country produces some of the most impressive blades on the planet. But when shopping for a kitchen knife, you’ll notice that there are lots of choices. So, today, we are going to introduce you to the kiritsuke knife.
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What Is a Kiritsuke and What Is It Used For?
The Kiritsuke is a chef knife from Japan that is mainly used for chopping vegetables and slicing fish. When you think about other types of Japanese knives, these usually have a single purpose whereas the Kiritsuke is a little more versatile.
The knife features a rectangular shape, very similar to the Nakiri knife and with a straight spine and an angled tip. The name 'kiritsuke' can be roughly translated to mean ‘split open’ and this is a single-bevel knife that is one of the more traditional types of Japanese knives. Speaking of tradition, did you know that, in Japan, the Kiritsuke is deemed to be so special that only the top chef in a kitchen is permitted to use it?
You’ll notice that, when buying a Kiritsuke knife, the cost is generally more than other types of Japanese knife and this is largely to do with the fact that it’s almost considered to be a status symbol. Although, with that in mind, it isn’t as popular in Japan as it is in other parts of the world.
A Combination of KnivesOne of the most interesting things about the Kiritsuke is that it is a mash-up between the Yanagi knife and the Gyuto knife. The Gyuto is considered to be an all-purpose utensil and is ideal when you need to slice meat. On the other hand, the Yanagi knife is favoured when cutting fish, especially for dishes like sushi.
Combining aspects of both of these knives results in the Kiritsuke which many would consider to be almost akin to a short sword.
What Are the Main Design Features of the Kiritsuke Knife?A Kiritsuke knife is usually made from carbon steel; this is a very common material in Japanese knife making and is what gives the blades their hardness and ability to retain their edge. In the case of the Kiritsuke, you’d normally expect the blade to be between eight and ten inches.
There may be times that the knife maker decides to make the design more aesthetically pleasing by adding visual features in the spine. This might be a hammered finish, a logo or a series of indentations.
The handle of the Kiritsuke knife can come in many shapes and forms. The most traditional shape is round but you may also see the grip being a hexagon or an octagon. These styles make for a very authentic Japanese finish.
How to Use a Kiritsuke KnifeKnowing what your Kiritsuke knife is used for is one thing but it’s also important to understand how to use it. This is one of the more difficult Japanese knives to get to grips with but that certainly doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to; it’s just important to follow some simple tips. Once you’ve practiced, you’ll soon be able to use the knife to its full potential.
One of the most important things to remember when using a Kiritsuke knife is that this is an incredibly sharp blade so you should take extra care and don’t rush your practice. It’s not uncommon for a new user to get overly confident, speed up and end up cutting themselves.
Using this knife starts from the ground up and you’ll need to make sure that you correctly position the feet. One foot should be kept back and to the side, as this allows you to move your body and gives your arm a greater range of movement.
Holding the Kiritsuke knife requires the use of a pinch grip. To do this, you will need to place the index finger and thumb on the bolster of the blade while the remaining fingers are placed around the handle.
When you are moving the knife through the food, you’ll need to make sure that you push the knife downwards and away from you and when pulling it towards yourself, do so in an upwards direction. Since most Kiritsuke blades are straight, you won’t need to employ the rocking motion cutting technique.
If you’re looking for the best precision with your Kiritsuke knife then you’ll want to get used to cutting with the tip. This is a technique used by many Japanese chefs but not something that many western chefs do. However, when cutting finely, the result will be much more accurate and all you need to do is to make sure that the tip of the blade goes down onto the cutting board.
Final ThoughtsThe Kiritsuke knife is one of many different types of Japanese knife and is often referred to as a hybrid of the Gyuto and Yanagi knives. It’s incredibly versatile and can be used for everything from cutting vegetables to slicing through fish, making it an important tool to have in your kitchen.
The Kiritsuke knife is so highly renowned in its country of origin that many kitchens will only permit the head chef to use it. Many consider it to be a status symbol and while they can be costly, their sharp, hard blades retain their edge immaculately.