The Japanese have a saying, “The nail that stands out gets hammered down.” If you’re the first one to discover something in the knife world, it’s going to be difficult to get everyone else on board.
This is especially true with Japanese knives. The Japanese cutlery industry is notorious for coming up with new handle designs and blade shapes as a means of staying relevant and promoting their wares as the best-in-class.
But because of this constant reinvention and pivoting, many Westerners don’t recognize what belongs where anymore. So let’s clear it up once and for all! There are two common terms used when talking about knifes; bunka vs gyuto. Here’s what you need to know…
What’s the difference between a bunkai and a gyuto?
If you’re looking for the ultimate Western-style knife, a gyuto is the way to go. However, if you’re looking for a Japanese-style Japanese knife, a bunkai will do the trick. The main difference between the two lies in the edge steel.
Gyutos have a layer of Japanese stainless VG-10 on their edge, while bunkais are typically made with AUS-8. AUS-8 is a lower-tech, higher carbon version of what’s on the edge of a gyuto.
It’s not a bad steel per se, but blades made with AUS-8 tend to curl more with age, and are not as sharp right out of the box. This can be problematic if you’re trying to cut a piece of fruit or something similar that needs to be extremely clean. The second major difference between the two is the handle.
Gyutos have a handle made of pakka wood or carbon fiber, while bunkais are typically made with synthetic materials. Once again, this is not a dealbreaker. There are several examples of high-quality Japanese knives made with a steel of lesser quality. It all comes down to personal preference and budget.
How to choose your next knife
First, you’ll need some sort of sharpening system. A sharpening stone is your best bet, especially for making Japanese-style descent angles.
If you’re just starting out, get yourself a coarse stone and practice on vegetables and other soft foods. Once you’ve got your technique down, move on to an intermediate stone.
After you’ve mastered that, it’s time to think about an honing steel. Honing steels are what keep your edge razor-sharp, so you won’t have to sharpen as often.
A good honing steel is a must, as is a honing guide. The honing guide is essential for keeping your edge razor-sharp, while the honing steel is used to maintain that edge once the honing guide has broken down.
If you’re serious about cooking, you can get yourself a set of professional-grade knives. It’s important to keep in mind that this is an investment and not a replacement for a good set of knives.
A good set of knives can last a lifetime. Professional-grade knives are usually very expensive and are a one-time investment.
Which is better, a shinken or a kendou?
A shinken is used in the traditional kendou system. In this method, you’re honing the edge of a knife before cutting through a block of steel.
Kendou is typically done with a shinken. Shinken were traditionally made from carbon steel, while modern honing steels are made of stainless steel.
Kendou is typically done with a softer knife such as a gyuto. A shinken would be more suited for cutting soft foods such as vegetables and fruit, while a gyuto would perform better on tougher foods such as meat and fish.
Western knives can be used for both kendou and shinken. It comes down to the steel of the knife, as shinken are typically made with a softer steel than a gyuto.
The best knives for beef, chicken and seafood
When it comes to meats, a gyuto is the way to go. Gyutos are specifically designed for this purpose, with thinner blades and swedged edges that are better suited for cutting through meat.
A Western chef’s knife will work, but it’s not designed for this task. To slice through a thick steak like a pro, you need a knife that has a thinner blade and swedge.
A boning knife would also work great for meat, though it’s not specifically designed for this purpose. For shrimp, scallops and other seafood, you want a thinner, more flexible knife. A boning knife will work, but a gyuto would be more efficient.
The best knives for vegetables?
Vegetables can be tough to cut with. The thinner blades of a gyuto help to do this job more efficiently and with less effort, while also making them great for vegetables such as carrots and radishes.
You can also use a Western chef’s knife, but it’s not designed for this purpose. A boning knife would work great for vegetables, as would a serrated bread knife. If you’re looking for the best knives for vegetables, a higher-quality knife is essential.
You want a knife that’s made of high-quality materials and with a balance of weight and flexibility. A heavier knife with a high amount of flexibility is better suited for delicate foods, while a lighter knife with a less amount of flexibility is great for harder foods. A Japanese knife is a good investment for an aspiring chef.
There’s no denying that Japanese knives are beautiful and have a distinct aesthetic, but they’re also some of the sharpest knives on the market. They’re made with a keen attention to detail, which can make for some of the best kitchen knives money can buy.
If you’re looking for the best Japanese knives, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better product than a Maruwa-san (Japanese Knife) set. These knives have been made by Japanese craftsmen for centuries, and they’re still being made today, thanks to the company’s commitment to quality craftsmanship.
There’s no reason to settle for subpar knives in the kitchen when you can have knives that are sharp enough to slice through anything.