Japanese and Western Style Kitchen Knives
Both Japanese and Western cultures approach the method of forging metal blades based on stress limitations, i.e., how thinly the blade can be hammered before it starts to compromise its integrity.
Japanese style kitchen knives
A Japanese blade is forged thinly but not so thin that it can be sharpened to a very thin one-sided edge. While thin metal would generally dictate frequent sharpening, this is not the case with Japanese cutlery because of the types of food that are germane to their cooking culture, e.g., fish, soft vegetables. In other words, less wear and tear on the blade, less stress on the knife’s blade, the longer it will retain it’s edge.
Traditional Japanese blades have a chisel grind, or single ground flat grind, meaning that only one side of the blade holds the cutting edge. While some more modern Japanese knives are angled from both sides, most are angled only from one side with the other side of the blade being flat or even concave.
Western style knives
Western blades are made of a less dense steel which is thicker and heavier, with a less beveled angle. Though 2-sided it is sturdier, however, it can’t be sharpened as well as a Japanese blade. Western style knife handle’s designs and shapes are varied, while Japanese knives are more simplistic in design with more paid to comfort and practicality.
Western blades have a “V” like point known as a Sabre grind, making it easier to sharpen. A good example of a Western style Sabre grind can be found on Wusthof cutlery, which are produced in Germany.
Note: The properties of a blade’s metal depends on the type of steel alloys (there are dozens of different types) that are used in producing it (heating, cooling, and shaping). Each of these factors affects the grain of the metal, the alignment of its molecules and edge retention.
The bottom line
Both Japanese and Western made knives similar as their construction which leave one key choice between cutting performance and more required maintenance (Japanese style knives) or somewhat less performance but easier and less frequent maintenance (Western style kitchen knives) and light weight (Japanese style) or heftier and heavier (Western style).
Obviously a good food preparer can work with either a Japanese or Western style knife – it’s really a matter of personal preference and circumstances, i.e., the type of food that is being prepared, retention of edge sharpness, the knife’s weight, how it fits in the hand, cost, and its overall durability.
Filed under: Kitchen knife Styles
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