When you mention a Kiritsuke knife, you think of a wide range of uses, but two outstanding uses come to mind. First, the cutting of vegetables for numerous dishes and secondly, the cutting of fish for dishes such as sushi or sashimi.
But why are these two uses so outstanding?
Well, it is because the Kiritsuke knife evolved from the combination of the Usuba which is used by the Japanese for cutting vegetables, and a Yanagi for cutting fish.
Some may say the Kiritsuke knife is a multipurpose knife that can do everything cutting work in the kitchen, but I like to think of the Kiritsuke as a more complex tool that needs competence and skill to act as a multipurpose tool.
For the sake of specialty and perfection, the Japanese have a series of simple and complex knives in their kitchen arsenal of which the Kiritsuke is one of the group knives. In such situations where there are so many tools for different purposes, it is just right for you to know their best uses.
What is a Kiritsuke knife?
The Kiritsuke knife is a unique but complex Japanese knife. It is easy to identify because of its features such as its lengthy nature and flat blade, straight wide edge, and its ‘clip point’ tip. Though complex, the Kiritsuke is a versatile knife used to achieve the best kind of cutting in the hands of the perfect user.
The Kiritsuke knife may be a single or double bevel. The single-bevel (chisel ground) model is called the Kiritsuke Yanagiba or Kensaki Yanagiba, and it is used mainly for filleting raw fish when preparing local Japanese or foreign cuisine.
The double-bevel (ground on both sides) type is called the Kiritsuke Gyuto, Double Bevel Kiritsuke, or K-tip Gyuto. It is more versatile in use than the single-bevel Kiritsuke.
Features of the Kiritsuke knife
The Kiritsuke is one of the long knives in the kitchen with lengths ranging from 24cm to 33cm. Its length enhances its perfection in cutting through overly long fish, achieving a good vegetable cut or even a perfect fruit mince.
Many would refer to the Kiritsuke as the kitchen sword. This is because the knife is shaped like a sword, especially the double-bevel kiritsuke. Its sharp flat blade and straight edge with a ‘clip point’ tip make it unique in shape. Hence it is easy to identify among other Japanese knives.
The edge of the Kiritsuke knife is slightly concave. The non-sticky nature of the edge allows all ingredients to be cleared off the blade surface while cutting.
While the indigenous Japanese people choose the traditional Kiritsuke handle because of its lightweight nature, other people may choose to go for the Western handle designs.
The traditional handles may be wooden and come in different shapes as round, D-shape, or octagonal. All are made for a perfect grip to enhance function and prevent ergonomic hazards.
One good thing about Japanese knives is that they are usually lightweight and sharp. The Kiritsuke knife is not an exception. It is light with thin sharp blades and quite handy.
What is Kiritsuke Knife Used For?
You know by now that a Kiritsuke knife is one of a kind, but what exactly is it used for? A Kiritsuke knife is still the best option for a chef cutting his raw fish for sushi or a woman preparing her vegetables for salad. Let’s see other uses of the Kiritsuke knife
1. Cutting of vegetables
You can use a Kiritsuke knife to effortlessly bring the vegetable into your desired form. The sharp flat blades of the knife are adapted to cut vegetables into different sizes or designs depending on the chef’s choice and skills. Vegetables such as tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, pumpkins, or cucumbers could really use the help of the Kiritsuke knife.
2. Dicing of fruits
Kiritsuke can be used to achieve a well-diced fruit for different dishes. Dishes like pineapple rice, coconut rice, or banana pancake require complex dicing of the involved fruits before being backed up by other complementary procedures. Other cases requiring fruit chopping for fruit salad and food-fruit combo need precise cut fruits to get the desired design and appealing eyesight.
3. Filleting and cutting of fish
The sharp, pointed tip and lengthy nature of the Kiritsuke knife are mainly for the sake of filleting and cutting of fishes of different sizes for sushi, sashimi, and every other fish meal.
Other multipurpose knives can cut vegetables or dice fruits but when it comes to special dishes where fish is an ingredient, the chef stretches out for the tool that best handles it; the Kiritsuke knife.
4. Cutting meat
Cutting, chopping, or dicing the boneless chicken, beef, mutton, liver, intestines, and other protein either cooked or raw for popular local dishes in the kitchen is fine for the Kiritsuke knife. That is why a chef or an intentional family cook will need a Kiritsuke knife throughout the cooking journey.
How to use a Kiritsuke knife
Kiritsuke is not a simple beginner knife. It’s somewhat complex and as such is used by an experienced chef who has mastered the skill of cutting with the Kiritsuke knife. Because of its complexity and technicality in usage, it is usually used to depict prestige and honor in the Japanese kitchen.
But not to feel bad, everything begins with a process. Even the badass chefs using the knife were once amateur. So here are a few tips to help you as you master the skill of cutting with the Kiritsuke knife
Tips for healthy cutting with a Kiritsuke knife
- Avoid speed: As a beginner, trying to chop vegetables or cut fish fast can be dangerous considering how sharp the Kiritsuke knife is. A slow and consistent chopping will still give a marvelous result.
- Choose a comfortable size and length: Kiritsuke knives have lengths ranging from 21cm to 33cm. Check out the size that suits you best. Using an extremely long choice can be uncomfortable and more difficult to use. Perhaps, the 27cm Kiritsuke is the most used and might suit you as well. You should also consider the size of your palm and which handle helps you grip perfectly.
- Avoid slippery ingredients or a Slippery cutting surface: Slippery surfaces could make cutting more difficult and ingredients can easily slip off. Kiritsuke is so sharp that a slight slip can cut your skin. Avoid cutting slippery fish, liver, or chicken. Ensure the ingredient to be cut is well washed, clean, and not slippery at all.
- Cut with the tip: To achieve a clean and precise cutting of vegetables, use the tip of the Kiritsuke knife and the longer edge for cutting fish
Steps on how to cut with a Kiritsuke knife
For obvious reasons, the keyword for using a Kiritsuke knife is “carefulness”. Even a professional chef can get hurt when chopping over confidently. A little bridge in concentration can result in an accident. So as a beginner, you must embrace carefulness and follow the steps below.
- Position your feet. A good foot position will help you maintain balance and give you a good range of body movement. A good position is to lead the right leg forward and the left leg a bit backward and apart.
- Use the “pinch grip”. Hold the knife’s bolster with your index finger and thumb while the rest of the digits grab the handle.
- Use a pull-up and push-down motion to cut. With this motion, most of the cutting will be done by the tips which is the correct use of it. It will help you achieve a more precise and accurate cutting.
There is no greater joy as a professional chef preparing a complex dish or an individual cooking a family meal than to get what you desire in taste and look from a dish. Using the perfect tool for the exact task is the best way to achieve such excellence.
Amidst all other kinds of kitchen knives, a Kiritsuke should be present to perfectly do its fishing slicing and vegetable cutting task using the above-explained steps.