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Kitchen Knife Glossary

This is a non exhaustive list of kitchen knives related lingo. We think that the list we assembled is a good place to start but if you want more don't worry there  are a few good sources that provide a lot of additional terms and details and we will link to them at the end of the glossary.

We included a lot of Japanese terms as we are producing Japanese Knives and also because you might not be familiar with them and be thrilled to learn about the way Japanese people see and make knives.

Nomenclature: (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitchen_knife)

Kitchen Knife Anatomy.png

A  Point: The very end of the knife, which is used for piercing
B Tip: The first third of the blade (approximately), which is used for small or delicate work. Also known as belly or curve when curved, as on a chef's knife.
C Edge: The entire cutting surface of the knife, which extends from the point to the heel. The edge may be beveled or symmetric.
D Heel: The rear part of the blade, used for cutting activities that require more force
E Spine: The top, thicker portion of the blade, which adds weight and strength
F Bolster: The thick metal portion joining the handle and the blade, which adds weight and balance
G Finger Guard: The portion of the bolster that keeps the cook's hand from slipping onto the blade
H Choil: The point where the heel meets the bolster
J Tang: The portion of the metal blade that extends into the handle, giving the knife stability and extra weight
K Scales: The two portions of handle material (wood, plastic, composite, etc.) that are attached to either side of the tang
L Rivets: The metal pins (usually 3) that hold the scales to the tang
M Handle Guard:  The lip below the butt of the handle, which gives the knife a better grip and prevents slipping
N Butt: The terminal end of the handle

 

Bevel – Any flat plane on a knife. Typically, this refers to the portion of a blade that gets abraded in sharpening. Edges are made up of any number of bevels, but typically 1-4.

Deba (出刃) - Heavy, thick knife designed for cutting and filleting the fish. Usually has a  165mm-200mm long blade. Traditionally single grind - although double grind versions, called Ryodeba are gaining in popularity.

Double Bevel – a knife with a bevel on both sides of the blade. Also called V-bevel.

Gyūtō (牛刀 - ぎゅうとう – gyuto – gyutou) - Basically a Gyuto is the Japanese equivalent of the western chef’s knife with a few specificities. They are similar in size and shape to western chef knives, they also come with a double-bevel at a 50/50 ratio but with they have no finger guard and usually feature a slightly flatter blade profile with less belly. They are lighter because made of thinner and harder steel. This is important because it allots the knives to be sharpened at steeper angles and thus to be sharper. As a result they have become quite popular recently.

Gyutos are all-purpose knives used to cut, mince, slice, chop etc. For most people a Gyuto is the only knife needed in the kitchen. The word Gyuto can be translated litteraly into Cow sword.

Wa-Gyutos - Gyuto with a Japanese style handle

Yo-Gyutos - Gyuto with a western style handle

Hado - Japanese term for the cutting edge.

Hagane - Inner layer of hard steel forming cutting edge of the blade, supported by outer layer of soft steel- Jigane in Japanese knives.

Hamato - Japanese term for the knife heel, the last few centimeters of the edge next to the handle

Hirazukuri - Sashimi slicing technique, the knife is held perpendicular to the fish and pulled back at approximately 45° angle. It is easier said than done.

Honesuki - boning knife

Honyaki - Translates as "true-forged" from Japanese. Unlike San-Mai knives that have soft layer over harder core Honyaki knives are constructed of single piece of metal, usually very hard, high-carbon steel. Because of this they are difficult to forge thus their high price. Honyakis have higher hardness and edge holding compared to other types. Because the steel is so hard sharpening this type of knife is rather challenging. Also because of high hardness honyakis are more prone to breaking, chipping and cracking. On the positive side, they can be sharpened to incredibly thin and sharp edges that will hold very long time and cutting performance will be very high for the knife heel, the last few centimeters of the edge next to the handle

Jigane - Soft, outer layer of steel supporting inner hard core - Hagane of the knife.

Kissaki - Japanese term for blade tip

Maguro bōchō -Very long knives to fillet tuna

Nakago - Japanese term for knife tang, portion of the metal to which the handle is attached.

Nakiri bōchō - Standard vegetable knife

Naruto-giri – Nothing to do with the famous anime character, it literally means Spiral Tide Cut. Usually done with a Yanagiba. Mainly used for squid.

Rockwell Hardness - The Rockwell scale is a hardness scale based on indentation hardness of a material. The chief advantage of Rockwell hardness is its ability to display hardness values directly, thus obviating tedious calculations involved in other hardness measurement techniques. Steel with a HRC of 55-66 is considered very hard steel. Nakama and Aibo have a HRC of 60-61.

San-mai - Technique of welded steel that laminates the hard core of the blade with softer outer layers. 

Santoku ( 三徳 ) - The proper name of the knife is Santoku-Bocho. Also Bunkabocho. In Japanese it means Knife of the three virtues. It refers to its versatility, one theory says the name comes from the fact that it can be used for fish, meat and vegetables. A western style knife, the Santoku features a double grind witha 50/50 ratio and it has a round tip with a slight point. It is ideal for chopping and really fun to use. Some Santoku have hollow cavities on the blade that reduce the drag when cutting and help to quickly release the food from the blade. This feature along with their traditional shape make it a stunning knife. They are very popular nowadays and rightfully so. Comes with western or Japanese handle. 

Sashimi bocho - Sashimi slicer

Saya - Wooden sheath, or scabbard for the knife. As usual, identical wood is used for the handle and saya.

Soba kiri - Knife to make soba

Stainless steel - An iron alloy, approximately 10-15% of chromium, nickel, or molybdenum, with only a small amount of carbon. Lower grades of stainless steel cannot take as sharp an edge as good-quality high-carbon steels, but are resistant to corrosion, and are inexpensive. Higher grade and 'exotic' stainless steels (mostly from Japan - as used by Ōkami Knives and others) are extremely sharp with excellent edge retention, and equal or outperform carbon steel blades.

Sujihiki - Similar to a western slicing or carving knife with a 50/50 bevel ratio

Tsuchime - It means Hammered in Japanese and refers here to the hammered finish of the blade that is creating a series of hollow-ground cavities, reducing drag when cutting as well as quickly releasing food from the blade. Stunning visual effect on top of that.

Udon kiri - Knife to make udon

Unagisaki hōchō - Japanese eel knife. Yes they even have those.

Urasuki - Concaved surface on the back side of the single beveled Japanese knives (Yanagi). Helps to reduce the drag during cutting.

Usuba bōchō - Professional vegetable knife

Utsu - Cutting method, combination of push cutting, vertically down and slight forward motion. Main cutting technique with Usuba and Nakiri.

Yanagiba ( 柳刃 柳葉) – Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a Japanese suhi/sashimi restaurant. You are sitting at the counter and in front you a team of Japanese cooks is at work. The closest to you is cutting sashimi. The knife he is wielding, this single grind, long, narrow blade is a Yanagiba. For many it represents the ‘real’, ‘typical’ Japanese knife. Typically well over 240mm it can be much longer than that. It is a truly impressive, sturdy and extremely sharp knife. Designed for cutting raw fish it can be used for all types of food. It cuts through pizza cardboards like butter (yes we tried). It usually comes with a traditional Japanese handle. Yanagiba means willow leaf blade in Japanese, really everything about this knife is cool.

Thanks and Credits:

We relied heavily on the work of experts and amateurs in the field to build this small glossary. Their passion and knowledge are a joy to behold.

The folks at zknives.com have a fantastic glossary dedicated to Japanese knife terms http://zknives.com/knives/kitchen/misc/usetype/all/index.shtml

The excellent website kniforums.com where knife lovers can spend countless hours: http://www.knifeforums.com/forums/showforum.php?fid/26/

http://www.kitchenknifeforums.com/showthread.php/2023-Kitchen-Knife-Glossary?p=29709&viewfull=1#post29709

Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_cutlery

The amazing book The Japanese Kitchen Knives by Hiromitsu Nozaki.

And another book we like a lot at Ōkami Knives; The Edge in the Kitchen by Chad Ward.

Kudos to them.

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