Difference Between Japanese and Western Knives

Knives vary in shapes, sizes, blade types, angles, bevels, steel types, and so on. Most companies that manufacture knives produce both Japanese and Western types of knives. 

Japanese knives have taken the professional chef’s, home cooks- everybody’s heart, over the last few decades. Western knives are also pretty great knives. So, what are the differences between these two knives? Which of the two makes a better knife? 

In this article, you will know the distinct characteristics of Japanese and Western knives. And maybe, you will find out what you prefer to buy. 

With regards to the blade styles, the blades of Japanese knives are extra thin and extremely sharp. The steel of Japanese knives is more firm, which is why their blades are long-lasting, and you will not need to sharpen them regularly. Japanese-style knives also have lighter weight and are well-balanced. Different manufacturers use certain types of handles for Japanese-style knives- some use traditional wood handles. These wood handles may be D-shaped, octagonal, round, or any other variants. Take note that these handles are not only for designs. The different handle shapes help with the flexibility of the approach and the cutting angle. The knife edges of their blades are usually at a steeper angle.  They make this type of knife for precise and exact cuts. It is why most professional chefs prefer this kind of knife because they are not only durable but also precise. So, you must sharpen them carefully to avoid damaging the blades. For better sharpening, you can bring them to a professional knife sharpener. 

Meanwhile, Western knives have softer steel than Japanese knives. Since they have softer steel, they require more material to strengthen the knife. It makes their knives harder and robust. The softer steel does not make them low-quality knives, but their blades are less lasting than the Japanese blades. Heavy usage of Western knives may cause imperfections on the blades. You will need to sharpen these knives regularly. On the bright side, they are undemanding and uncomplicated to sharpen. So, you will not need some professionals to polish up your Western cutters. And since they make Western knives from softer steel, you can sharpen them with great effect. Because of their material, unlike Japanese-style knives, Western knives are slightly heavy. However, their weight still varies from blade to blade- one may be heavier than the other. 

Another difference between Japanese knives and Western knives is that the blades of Western knives are curved more along the knife blade. Because of the curve, people can apply varying amounts of pressure in the different parts of the knife blade. This design also allows people to use their knives to and fro when chopping some ingredients. Meanwhile, Japanese knives usually have long and straight knife blades. 

With the bevel of the knives, Japanese styles have a single bevel. Historically, they created their knives with only one side as the cutting edge. They sharpen only one side of the knife’s blade. Nowadays, Japanese knives have a 50/50 knife edge. They can be suitable for both left and right-handed users.  

On the contrary, Western knives have a symmetrical bevel. It means that they polish off both sides of the knife blades. It also affects how you sharpen your knives. If you own a Western-style knife, make sure that your knife sharpener can grind both sides of the blade. You might also want to be aware of the angle of the edges when you sharpen these knives. Knife edges of a Western knife vary from 18 to 28 degrees. 

If you prefer a sharper knife, the Japanese style might be the one for you. Japanese-style knives are ideal for careful and delicate cooking. Since a Japanese-style knife is single-beveled, it is often sharper than the Western ones. Its bevel angle can be as low as 5 degrees. Aside from that, Japanese knives last longer. Since they manufacture Japanese-style knives from hard steel, their edges stay sharp longer. They can withstand wearing and tearing so much longer than the Western knives. However, they can be a little brittle. So, it is crucial to use the proper type of Japanese knife for individual functions. If you frequently use knives to chop and make clean slices, Japanese-style knives are for you. But, when you usually use your kitchen knives for robust and heavy chores, Western-style knives are for you. This type of knife is all around. With Western knives, you can cut through the bone of a chicken. But when you use Japanese-style knives, you might damage their edges.

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