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Hankotsu Knife: Every Butcher Needs This Knife for Meat Processing

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  January 23, 2023

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Ever heard of a hankotsu knife? Don’t worry if you haven’t – you’re not alone! 

It’s one of the rarer Japanese knives used by butchers, so it’s not the type of knife you usually find in a home cook’s knife block.

It’s a meat-processing knife used by professionals. 

Unless you regularly butcher meat or use boning knives, you probably haven’t come across this knife yet.

Hankotsu Knife: Every Butcher Needs This Knife for Meat Processing

Hankotsu is a type of Japanese knife that is used specifically for butchering meat. It has a long, thin blade that is curved along its length, and it is typically used with a reverse grip to slice thin cuts of meat off of the bone. It has a single-edged blade and is usually made of carbon or stainless steel.

While this knife is less popular than something like a chef’s knife, it is essential for chefs who regurlarly like to cut meat from an animal’s carcass.

In this post, we’ll explore what a hankotsu knife is and why it’s so popular.

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What is a Hankotsu knife?

A hankotsu knife is a Japanese-style knife used for butchering and preparing meat. It’s a single-edged blade with a straight edge and a pointed tip.

It’s typically made from high-carbon steel or stainless steel and has a short, thick blade with no heel and a reverse tanto tip. 

The Hankotsu usually has a thick blade that is not flexible at all, so you can get into the tough meat, fibers, and cartilage without breaking the blade.

The Hankotsu is traditionally used to butcher hanging carcasses to remove meat from the bone, and it is held in a reverse knife grip with the blade edge pointing down. 

This type of knife is usually used to cut through bones, cartilage, and tendons and to slice thin cuts of meat off the bone while the carcass is hanging. 

Hankotsu knives are practical tools that are frequently used for cutting fish and chicken, too,  because of their strong edge and blade. 

Many home cooks like the smaller hankotsu knives because they’re heavy-duty and have a thick blade, so they use them instead of a honesuki for boning meat

What is a Hankotsu used for?

A hankotsu knife is a great tool for butchers and chefs. It’s designed to cut through tough meat and bones quickly and efficiently.

As previously mentioned, the hankotsu is used in a reverse grip to strip the meat from the bone of hanging carcasses. 

Butchers use the knife to separate the meat from the bone and slice through the joints and connective tissue with simple moves. 

It’s also great for cutting through thick pieces of meat, like pork shoulder or beef brisket.

The blade is sharp and strong, which makes it ideal for cutting through tough cuts of meat.

The hankotsu knife is also great for breaking down poultry, like chicken or turkey.

It’s perfect for cutting through joints and separating the meat from the bone. It’s also great for trimming fat and removing skin from poultry.

The hankotsu knife is a versatile tool and can also be used as a strong boning knife. 

It can be used for a variety of tasks, from slicing and dicing vegetables to breaking down poultry.

It’s also great for breaking down large cuts of meat, like pork shoulder or beef brisket. 

It’s a great tool for any professional kitchen, and it’s easy to use and maintain.

Why is a Hankotsu knife important?

Hankotsu knives are an essential tool for any kitchen.

They’re incredibly versatile, allowing you to do everything from slicing and dicing to chopping and mincing. 

They’re also incredibly sharp, making them perfect for precision work. Plus, they’re incredibly durable, so you can be sure they’ll last you a long time.

Hankotsu knives are also great for cutting through tougher meats and vegetables.

They can easily slice through thick cuts of meat, and they’re perfect for chopping through tough vegetables like squash and potatoes. 

The Hankotsu’s relatively small blade has a cutting edge that is gently bent and inclined in relation to both the blade’s spine and the handle’s midline. 

This method is effective for cutting hanging carcasses, but it may not always provide enough knuckle clearance to cut directly over a cutting board. 

The blade edge ends in a “clipped point” or “reverse tanto” tip that is ideal for piercing skin and between bones or joints.

The blade’s thickness is a compromise between strength and toughness needed for cutting large objects while still remaining thin enough to fit between joints and ribs of carcasses.

Due to the shape of the blade, a strong but agile knife is produced that can turn swiftly when cutting around and along bones and is sharp enough to trim connective tissue and fat or piece of meat.

The knife is useful for portioning meat too, so butcher shop owners use it often. 

This makes them great for making soups, stews, and other dishes that require a lot of chopping.

Hankotsu knives are also great for making sushi.

The sharpness of the blade makes it easy to cut through the fish and vegetables, while its thinness ensures that the sushi pieces are even and consistent. 

This makes it easier to make sushi that looks great and tastes great.

If you don’t want to invest in a long-blade Yanagiba, the hankotsu can take on basic fish-mongering tasks, although the cuts aren’t nearly as precise and perfect. 

Finally, hankotsu knives are incredibly easy to sharpen. This means that you can keep your knife sharp and ready to use for a long time. 

Plus, the handle is comfortable to hold, so you can use it for long periods of time without your hand getting tired.

Overall, hankotsu knives are an essential tool for any kitchen. They’re incredibly versatile, incredibly sharp, incredibly durable, and incredibly easy to sharpen.

If you butcher your own meat or need something that can handle serious meat-prepping tasks, you can’t go wrong with this knife.

What is the history of a Hankotsu knife?

The hankotsu knife is a traditional Japanese butcher’s tool, dating back to the Edo period (1603-1868). 

It was primarily used for the preparation of food and breaking down larger pieces of meat.

In modern times, it has become popular with both professional chefs and home cooks alike due to its versatility in the kitchen. 

The hankotsu was created as a tool for cutting meat, and it was historically used to handle hanging carcasses in a time when butchering the meat quickly was important since there were no fridges around.

Butchers required a knife that could separate the meat from the bone and also slice through the joints and connective tissue with ease and quite fast.

They also required a stout, robust knife that wouldn’t break. 

To divide a big carcass into smaller, more manageable pieces, the small stout knife was used with a reverse grip.

This method of holding, maneuvering, and using the knife has stuck to this day. 

Hankotsu vs Honesuki

The main difference between the hankotsu and the honesuki is their shape. 

The hankotsu has a straight, rectangular blade that tapers towards the point. This design allows for more precise cutting and slicing, perfect for breaking down large cuts of meat or poultry.

On the other hand, the honesuki has a curved, triangular blade with a sharpened tip. This design is ideal for cutting through bone and making precise work of tough cuts of meat.

Both knives are essential tools in the Japanese kitchen, but they serve different purposes.

The honesuki is a short, triangular-shaped knife with a pointed tip used for deboning and preparing poultry carcasses. 

On the other hand, the hankotsu has a thicker straight blade and is very robust.

It has a slightly curved blade, and it’s used with a reverse grip to remove meat from the bones of hanging carcasses. 

Both honesuki and hankotsu are culinary tools for processing meat.

However, each one has qualities that enhance its capacity for processing the specific sort of meat for which it was designed. 

We can see how each knife is specifically made for its intended use by comparing their differences.

The hankotsu is better for cutting through bones, while honesuki is better for filleting and deboning.

Both knives are used for the same purpose, but the shape of the blade makes them better suited for different tasks.

Despite their differences, both hankotsu and honesuki knives share one important trait: they are made using traditional Japanese forging techniques, making them incredibly sharp and durable.

This makes both knives excellent choices for any kitchen.

Hankotsu vs boning knife

The difference between a hankotsu knife and a Japanese boning knife is more subtle. Both knives have a straight blade, but the hankotsu is thicker and heavier. 

This makes it better suited for cutting through bones, while the boning knife is better for more delicate tasks, such as trimming fat and removing sinews. 

The hankotsu is also more durable, making it a better choice for tougher tasks.

But we should also compare the hankotsu to a Western-style boning knife used by BBQ enthusiasts. 

Hankotsu knives and Western boning knives are both used for breaking down large cuts of meat, but they have some key differences.

The hankotsu has a straight blade and is more suited to cutting through muscle and sinew.

On the other hand, the Western boning knife has a curved blade that makes it great for cutting around bones.

Because of its straight blade, the hankotsu is also better suited for slicing and cutting than the Western boning knife.

This makes it ideal for more precise tasks like portioning off small pieces of meat or poultry.

FAQs

What size is hankotsu?

The hankotsu is actually quite a small knife with a short blade. 

Most hankotsu knives are about 120 to 124 mm or 4.7 to 4.8 inches. More modern interpretations of the knife are about 5 or 6 inches which makes the knife a bit easier to use.

How to use hankotsu knife?

When using a hankotsu knife, it is important to use the correct technique. 

First, hold the knife firmly in your dominant hand and make sure your fingers are away from the blade. You can also hold the knife handle in your fist and carve up and down. 

Then, use the tip of the blade to make a shallow cut into the meat and move along as if you’re carving. 

Finally, use the tip of the blade to cut through any tendons or cartilage. Then pull downwards to separate the meat from the bone. 

Is hankotsu knife single bevel?

Yes, hankotsu knives are single-bevel knives. This means that the blade is only sharpened on one side, which allows for more precise and delicate cutting. 

Single-bevel knives are often used for more intricate tasks, such as filleting fish or separating meat from the bone.

Are hankotsu knives made using traditional Japanese forging techniques?

Yes, hankotsu knives are typically made using traditional Japanese forging techniques.

These methods have been passed down through the generations and result in incredibly sharp blades that are extremely durable and resistant to corrosion.

The blades are usually made of high-carbon steel, which is then heated before being quenched in water or oil to harden it. 

Finally, the blade is tempered to give it its final shape and strength. The end result is a sharp, hardy knife that will last for years of use in the kitchen.

Conclusion

The hankotsu knife is a versatile and essential tool in the professional Japanese kitchen or butcher shop. 

It features a straight, rectangular blade that tapers towards the point for precise cutting and slicing. 

The hankotsu has many advantages over its counterpart, the honesuki, such as its ability to cut through muscle and sinew more easily. 

Additionally, it can be used for more delicate tasks like portioning off small pieces of meat or poultry due to its sharpness and durability. 

Whether you’re an experienced professional chef or just starting out in your home kitchen, investing in a quality honkatsu knife will help take your cooking skills to the next level!

Keep your hankotsu at hand in a quality knife stand or magnetic knife strip

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.