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Honesuki vs Hankotsu: Which Knife is Right for You? Differences Explained!

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  January 23, 2023

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Meat processing requires a heavy-duty Japanese knife with a sharp blade and tip to separate meat, tendons, and fat from the bone of beef, pork, and poultry. 

But what type of knife is best for this task?

Well, there are two excellent options: the honesuki poultry boning knife and the hankotsu butcher’s knife. 

Honesuki vs Hankotsu: Which Knife is Right for You? Differences explained!

Honesuki knives are used for deboning poultry, while Hankotsu knives are used for cutting meat from the bone, especially on hanging carcasses or large cuts. Honesuki knives are pointed and triangular in shape, while Hankotsu knives are flat and rectangular. 

Need help deciding between a Honesuki knife and a Hankotsu knife? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered! 

In this post, we’ll break down the differences between the two, so you can make an informed decision. Perhaps you need both if you regularly butcher and process meat!

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Honesuki vs Hankotsu knife: what’s the difference?

  • Honesuki use: de-boning poultry, removing meat from the carcass, processing chicken & turkey
  • Hankotsu use: removing meat from the bone of hanging carcass, butchering large cuts of meat, processing beef & pork

Honesuki and Hankotsu are both Japanese knives used to process meat. They are both Japanese knives used for butchering and preparing poultry and other meats. 

Japanese chefs and butchers usually use both of these knives to prep meat for their dishes. But some home cooks use these small knives, too, because of their precision and sharpness. 

However, each one of these knives 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.

However, there are some key differences between the two:

Shape and use

The honesuki is a straight-edged, triangular-shaped knife used for deboning and preparing poultry carcasses.

It has a sharp, pointed tip that is ideal for getting into tight spaces and removing bones, as well as a sturdy, thick spine that provides leverage for cutting through tough joints. 

It has a sharp, pointed tip that is ideal for getting into tight spaces and removing bones, as well as a sturdy, thick spine that provides leverage for cutting through tough joints. 

The honesuki is also known for its sharp edge, which makes it great for slicing and dicing meats, and the sharp tip allows you to remove delicate parts of the bird (like breasts) without damaging the meat.

The hankotsu, on the other hand, is a heavy-duty knife used to remove meat from the bone and has a straight blade with a sharp tip.

It is a thicker and shorter knife that is primarily used for carving through large cuts of meat.

It has a thicker spine and a shorter blade than the honesuki, which gives it more power and control when cutting through bones. 

Both knives are designed for specific tasks and are made with high-quality materials.

The Honesuki is designed for deboning poultry, while the Hankotsu is designed for cutting through fats, tendons, and sinew and removing the meat from bones. 

Design

The Honesuki has a triangular blade with a single-beveled edge, while the Hankotsu has a straight blade with a single-beveled edge. 

In terms of appearance, a honesuki knife has a triangular blade with a pointed tip.

The spine is thicker at the handle and gets thinner as it reaches the tip. This type of blade has a regular Japanese heel which is higher.

There’s usually no curve from the heel toward the tip, and the whole length of the blade is sharpened, so the knife should be used with care. 

In contrast, the Hankotsu has a thicker blade from tip to handle but also has a sharp piercing tip that can pierce through skin and flesh with ease.

There isn’t much height at the ‘heel’ of the blade, even though there’s no real heel. 

So, the belly of the blade is small.

What’s interesting is that the first third of the blade from the heel is usually not sharpened, so the user isn’t hurt if the palm glides across the blade while butchering. 

Another thing to note is the difference in the handle.

The honesuki has a thinner octagonal or round Wa Japanese handle, whereas the hankotsu usually has a bulkier, thicker handle which provides a better grip.

Learn all about the differences between the Japanese Wa handle and Western knife handles here

Cutting method

What I mean by the cutting method is how you hold the knife.

Another important difference to note is that the Hankotsu knife is held in a reverse grip so you can move up and down as you carve the meat from the bone of a hanging carcass.

The honesuki is usually not held that way. 

Reverse grip knife refers to holding a knife with the blade pointing towards the opposite direction of the hand that is gripping the handle.

This is in contrast to the traditional forward grip, where the blade points in the same direction as the hand that is gripping the handle.

The reverse grip is less common than the traditional forward grip, but it is used in certain situations where the reverse grip provides more control, power, or versatility.

For example, a chef might use a reverse grip when making precise cuts or when working in a confined space.

But the hankotsu knife is used to carve meat from large cuts like chuck or brisket or hanging carcasses, so you need to hold the knife in a reverse grip to be able to stab and slice meat from the bone. 

When using a honesuki knife to de-bone poultry, the knife is usually held in the normal position, but special Japanese knife skills are used. 

What is Honesuki knife?

The Honesuki knife has a very unique appearance.

When translated, the name honesuki just means “bone knife,” and it’s a shorter knife, usually 4-6 inches.

The knife’s triangular blade has a highly sharp drop-point tip, also known as a clip-point or reverse tanto tip.

The honesuki knife is a boning knife, just like the hankotsu knife, but it is meant to be used on chicken, quail, turkey, and other birds. 

When pressed into joints to create precise cuts in these confined locations, the tip’s design offers it strength.

The tip also makes it simple to pierce poultry skin, which may occasionally be quite difficult to do with knives with other tip designs.

Despite being a light and thin knife, the honesuki has enough substance in the blade to hold the edge and keep its sharpness for a long time. 

The blade’s flexibility varies by brand, but you can find very stiff blades or some with a bit of flexibility which makes it easier to carve the meat away from the bones. 

The blade of this knife, however, is not strong enough to cut through bone.

The knife is lightweight, but unlike most western-style boning knives, the blade is still quite rigid.

Therefore, rather than cutting a chicken carcass in two, an honesuki should be used to separate the breasts from the breastbone and the wings, legs, and thighs. Instead of using a knife to split the chicken carcass, use a cleaver.

Traditional honesuki knives have a single-beveled blade, meaning that only one side of the blade is sharpened.

Also, they’re made of high-quality steel and are triangular in shape with a sharp tip.

Overall, the honesuki is a great tool for separating the joints of poultry and can also be used for cutting through cartilage and bone. 

Honesuki is a versatile knife and can be used for other tasks such as cutting vegetables and slicing fish.

It’s also great for cutting through cartilage and bone, as the sharp tip allows for precision.

The blade is usually quite thin, which makes it ideal for slicing and dicing. It’s also quite lightweight, making it easy to maneuver.

What is Hankotsu knife?

A hankotsu knife is a traditional Japanese knife used for butchering and breaking down large cuts of meat.

It’s used to remove meat from the bones of hanging animal carcasses or to process big meat cuts like chuck or ribs. 

It’s a single-edged blade, usually made of carbon steel, with a straight edge and reverse tanto tip.

The hankotsu is a relatively short knife, usually ranging from 4 to 7 inches in length.

A hankotsu knife is a versatile tool that can be used for a variety of tasks, including cutting, slicing, and deboning.

It’s a unique knife with a distinct shape and design.

The blade is thick and heavy, with a sharp tip but no heel – in fact, it’s one of the only Japanese knives without a heel. 

The handle is usually made of wood or plastic, and it’s designed to provide a secure grip.

The hankotsu knife is also known for its durability; it can withstand a lot of wear and tear, making it a great choice for professional chefs and butchers.

A hankotsu knife is a great tool for breaking down large cuts of meat.

It’s perfect for cutting through tough joints and bones, and it can easily slice through thick layers of fat.

It’s also great for trimming and deboning, making it an essential tool for any butcher or chef.

It’s also a great choice for professional chefs and butchers, as it’s durable and can withstand a lot of wear and tear. 

So if you’re looking for a reliable knife for breaking down large cuts of meat, the hankotsu knife is a great option.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the honesuki and hankotsu are both great knives for different uses. The honesuki is best for poultry, while the hankotsu is great for tougher meats. 

When de-boning poultry, the honesuki knife is the best option, but when trying to process beef and pork, the hankotsu is better since it’s a stronger, stout knife. 

Both knives are essential for any home kitchen, so it’s worth considering both when you want to add to your Japanese knife collection.

Don’t forget to take care of your precious Japanese knives, and they’ll take care of you!

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.