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Honesuki Knife: The Only Poultry Boning Knife You’ll Ever Need

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  January 23, 2023

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A Honesuki knife is a specialized Japanese kitchen knife, but what makes it special?

Let’s explore what a Honesuki knife is and why it’s so popular in the culinary world.

Deboning chicken can feel like a tricky task without a sharp, precise knife. That’s where the honesuki poultry boning knife comes in handy.

It’s one of the most useful Japanese knives because it makes prepping poultry safe and easy.

Honesuki Knife: The Only Poultry Boning Knife You’ll Ever Need

A honesuki knife is a Japanese-style poultry boning knife with a thin, triangular blade. It is perfect for removing the bones of poultry and other meats. This knife allows for extreme precision, which speeds up food prep. 

In this guide, we’re sharing all you need to know about the honesuki knife, how to use it, why it’s important, its history, and more!

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What is a honesuki knife?

A Honesuki knife, pronounced “ho-ne-su-kee,” is a type of Japanese boning knife that is specifically designed for breaking down poultry.

The word honesuki means “bone lover” in Japanese and refers to the fact this knife is used for de-boning. 

The blade of a Honesuki knife is typically triangular in shape and around 100mm to 165mm (4 to 6.5 inches) in length.

This shape and size allow for precision cutting around bones, joints, and other difficult areas of poultry. 

It is a heavy-duty knife that can be used for deboning chickens, ducks, quails, or turkeys.

The knife is used to separate meat from the poultry bones, but it’s also great for breaking down larger cuts of meat.

This blade is thin and sharp, and it’s able to get into the nooks and crannies of the poultry to remove the meat easily.

That’s why most Yakitori chefs will have a honesuki knife close by. 

There are two types of honesuki:

  1. Kaku is an eastern Japanese-style knife. It has a triangular-shaped blade where the bottom is wider, and the top is narrow and pointed.
  2. Maru is a western type of boning knife where the width of the handle and blade is the same.

Honesuki knives are traditionally made with a single bevel, meaning that the blade’s edge only slopes in one direction. 

The blade is usually made of high-carbon steel, and the handle is usually made of wood or plastic.

The honesuki knife is designed to be held with the blade pointing downwards, and the blade’s tip is used to separate the meat from the bone. 

This knife is a great tool for anyone who wants to quickly and easily break down poultry. It’s also great for anyone who wants to save time in the kitchen.

This design allows for a sharp and precise cut but also requires a higher level of skill to use properly. 

Some modern Honesuki knives, however, have double-beveled edges, which are easier to sharpen and maintain.

The handle of a Honesuki knife is typically made from a type of wood, such as magnolia or rosewood, and is often octagonal in shape. 

This shape allows for a comfortable grip and more control while cutting.

The handle is also attached to the blade with a bolster, which helps to balance the knife and protect the user’s hand from the sharp blade.

Honesuki knives are considered a specialized tool and are not commonly found in most kitchens. Professional chefs and butchers mainly use them. 

Some home cooks also use them for breaking down poultry at home. They are known for their sharpness, durability, and ease of use.

They are also a great tool for making stocks, soups, and broths from poultry bones.

Overall, a Honesuki knife is a valuable tool for breaking down poultry and is essential for any professional or home cook who wants to make the most of their poultry. 

It is a specialized knife that requires skill and practice to use properly, but the precision and control it provides make it a valuable addition to any kitchen.

What is a Honesuki knife used for?

As far as boning knives go, the Honesuki is quite special.

It’s a Japanese boning knife that’s used for cutting and boning poultry, rabbit, and other small animals.

But, traditionally, the honesuki is a specialty knife for poultry and chicken specifically.

It is also used when butchering larger animals to cut through the smaller parts and trim the fat. 

But, these days, it’s really popular as a fish filleting knife.

Since it has a thick heel, it’s easy to scrape the meat from the bones. It also has a thin, pointed tip which is used to make very precise cuts.

The Honesuki knife is employed in Japan to debone poultry and red meats. It also works fantastically as a multipurpose utility knife. 

If you regularly fillet fish or cut up meat in your kitchen, then you need the Honesuki knife because it makes cooking so much easier.

When you visit an authentic Japanese kitchen, you’ll realize that they have lots of different knives for different tasks.

Most chefs use the honesuki knife for butchering poultry and small animals and nothing else.

Therefore, the honesuki is an important tool for a Yakitori chef. 

This type of knife comes in handy when you want to cut the chicken for yakitori!

But, I want to warn you that you should only use the honesuki knife for what it’s intended for, or else it won’t perform too well – it’s not an all-purpose kitchen tool.

Don’t use it for cutting through bones, for example, a chuckabocho would be better suited to that task.

However, a honesuki knife can actually double up as a good utility knife because it allows for plenty of finger clearance when it’s used over a cutting board.

With a light rock to the blade, it can also act as a great chopping knife.

Some people even use it for detail work instead of a paring knife because it has a narrow, sharp tip.

Why is a honesuki knife important?

A honesuki knife is an essential tool for any chef.

It’s a versatile knife that can be used for a variety of tasks, from breaking down poultry to cutting vegetables.

It’s also incredibly sharp (like razor-sharp), making it ideal for precise cuts. The honesuki knife is important because it makes food preparation easier and faster. 

It’s designed to be used with a single hand, so you can quickly and easily chop, dice, and mince ingredients.

Plus, its sharpness ensures that you get clean, even cuts, every time. 

Additionally, its pointed tip makes it great for removing bones from poultry and other meats.

This makes it a great choice for chefs who want to create dishes with boneless cuts of meat. 

Finally, its durable construction means that it will last for years, making it a great investment for any kitchen.

In short, the honesuki knife is an essential tool for any chef because it’s versatile, sharp, and durable.

It makes food preparation easier and faster, and its pointed tip makes it great for removing bones from poultry and other meats.

I’ve reviewed the top 5 Best Honesuki Japanese boning knives here

What is the history of the honesuki knife?

The honesuki knife has been around for centuries. It was first invented in Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868) by the swordsmiths of the time. 

The honesuki was originally designed as a tool for butchers and fishmongers and was used to break down and process large cuts of meat (learn more about Japanese artisan knife-making here).

Over the years, the honesuki knife has evolved and been adapted for different uses.

During the Meiji period (1868-1912), the honesuki was used for various tasks, including cutting vegetables, slicing fish, and even as a weapon. 

In the modern era, the honesuki has become a popular choice for chefs and home cooks alike, as it is well-suited for various tasks.

The honesuki has also seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years as more and more people are discovering its versatility and usefulness.

The honesuki is now available in a variety of sizes and shapes, and is used for everything from breaking down poultry to slicing vegetables. 

It has even become a popular choice for sushi chefs, as its sharp blade makes it ideal for cutting thin slices of fish.

The honesuki knife has come a long way since its inception in the Edo period, and it continues to be an essential tool in the kitchen.

Its versatility and usefulness make it a must-have for any cook, and its history is a testament to its enduring popularity.

Honesuki vs Garasuki

Both a garasuki and a honesuki are poultry boning knives.

But, the honesuki cuts through fat, tendons, cartilage, and connective tissue to remove it from the bone.

The garasuki, on the other hand, is much more powerful and cuts through the bones easily. A honesuki cannot cut through bones.

So, the garasuki is a larger, more heavy-duty version of the honesuki knife. 

The honesuki and garasuki knives differ in several ways.

The honesuki is a Japanese-style boning knife with a pointed tip and a straight blade, while the garasuki is a Japanese-style butcher knife with a similar blade but larger. 

The honesuki is designed for the precise cutting and boning of poultry and other meats, while the garasuki is designed for heavier cutting and slicing of larger cuts of meat.

The honesuki is also much thinner and lighter than the garasuki, making it easier to maneuver and control.

Honesuki vs petty knife

The honesuki and petty knife also differ in several ways; they have different designs and are employed for various tasks.

The honesuki is a Japanese-style boning knife with a pointed tip and a straight blade, while the petty knife is a Western-style utility knife with a curved blade and a rounded tip.

A petty knife is a smaller utility knife that resembles a Western paring knife in both size and shape.

It normally measures between 100 and 150 millimeters in length and has a pointed tip.

It is a versatile knife that can be used for numerous jobs like precision cutting, slicing, and peeling.

The honesuki is designed for the precise cutting and boning of poultry and other meats, while the petty knife is designed for more general-purpose cutting and slicing of fruits and vegetables. 

A petty knife is not really intended for boning chicken and other birds or any other meat, for that matter. 

The honesuki is also much thinner and lighter than the petty knife, making it easier to maneuver and control.

In conclusion, both knives are Japanese, however whereas the petty knife is a general-purpose knife, the honesuki knife is specifically designed for deboning birds. 

The Honesuki knife often has a triangular blade and is longer than a petty knife, which has a pointed tip and a rounder blade.

Honesuki vs Deba knife

The honesuki and deba knives differ in several ways. The honesuki is a Japanese-style boning knife with a pointed tip and a straight blade, while the deba is a Japanese-style fish-cleaning knife with a wide blade and a rounded tip. 

A Deba knife has a thick, hefty blade that is used for cutting and crushing garlic and ginger and filleting and breaking down fish. 

It normally has a single beveled edge and is between 150mm and 270mm in length.

It can handle the tougher fish bones and joints since the blade is heavier and thicker than an Honesuki knife.

In conclusion, both knives are Japanese, but only the Honesuki is specifically designed for deboning chicken, whilst the Deba knife is designed for filleting and dissecting fish. 

The Deba knife is heavier and thicker with a single-beveled edge, whereas the Honesuki knife is normally smaller and has a triangular blade.

Honesuki vs Western boning knife

The main difference is the blade shape. The blade of the conventional western boning knife is slender and looks like a needle. 

A Western-style boning knife’s strongest feature is the curve at the belly.

It enables you to debone and separate the meat by allowing you to slip the blade into the key areas of the meat you’re dealing with.

Cutting is made easier by the small blade’s flexibility.

Western boning knives are excellent too like their Japanese counterpart, but frequently you must employ the weight of the meat you are cutting. 

Take removing the wings as an illustration.

You’ll frequently need to take the entire bird from the wing and cut around or in between joints to separate it with a western boning knife.

This is due to the boning knife’s light weight and the shape of the blade, which makes it harder for us to quickly press in between the joints.

In comparison using a wider blade honesuki makes the task easier and you don’t have to life the whole bird.

FAQs

Are Honesuki single bevel?

Yes, most honesuki knives are single bevel, but there are many double-bevels too. The thing is that the double bevel loses sharpness faster than the single bevel.

An asymmetric double bevel has a stronger edge, and it is less prone to chipping over time or if you hit hard bone.

But the traditional honesuki has a sharp single-edge because Japanese knives are usually always single-bevel. Those that are double-edged are Western-inspired.

How do you use a Honesuki knife?

To use a honesuki knife, hold the handle firmly with one hand and place the blade against the meat. 

Push the blade down and away from you, using a sawing motion to separate the bones from the flesh. 

Make sure to keep the blade at a shallow angle so that it doesn’t cut too deeply into the meat. 

Once the bones have been separated, use the tip of the blade to scrape away any remaining flesh. 

Finally, use the blade to cut the meat into smaller pieces.

Do I need a Honesuki knife?

The answer depends on how often you cook and how often you buy fresh poultry and fish.

The honesuki knife has a durable edge and it’s is thin and light compared to many other boning knives.

It is perfect for breaking down a chicken and filleting fish so if you like to buy those meats, then yes you need a honesuki.

The thing is that using a honesuki knife is intuitive and you’re going to enjoy working with it.

Sure, a western boning knife might do the job but the sharpness, durability, and precision of a Japanese knife are pretty hard to beat.

Besides, even if the honesuki knife is more expensive, it can last you a lifetime.

Keep your honesuki safe by getting a traditional wooden saya (or knife sheath) for it

What handle does Honesuki have?

The Honesuki usually has a Japanese Wa handle.

If you don’t want the trouble of learning to hold and maneuver this shape, you can always locate one with a western handle. 

Japanese knife handles are often octagonal or round in shape, whereas Western knife handles are typically more rectangular or oval in shape. 

Additionally, Japanese knife handle generally tend to be smaller and more compact than Western knife handles.

Conclusion

The honesuki knife is a great choice for anyone looking for a versatile and reliable tool in the kitchen.

It’s a great tool for breaking down poultry, and its sharp blade makes it easy to use. With proper care and maintenance, it can last a lifetime.

For those looking for a reliable and versatile knife, the honesuki is a great choice.

Use your chicken cutting skills when making this Finger-Licking Good Chicken Inasal Recipe

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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.