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Kiritsuke: The All-Round Knife Executive Chefs Prefer

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  January 16, 2023

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Using the proper knife on the ingredients you need to cut is the best way to get amazing results in the kitchen. 

No Japanese commercial kitchen is without the famous Kiritsuke knife – it’s harder to use but offers precise results for the most demanding chefs.

The Kiritsuke knife is commonly referred to as the Japanese version of a chef’s knife.

The kiritsuke knife is a hybrid of the gyuto and yanagi. It has a square blade and angled tip.

Best kiritsuke knife to buy Shun Master Chefs

Due to its status symbol status and complexity of use, the kiritsuke is typically used by executive chefs. 

The kiritsuke knife is used for slicing, chopping, and dicing especially fish.

Making meals in the executive kitchen or at home requires selecting the right kitchen knife. To learn more about how to use the kiritsuke knife, keep reading.

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What is a Kiritsuke knife?

The kiritsuke knife is a Japanese-style slicing tool that is mostly used for using push/pull cutting to thinly slice fish, vegetables, and fruit.

So, what are the features of the kiritsuke knife?

The kiritsuke knife is a hybrid between a gyuto and the yanagiba. It has a square blade, an angled tip, and a single-beveled edge, which makes it ideal for precise slicing.

Due to its complexity and significance as a status symbol in the kitchen, senior chefs are the only ones who typically use it.

The kiritsuke is a hybrid knife intended to operate as a slicer for fish and a knife for vegetables.

Long and lean, with a sheep foot tip, it has a striking sword-like appearance and is one of only a few multi-purpose blades used in Japanese cuisine.

Traditional styles with a single beveled edge have a blade length of 8 to 12 inches.

They are comparatively brief in height, approximately 1.5 to 2 inches. The profile has a straight edge, and some will have a hint of lifting to the tip.

Westernized variants with blades often have a brief length, usually standing between 8 to 9 inches with a double bevel.

And just so you know, that’s the best length for you if you are a casual cook.

The handle is usually made of wood, and the blade is usually made of stainless steel.

The kiritsuke knife is a great all-around knife for the kitchen and can be used for a variety of tasks.

It’s a great choice for those who don’t want to buy multiple knives for different tasks.

But the kiritsuke is less popular with home cooks than with chefs because of its complexity and difficulty in use.

It is important to remember that the kiritsuke blade requires a great deal of skill and practice for perfect use.

So, if you want to take your kitchen skills to the next level and use a kiritsuke knife like a pro, you’ll need to learn Japanese knife skills.

It is best to use a Kiritsuke to slice using push and pull cuts. On vegetables, raw fish, and baked proteins, they perform well.

The tip is pretty nimble for tap cutting, and the long blade is excellent for thin-slicing veggies or slicing them into a pleasant brunoise or julienne.

They are also an excellent option for cleaning and portioning fish or thin-slicing proteins for a graceful presentation.

This makes it such an excellent knife for preparing teppanyaki.

Novices unfamiliar with a single bevel output often find traditional variants hard to use, with prevalent complaints about wedging and twisting.

But for those with less-than-masterful cutting abilities, the double-beveled version provides more versatility.

Convinced you need a kiritsuke knife as well? I’ve reviewed the absolute best 3 options on the market here

What is the shape of a kiritsuke knife?

With its lengthy, flat blade, straight edge, and angled “reverse tanto” or “clip point” tip, the Kiritsuke resembles a sword.

The overall blade length is longer than an Usuba, and the edge is straighter than a Yanagiba.

The classic single-bevel Kiritsuke has a similar profile to the Kiritsuke Yanagiba (also known as the Kensaki Yanagiba), but it is a broader variation with more height and a flatter edge.

The Kiritsuke’s heel part is essentially flat and can be utilized similarly to an Usuba.

When cutting tiny vegetable slices, the Kiritsuke’s flat profile works best when using the push-cutting method.

The long length of the blade makes it simple to slice through raw fish and proteins in one rapid pull-cut, maintaining the food’s texture and minimizing damage to the cells that could alter the food’s color or flavor.

The angled tip is helpful for precision cutting – many chefs will use it to carve out fish, meat, vegetables, and fruit for a beautiful food presentation.

What is a Kiritsuke Gyuto?

Because of Western influences, you may find the Kiritsuke knife in a variety of forms, which makes it more widely available to customers of diverse backgrounds.

The Kiritsuke Gyuto, often known as a K-tip Gyuto, is one of the most well-liked varieties.

Kiritsuke gyuto is a variant of the Japanese chef knife that features a double bevel, unlike the single bevel of the traditional Japanese chef knife or kiritsuke yanagiba.

The K-tip Gyuto, which is frequently referred to as the Japanese equivalent of a Western chef’s knife, has a reverse tanto tip on a larger blade with a slightly inclined edge.

It’s still a Kiritsuke, but it has an altered design.

The kiritsuke gyuto knife is relatively easier to master compared to the yanagiba variant and has a more versatile use.

What is a Kiritsuke Yanagiba?

Just like the Kiritsuke gyuto, this knife is a variant of the original Kiritsuke.

The Kiritsuke Yanagiba is sometimes also called a Kensaki Yanagiba. Its blade is smaller, and it’s a specialty sushi and sashimi knife used for slicing the raw fish.

It also has a single-bevel edge and the distinctive “reverse tanto” tip. The blades typically have a 240mm to 330mm length range.

Why is a Kiritsuke knife important, and what is it used for?

Kiritsuke is an important knife for any chef because it’s so versatile. It can be used for a variety of tasks, from slicing and dicing to chopping and mincing.

The most common use for the kiritsuke is to slice fish delicately.

The long blade makes it perfect for slicing tuna, salmon, and mackerel for fillets or for sushi and sashimi.

It’s also commonly used to cut whole fish and seafood against the grain in a diagonal direction.

Larger fish like trout and red snapper can also be sliced into fillets even with the skin on.

Since the blade is flexible and has a sharp tip, it’s a great knife for deboning fish or skinning it during food prep.

It’s also great for making thin, precise cuts, which is essential for many dishes. Plus, it’s a great all-purpose knife that can be used for both meat and vegetables.

Its long blade also makes it ideal for slicing larger items, like melons and squash.

It’s also important because it’s a great knife for precision work. The kiritsuke has a flat edge, which makes it easier to control when cutting.

This makes it great for making thin, even slices, which is essential for many dishes. Plus, its long blade allows for more control and accuracy when making cuts.

The Kiritsuke can also be used to cut veggies into thin slices and chop or mince fresh or frozen herbs.

What is the origin of the Kiritsuke knife?

The Kiritsuke was invented a long time ago before the Meiji Era (pre 1868) but probably even before the Edo period.

It was a specialty knife used by Japanese chefs in the Imperial Palace kitchen to prepare delicate recipes for the Emperor and his guests.

The evolution of the Kiritsuke knife in Japan can be traced to its use by master chefs, who needed a multi-purpose and versatile knife for cutting fish, preparing vegetables and making thin slices.

Today, the Kiritsuke is recognized as a highly versatile and multi-functional specialty knife that can be used when employing traditional Japanese cutting techniques.

Kiritsuke vs Yanagiba

The most significant difference between the Kiritsuke and Yanagiba is the shape of their blades.

The Kiritsuke has a slightly curved blade with a reverse tanto tip, while the Yanagiba has a straight blade with a traditional single-bevel edge.

The Yanagiba also has a long, narrow super-sharp blade, which is perfect for slicing sushi and sashimi.

The Kiritsuke, on the other hand, has a wider blade profile which makes it more versatile. It’s ideal for cutting larger pieces of fish, as well as slicing vegetables and herbs.

Both knives are designed for slicing, but the Kiritsuke is a more versatile knife that can be used for chopping, mincing, and deboning fish.

Kiritsuke vs Gyuto (Chef’s knife)

The kiritsuke vs gyuto comparison is one of the most common in the world of Japanese knives because these knives are pretty similar.

The kiritsuke is a multi-purpose knife with a longer blade than a santoku and a slightly curved edge.

It’s great for slicing, dicing, and chopping, and its length makes it ideal for slicing larger items.

The gyuto, on the other hand, is a chef’s knife, with a longer, more curved blade than the kiritsuke.

It’s great for slicing, dicing, and chopping, but its length makes it better suited for larger items, as well as for more detailed tasks like filleting and carving.

Kiritsuke vs Santoku

The kiritsuke vs santoku comparison is another popular one, since these knives are also closely related.

The kiritsuke is a multi-purpose knife with a longer blade than the santoku and a slightly curved edge.

It’s great for slicing, dicing, and chopping, and its length makes it ideal for slicing larger items.

The santoku is a multi-purpose knife with a shorter and straighter blade.

It’s great for slicing, dicing, and chopping, but it’s best suited for vegetables, herbs, and smaller meat cuts.

A santoku knife is also better suited for smaller items, as well as for more detailed tasks like mincing and julienning.

Most chefs don’t use the Santoku for fish or seafood since the blade isn’t long enough to make delicate slices.

Ultimately, the kiritsuke is more versatile than the Santoku and better for precise cuts for dishes like sushi.

Kiritsuke vs Usuba

It’s slightly odd that people compare the Usuba to the Kiritsuke knife since they look very different.

An usuba knife has a rectangular-shaped blade and it resembles a cleaver. It’s traditionally used by Japanese chefs for chopping veggies, fruits, and herbs.

The usuba is a versatile knife with a single bevel edge that makes it perfect for precise slicing and cutting.

The kiritsuke is a more versatile knife with a slightly curved blade and reverse tanto tip and doesn’t look quite like a cleaver.

But what these two knives have in common is that they’re both very sharp and used by professional chefs to create food art and intricate dishes.

The kiritsuke is great for slicing larger items like fish and meat, while the usuba is better suited for finely slicing vegetables and fruits.

Both knives are also great for creating thin, delicate slices that are perfect for sushi or sashimi.

FAQs

Here are answers to some other Kiritsuke-related questions you probably have.

How to use a kiritsuke knife?

If you are a newbie, you will probably have difficulty handling the Kiritsuke knife.

Guess what? Even a slight slip of the sharp edge can result in a severe injury.

To properly use the Kiritsuke knife, you would like to keep one of your feet back and one to the side for a better range of motion.

The next thing to do is arrange your thumb and index finger to hold the bolster and the other three wrapped around the handle.

Now that you have perfectly positioned yourself, pull the knife up towards yourself and then away from yourself.

It would also help to keep the motion slow and light. These knives are pretty sharp and will work with minor effort.

To use a kiritsuke knife, it is important to use a cutting board and to make sure the blade is sharp.

It is best to use a push/pull slicing motion when cutting with the kiritsuke, as this will help to keep the blade from dulling.

It is also important to keep the blade clean and free of debris.

What are kiritsuke knives used for?

The Kiritsuke is one of the few Japanese multi-purpose kitchen knives. It is used for almost everything, including cutting, dicing, and chopping vegetables.

Furthermore, as the kiritsuke knife is extremely sharp near the tip, it is also used for precision cutting, making it an excellent option for fish and meat.

What does ‘kiritsuke’ mean?

Kiritsuke, in Japanese, means to “slit open.” The name is given to the knife due to its extreme sharpness and ability to cut through everything, from vegetables to meat and anything in between.

The name also has a lot to do with the knife’s sword-like profile, as the sword had the same function but for a different purpose.

This somehow gives the name a darker meaning, don’t you think?

Why do chefs use a kiritsuke knife?

The kiritsuke is similar to a chef’s knife in that it is a multi-purpose knife that is used for a variety of tasks in the kitchen.

However, the kiritsuke is usually longer than a chef’s knife and has a single-edged blade.

The kiritsuke is also more specialized than a chef’s knife, as it is designed for specific tasks such as filleting fish and carving vegetables.

Therefore, Japanese chefs use the kiritsuke to achieve a high level of precision and accuracy in their culinary creations.

The knife allows for thin slices and delicately cut pieces that would otherwise be difficult to achieve with a chef’s knife.

Takeaway

Kiritsuke is a versatile knife that can be used for a variety of tasks. It’s a great tool for both professional and home chefs alike.

The Kiritsuke is the knife you’ll probably find in an executive chef’s knife roll because it’s sharp, precise, and slices through fish, seafood, meat, and most vegetables with ease!

It’s important to remember that the blade is very sharp and should be handled with care. With proper maintenance, a Kiritsuke can last a lifetime.

So if you’re looking for a multi-purpose knife, the Kiritsuke is definitely worth considering!

Keep your kiritsuke in good nick by getting a traditional wooden saya (or knife sheath) for it

Check out our new cookbook

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

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

Read for free

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.