Gyuto – the ultimate kitchen knife with a Japanese touch has been used by professionals and aspiring cooks for over a century.
Gyuto knife translates to cow sword in Japanese. The meaning of these kitchen knives may be misleading at first, and it would come to mind that it’s only fit for slicing beef. While that was the intended purpose of Gyuto in the early days, it has come a long way since.
Today, gyuto is the staple of all chefs in Japan and is seen occasionally in the hands of top chefs in the western world. Kitchen knife enthusiasts utilize gyuto in all aspects of cooking. As long as you want your knife to cut, dice, mince, and occasionally crush, gyuto will be the only kitchen knife you’ll ever need.
In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the Gyuto knife, compare it with other well-known Japanese knives, and give tips on employing it on the cutting board. Read through and find out if gyuto is a good candidate to add to your collection.
What is gyuto?
Gyuto is simply the Japanese equivalent of a Western-styled primary kitchen knife, in other words, a chef’s knife. Though they have their fair share of similarities, Gyuto and chef’s knives on the other side of the hemisphere are different. To better understand why there are differences, we need to take a brief look at the history of Japan and study the characteristics of gyuto.
History of Japanese gyuto knife
Between the 17th and 19th centuries, Japan adopted a foreign policy that isolated the country from the rest of the world. This was known as Sakoku. Japan opened its doors after 214 years and European tradesmen came in and brought everything alongside them, including the food culture and tools used.
Because the Japanese diet heavily focuses on softer foods like veggies and fish, they didn’t require heavy-duty chef’s knives like those used in the West. Since the Japanese didn’t have the right equipment to work with beef, Western chef’s knives were quickly adopted. That’s why gyuto was called the cow sword.
Over time, the Japanese needed their own chef’s knives as Japanese foods required different cutting styles that weren’t easy to work with a typical western chef’s knife. Nowadays, tables seem to have turned as Japanese knives are popular among Western cooks of all levels.
Design of Japanese gyuto knives
Gyuto is generally made of high-carbon steel. Though there are variations, most gyuto is shaped with a Japanese handle to give the knife a more authentic look and feel.
It can have certain design elements, such as a hammered finish found in Damascus knives, a Japanese handle, or writings on the blade – the most noticeable is the handle. Almost always, gyuto has a double bevel and is made of high-carbon stainless steel.
Gyuto’s building materials and having a double bevel make the edges last longer. Although double bevel knives are known to be short-lived as they sacrifice sharpness for durability, worries of edge retention in gyuto are pretty much nonexistent, especially if properly sharpened thanks to the type of steel used. The differences between stainless steel and carbon stainless steel make gyuto knives a better pick for those looking for a thinner blade.
The dimensions of gyuto vary in length and size. Most gyuto knives are between 210mm and 270mm long but can be as small as 150mm or up to 390mm. The weight of the knife is different depending on the blade and handle. Commonly, gyutos with a traditional Japanese handle are lighter, whereas those equipped with a western handle are heavier.
All the design details that go into constructing gyuto make it the jack-of-all-trades in the kitchen, allowing cooks to utilize them in every aspect of cutting food.
Different types of gyuto knives
The Japanese gyuto is just as versatile as its usage. There are gyuto knives with different lengths and finishing touches. The variations found in gyuto can help cooks find the most suitable knife for their style. Here are three main types of gyuto that you should know before making your purchase.
As the name suggests, this type of gyuto is similar to the kiritsuke knives. The blade has a different shape than the common gyuto. Instead of a curve from the middle of the blade towards the tip, kiritsuke gyuto has a flat edge.
The flatter edge makes it ideal for slicing as the edge entirely makes contact with the cutting board, allowing for cleaner cuts without tilting the knife. Due to its flat nature, kiritsuke gyutos are not proper for specific cutting techniques like rock chopping.
The gyuto knives equipped with traditional Japanese handles are referred to as wa-gyuto. These types of handles are also known as wa-handles. Contrary to metal or plastic materials used in western handles, wa-gyuto knives usually have a wooden handle.
This addition makes the knife a lot lighter and shifts the balance point to the tip where you can move the blade smoothly, making precision cuts effortless. If you don’t have experience working with a traditional Japanese handle, we suggest getting gyuto equipped with a western one.
Additionally, the gyuto knives that come with a western handle are named yo-gyuto.
Just as there is a different name for gyuto with a Japanese handle, there is a name for the ones furnished with western handles. the gyuto knives that come with a western handle are named yo-gyuto. If you’re used to the handle of your kitchen knife and don’t plan on switching, it’s best to go with a yo-gyuto.
Gyuto vs western chef’s knife
As you know by now, gyuto is the Japanese version of the usual all-rounder kitchen knife, and as you can imagine, there are some differences. Otherwise, why would the Japanese need a chef’s knife of their own?
The significant difference between these knives is in the blade profile, not the actual use of the knife in general. Both knives are very versatile and are used in various types of cutting.
Generally, solid steel like high carbon stainless steel is the main building material of gyuto’s blade, while almost all western chef’s knives are made from regular stainless steel.
Additionally, one of the most distinctive features of gyuto is the balance point. Because Japanese handles are lighter, the balance point of the knife shifts to the end of the blade. When making careful cuts to compliment your food, this can come in handy. Due to the forwarded balance, your hands will suffer less stress as the knife’s weight will uphold most of the work.
Other than the blade’s build material, which the eye can’t notice right away, note that the edge of the gyuto is not as curved as a western chef’s knife. A flatter edge means easier push cutting and helps to make delicate cuts.
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Gyuto vs santoku knife
The same as the gyuto, santoku originated in Japan. The knife’s name translates to “three uses” or “three virtues,” and it makes sense as it’s excellent at mincing, chopping, and dicing.
Santoku is great at making fine cuts and slicing larger chunks of food like cheese or seafood. If your cooking mainly involves the aforementioned cutting techniques, santoku might be a better option. Not that gyuto can’t handle these well – it’s just that santoku serves the intended purpose more. If looking for a knife that you can use for all tasks, gyuto is the one to go.
It has a balanced weight and is generally lighter to hold than gyuto and other chef’s knives. It usually doesn’t have a knife bolster, which is what some prefer. Santoku can be either single or double beveled.
The blade of the santoku is also wider but smaller in width. The fuller frame comes in handy to scoop food from the cutting board and throw it right into the pot. It’s ideal for preparing soupy dishes that require a lot of ingredients to be added to the pottery.
For example, the santoku is certainly not the kind of knife you will need for separating poultry parts. What you’ll find in gyuto that you won’t in santoku are the pointy tip and a slightly curved profile. The lack of a pointed end makes disjointing meat and peeling foods a nightmare.
Although the similarities between gyuto and santoku, such as origins, materials, and design, may outweigh their differences, why not add both to your collection? They’re both superb at their duties.
|Japanese Gyuto Knife||Japanese Santoku Knife||Western Chef’s Knife|
|Best traits||– Sharpens up fast- Perfect for small hands- Makes delicate cuts easy- Versatile||– Slicing larger foods like meat and fish parts is easy- Perfect for basic cooking duties||– Ease to use- Has cheaper alternatives- Edges last longer- Versatile|
|Ideal traits||– Upholds all cutting needs- Moderately priced- Doesn’t go dull fast||– Has single and double bevel options- A wider blade height||– Upholds all cutting needs- Can crush foods like garlics|
|Not so great traits||– Slicing and cutting larger foods is harder||– Harder to use- Doesn’t have a pointy end||– Slicing and cutting larger foods is harder|
The best uses of Japanese gyuto
When you have a kitchen knife that does it all, the best uses are just about everything. Gyuto may not be as proficient as other types of knives when it comes to particular tasks, but it’s always better to have a tool that does it all rather than another one that fails miserably.
Take santoku as an example while your memory is fresh. Is santoku going to be a better choice for preparing foods with very thin, fine slices? The answer is yes, but can gyuto handle these? Absolutely! The ability to use it in all aspects of cutting food makes gyuto the only knife you will ever need.
The one that does it all nature also exists in western chef’s knives, but some things make gyuto preferable over them.
First and foremost, gyuto furnished with a Japanese handle won’t tire your arms and hands as the balance point of the blade is going to be on the tip of the knife. As you’ll have a thinner blade profile with gyuto, chopping and mincing food will be effortless when the knife does most of the work. This will leave you with more energy, and you can focus on trying out new recipes.
The thinner blade makes cutting smoother as it moves through food easier. With a thicker edge, which is the case with most western chef’s knives, the blade will go through food comfortably when sharp but admittedly not as easy as gyuto.
Overall, gyuto is best for the following reasons.
- An all-round knife, capable of everything
- Extremely durable and maintains the same look after years
- Perfect at cutting meat, poultry, and fish
- Easy to make fine cuts and slice thin layers of foods
- Has a flatter profile, but you can make rock chopping motions
Before purchasing a gyuto, make sure it has the attributes you’re looking for in a kitchen knife. Take a look at all of our knives to find the perfect match for your needs.
How to use gyuto? (cutting techniques)
You can use gyuto pretty much the same as you use any other primary kitchen knife. It’s a different story when working with a wa-gyuto if you’re not used to Japanese knife handles. They come in different sizes and shapes like octagonal, ellipse, oval, and more.
It may take a while before you fully get used to them, but once you get the hang of a Japanese knife handle, the shape or the size won’t matter. The balancing of the knives with different wa-handles is the same as they’re all lighter.
The lighter feel wa-handle gives to the knives, and the forwarded balance point compliments specific cutting techniques like cross chop, Julienning, and dicing, whether big or small. The bottom line is that gyuto cutting techniques are without any limitation, and you can use it as any other knife primarily used in your kitchen.
Caring tips for gyuto
Like every other knife, gyuto requires basic care like sharpening to maintain its durability and increase lifespan. The best way to sharpen a gyuto is the way the Japanese do it. You’ll need a whetstone and do some preparation beforehand. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to properly care for a Japanese gyuto knife, including sharpening, cleaning, and storing.
How to sharpen a Japanese gyuto?
Prepare your whetstone
Take your whetstone and keep it underwater for fifteen to twenty minutes. Doing this will remove the air from the exterior of the whetstone, creating a better surface to work on. After bubbles stop coming out, your whetstone is ready to do some grinding.
Sharpen the edges
Before you start sharpening gyuto, have a feel for the angle of the blade. Every knife has a slightly different angle, especially handmade knives. Position the blade flat on the whetstone and put two fingers, half on the edge of the blade and half on the whetstone. Slightly lift the blade until the angle is flat on the surface. From there, you can start sharpening your Japanese gyuto.
As for the grip you should use, place your thumb on the blade’s spine and your index finger on the heel. This grip will help you stroke without putting strain on your wrist and arms while keeping the edge steady.
Place the edge of the blade on the whetstone and gently press on the body to sharpen. At the same time, keep pushing the same part of the blade and stroke it until sharp enough. You can do this for any part of the blade, including the tip and the heel.
A quick tip: Japanese knives generally have a 70/30 ratio for sharpening. For example, if you’re right-handed, you will want to sharpen the right side of the blade when facing down more than the left. Doing this is entirely up to you but recommended by the top Japanese chefs for a more efficient workflow.
Removing the burr
Roll up a few sheets of paper or newspaper and put your knife on top. Cut the paper by pulling and pushing the edges. Each time you go forward and back, slightly change the angle of the blade to remove the burr. Do this three to four times to quickly remove all the burr. If the burr is not removed from the knife, you’ll have a hard time cutting, and it will go dull faster.
Properly cleaning and storing your gyuto knife
The ideal way to clean your gyuto is by washing it with warm water and dish soap. As it can get dangerous to clean a knife if you’re not careful, go with the safest method, and that is to place it on a flat surface and rub it using a sponge with a little bit of soap. After all the gunk and food traces are gone, rinse with warm water.
While cleaning your knife is an essential part of caring, always dry the knife afterward using a clean cloth or paper towel. Don’t leave any moisture on the blade, and put the same effort into drying your knife as cleaning it. Although most gyuto is made from high-carbon stainless steel, always completely dry your knife before putting it away.
Once clean and dry, store your Japanese gyuto the same as you keep any other knife. You don’t need anything special to store your gyuto as some favor with a high-carbon steel knife with patina on the blade. Now that you know gyuto is the ultimate chef’s knife one will ever need in the kitchen, why not consider getting one for yourself?
At HDMD Knives, we pride ourselves in retailing the best chef knives that won’t cut your budget, so you can focus on chopping what’s important!