In Part 5 of our series, you will find that by following a few simple tips when using your Japanese knives, you will ensure years of problem-free use, and keep your blade sharp much longer. In short, you will also get more enjoyment from your knives.
As we have discussed over the past four parts in this series, a Japanese blade has a different grind angle and is most likely lighter in weight than your current old "Western" style knives.These differences make the knives a joy to use and allow them to be sharpened to a razor edge.The steels and forging combined with the grind angle also insure excellent edge retention. The steels are generally much harder than other knives, but are not brittle. However, they ARE more delicate and require some care during use.
Here are a few tips to get the most out of your new knives, and guard against possible damage along the way.
Use a good cutting board, preferably with end-grain wood. A good quality cutting board will help keep your knives sharp longer. End-grain wood, to a knife's blade, is like passing it through a bristle brush instead of a rock. If you don't like wood cutting boards, go with bamboo. Avoid very hard boards, like ceramic, composites, or stone. It will dull your blade much more quickly.
"Rock, not karate chop", is how one chef described how he cooked everything with his Japanese knives! Japanese blades are designed for slicing and cutting. They are so sharp, there is no reason to chop. Chopping against a hard surface may result in damage to the cutting edge, dulling, and even chipping if struck hard enough!
Never strike with a hard blow. If you want a knife for striking, add a deba, cleaver or other blade designed for this purpose. Those blades have a thicker blade and wider, more durable grind angle. Or, keep one of your old knives handy for those uses. If you want to crush garlic, for example, don't slam your blade down like you may have seen on TV. Press it, then chop with a rocking, rolling or cutting motion.
Never use your knife to chop anything hard. Do not chop ice, pry apart frozen chicken wings, or chop a chicken with a gyuto (chef knife) or slicing knife. Here again, use a tool designed for chopping....an ice pick perhaps?
For super thin or precision slicing, start your cut with a pull stroke. A Japanese knife will perform best if you begin your cut with a pull stroke rather than a downward pushing motion. This narrow grind will allow you to make the thinnest of cuts, but works more like a Japanese saw in this regard.
Strop with a ceramic sharpening rod to maintain your edge. Unless you are an expert, do NOT use a sharpening steel. Steel will alter your grind angle and if you don't know what you are doing, you could well dull your knives rather than sharpen them. Rather, strop very lightly with a ceramic rod about a dozen strokes on each side after each use and you will not need to sharpen your knives for many, many months. Remember, here you are honing, not trying to remove steel, so use a light touch.
When they do need sharpening, use whet stones. Don't use an electric sharpening tool: they can scratch or chip your knives. Check out our earlier blog posts where we discuss sharpening in more detail or contact us for a 'how-to' video. We may be able to assist in finding people in your area who can sharpen your knives. We also offer sharpening services, which include free handle refreshing.
Whether your new knives are chef knives or steak knives, they have each been individually hand-forged in Japan; most to our own design specifications. Each handle was individually made for that knife, and made to last. With proper handling techniques, you will enjoy them for a lifetime.
We are here to help. We welcome all questions.