Knife Cuts 101: What Knife Is Right for You?

Knife Cuts 101: What Knife Is Right for You?

If you've been shopping for a quality kitchen knife, you’ve most likely stumbled across Western-style knives, the familiar-looking Henckels and Wüstofs of the world. However, there are many kinds of kitchen knives from all around the globe. One type quickly gaining traction in the U.S. is the Japanese-style knife. How can you tell if Western- or Japanese-style knives are the right fit for your kitchen? For comparison purposes, we’ll focus on the equivalent of an all-purpose chef’s knife with a steel blade. Let’s cut to the chase!


Playing It Straight

One of the first differences you’ll notice between the blades is that Japanese models are generally straight, and Western-style knives have more of a curve. This difference plays a larger role in how you use the knife itself. The curved edge of a Western-style knife allows for a rocking motion while you chop, which comes in handy when mincing garlic and fresh herbs. The straight edge of a Japanese knife requires you to lift straight up after each stroke of the knife, promoting precision. Depending upon your preferred slicing style, you may favor one shape over the other. 


Bevel Made Me Do It 

Another contrast concerns the bevel, which is the surface of the blade that has been ground to form its edge. On a Western knife, both sides of the blade are ground to form a double or symmetrical bevel. Japanese knives are traditionally sharpened only on one side of the blade, creating a single bevel. The single bevel allows for a more acute angle than Western knives can generally achieve, which translates to a sharper blade. One important piece of information to note: Most Japanese single-bevel knives are designed for right-handed people, so lefties should seek out left-handed options. 


Steel Yourself

Japanese-style knives are made from harder steel, which allows them to be thinner than Western knives and hold their razor-sharp edges longer. However, the blades are more brittle and can be prone to cracking and chipping. Although thick Western-style knives might allow you to hack through chicken bones, the Japanese knife is best saved for more precise duties.


A Weighty Matter 

 Although all knives vary in weight, on average, Western-style knives weigh more than Japanese-style knives. This is an important consideration when buying a knife because the weight of a blade can either help or cause damage, depending on what you’re using it for. If you intend to use your knife all day long, you may want to go with a Western-style, as the weight of the blade itself can help you slice through whatever you’re working with. But if the blade is too heavy, you might tire yourself out, which puts a check in the Japanese knife column. 

So, which kind of knife is a person to pick? What’s most important is that your knife feels sturdy and safe in your hand while slicing and dicing. If you have the means, we recommend including both styles of knives in your knife collection, so you can reach for the one best suited for the slicing task at hand.