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Seth
12-30-2011, 12:07 PM
I think many people are attracted to the aesthetics of the single bevel kiritsuke. It is often described as a hybrid usuba/yani that is wanting on the tasks performed by either a yani or usuba. However this style came to be, I try to evaluate it on its own terms and I am not really seeing the specifics on the kiritsuke's weaknesses other than what I mention below. As a protein slicer it seems as effective as the yanagibas I have and it is easy to imagine the proximal section of the blade as a usuba for push cutting.

The down side I see is that a shorter blade height in comparison to a gyutou can put your knuckles at risk if trying to speed chop taller items, and your sliced product is not likely to stay in position. My intuition tells me that the knife should not be used for speed chops, then again, why not,if you have a good technique?

I would like to know a bit about the history of this style knife and opinions about its usefulness if you care to share.

Thanks,
Seth

Marko Tsourkan
12-30-2011, 12:37 PM
It's a difficult knife to use and most likely it won't see much use. If an angled tip is a must, perhaps kensaki yanagi would be a better choice?

M

Eamon Burke
12-30-2011, 05:15 PM
Do you have one? If so, which one?

Marko Tsourkan
12-30-2011, 05:36 PM
About 3 years ago, I tried one, I think it was from Mozamburo. It looked cool but it didn't sway me as a cutter. It wedged and turned on just everything I tried to cut.

Later I got a double-beveled kiritsuke shaped gyuto from Watanabe. It cut better, but it had a fairly flat profile and so I sold it (well, it is still with me, for some remaining custom work).

The kiritsuke (single-beveled) topic has come up many times on the forums over the years, and there seem to have been a consensus that it is a difficult knife to master and to adopt to Western cuisine. I have seen many kiritsuke hitting For Sale section and that reinforces the point.

However, this is a general observation, and should be taken as such. There are people who will put in time and effort and learn to use it properly, but based on what one of them said (Will Spear), you have to use just that one knife for everything for a month or longer to learn how to compensate for the wedging and turning.

M

Sarge
12-31-2011, 12:35 AM
I have a single bevel Kiritsuke a Monzaburo in fact, have had it for a year and yes there was a bit of a learning curve for it. I would definitely say it doesn't fit too much into typical western cuisine.

It is certainly multi-purpose, I use it for veg, some boneless fish fabrication, and portioning, other protein cutting. I really love the thing, but I also know the limitations that it has, and knew them going into the purchase, I've never tried to shoe horn it into a gyuto role, but there is certain tasks especially with veg and fish that I'll reach for it 10 times out of 10 over any other knife I own.

For me the turning or steering came down to mostly grip and position of the knife and understand how the single bevel moves differently thru food. For somethings it'll never be good and will always wedge, I can now minimize this but then again knowing those limitations I usually don't put it to use in those situations.

memorael
12-31-2011, 04:19 AM
is there such a thing as dice in Japanese cuisine? or brunoise? a kiritsuke is designed to perform some very specific tasks. Singularly what a yanagiba and a usuba does. That is a kiritsuke is only for Japanese cuisine. No matter how much you want to use it for western cuisine it will never be as adept as a gyuto. As well as a yanagiba or usuba will never conform to western style cooking. Just take it for what it is and stop trying to make an apple taste like a pear.

Seth
12-31-2011, 09:58 AM
As Marko points out the kiritsukes do often end up on the knife rack or sale rack. Nevertheless, the important shops do produce this knife. I guess my original intent in this post is not so much a value judgement about this knife as it is a question about why this knife exists, why is it difficult (any more than a usuba or yani), and how to best use this knife and discover its innate strengths and weaknesses. I have three of these (don't ask): suisin ginsanko 270, 240, and Doi (imperfect light series) 240. The 270 is big and heavy and the Doi is almost yani like; thin and narrow. Like most people here, when it's time to cook I generally reach for the gyotou. You can find plenty of youtubes showing experienced j-chefs using yani's for rotary peeling and push cutting, or large pettys or gyotou for the same. I've tried this (only cut myself four times) and I see no reason other than tradition why a usuba is the accepted knife for peeling as long as you have a flat portion of the blade to work with.

On the surface it looks like a kiri should be a fantastic all-purpose knife and yet you never hear anyone describe it as their go-to blade -- though Sarge comes close to this. Some folks talk about using a suji for their go-to and for a while I was using a 270 yani as a go-to. I am beginning to think that, like a good musician who can coax a good sound out of a crappy instrument, a cook with knife skills can coax the best out of almost any knife for almost any task. I thought there was a question in there somewhere; maybe not....

Seth

phan1
12-31-2011, 03:11 PM
It's an extremely cool looking knife... And also equally inadequate from 1st hand experience. It's got an edge that's sharp and delicate like a yanagi but is also very robust and heavy, almost deba-like in it's weight. That makes the knife incredibly awkward. I'm sure I would have built a comfort level handling a kiritsuke, but why bother? I sold mine in 3 months. I'm more comfortable just using 2 knives (yanagi and gyuto) than handling a kiritsuke. It' just an impractical knife design from my perspective.

tk59
12-31-2011, 11:21 PM
...On the surface it looks like a kiri should be a fantastic all-purpose knife and yet you never hear anyone describe it as their go-to blade...I'm not sure where you get the idea that a thick knife would be a fantastic all-purpose knife. If the objective is to cut through an object without destroying it, thinner is going to be intuitively better. A kiritsuke is a straight, tall yanagi and a heavy, over-sized usuba rolled into one. As with any multi-tasker, you are sacrificing something for convenience.

Sarge
01-01-2012, 01:03 AM
I'm not sure where you get the idea that a thick knife would be a fantastic all-purpose knife. If the objective is to cut through an object without destroying it, thinner is going to be intuitively better. A kiritsuke is a straight, tall yanagi and a heavy, over-sized usuba rolled into one. As with any multi-tasker, you are sacrificing something for convenience.

It all depends on your definition and understanding of the word "Multi-purpose" it doesn't mean "All-purpose". Like I said before I've never thought of it as a gyuto replacement, and when used to cover the things an Usuba and Yanagiba would do then a Kiritsuke is very effective, efficient, and multi-purpose tool.

memorael
01-01-2012, 01:29 AM
So I guess I didn't make me self clear or something, but anyway here goes. I still have to see a video where someone uses a yanagi to peel a daikon, if you try it you will see that it is close to impossible to get a even sheet of daikon due to the yanagis curve and short height it wedges like crazy. An usuba is used to make traditional Japanese cuts, Japanese being the key word here. I really don't understand what the whole deal with the kiritsuke being misunderstood and impractical is. Unless you are doing traditional Japanese cuts I don't see why anyone would use one.

Mingooch
01-01-2012, 10:33 AM
memorael, I think the look of the knife makes it so desired even if u cant use it. I am a total sucker for that shape. I think it is the best looking shape of all knives even if it isnt anywhere near the best knife shape to actually use.

Seth
01-01-2012, 11:17 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEjt3608-pM&context=C3ecf091ADOEgsToPDskKtSaDg4qg1hcl2d5uW8JMl

My yanagis have enough flat to do this......

Seth
01-01-2012, 02:44 PM
Maybe I need to restate my OP as well. There are two parts: the historical question which is whether the Kiritsuke was really developed as a hybrid or is there a 16th century version, for example, of this profile as a knife in its own right. Secondly, when I put my thinking cap on, I see a the kiritsuke as a piece of steel with a sharp edge so what can it do? My experience to this point is that it does usuba as well as usuba and it does yani almost as well as yani. It raises the question as to whether there is something inherent in this profile that has shortcomings or does this knife deserve the chance of technique practice (of course it does).

Comments:
Cuisine specific is not an issue in my mind - I think more task specific. Needle cuts a great for garnish in western cooking. Slicing a pork loin is slicing a pork loin; sujis, yanagibas, and kiritsukes all produce good results.

tk59's comment is a bit of a generalization I think; my 240 has the same height at the heel as two of my yanis, is thinner than my 210 usuba, does not have a straight edge, and does not destroy product. It is not that I think necessarily that the kiritsuke is a go-to knife and I am not trying to sell anyone on this idea, but like the title of this post, I am exploring. In the end this is clearly personal choice but I wonder why this knife often gets a negative response. I also feel compelled to give all my knives a workout to discover for myself why the designs came about.

~s

JBroida
01-01-2012, 03:27 PM
one reason for all of this confusion is that often times kiritsuke yanagiba are mislabled at kiritsuke (ergo the same blade height as a yanagiba). However, Kiritsuke are traditionally taller than yanagiba by a noticable degree. I've discussed the development of these knives with a couple of well respected knife makers in sakai and they have confirmed for me that it is indeed a hybrid. In talking with chefs in Japan about the knife, all of them confirmed that is was a knife used as a convienience, so they could use 1 instead of 2. As a yanagiba, the blade height causes it is to a little more sticky with foods (greater surface area). Also, the extra bulk of the knife makes it a bit more difficult to use effectively. Likewise, some kiritsuke have less curve to them than a yanaigba might, making a smooth slicing motion a bit odd. As an usuba the blade length can sometimes be an issue (the most common size is 270mm, but you see 300 a lot too). Again, a bit unwieldy. As i mentioned before, some kiritsuke have less curve, however some also have more. For ones with more curve, certain techniques on an usuba can be odd.

I've always brought in 240mm kiritsuke because, in my experience, people arent using them as intended anyways... they use them more as chef knives. 240mm is a much easier size for that. But when i get a serious japanese chef in asking for a kiritsuke (few and far between), they tend to want 270-300mm.

tk59
01-01-2012, 03:41 PM
It all depends on your definition and understanding of the word "Multi-purpose" it doesn't mean "All-purpose". Like I said before I've never thought of it as a gyuto replacement, and when used to cover the things an Usuba and Yanagiba would do then a Kiritsuke is very effective, efficient, and multi-purpose tool.I'm not sure what sort of response your comment was meant to ellicit. It seems to me that my post is in complete agreement with yours.

Sarge
01-01-2012, 09:54 PM
I guess I was thinking of the difference between multi-purpose and all purpose as you wrote. And no matter how thin you get say suji it won't ever perform the same for slicing fish for sashimi or in general than a yanagiba, or even a kiritsuke.


Also no attempt to elicit anything

Seth
01-02-2012, 11:29 AM
Jon,
Thanks for your helpful reply. Clearly there is no choice but for me and Sarge to create a non-profit, The American Kiritsuke Society, for the protection of abused kiritsukes. Also a note of thanks for the videos you produce which I find to be the best out there for technique and sharpening.
Seth

JBroida
01-02-2012, 12:16 PM
Jon,
Thanks for your helpful reply. Clearly there is no choice but for me and Sarge to create a non-profit, The American Kiritsuke Society, for the protection of abused kiritsukes. Also a note of thanks for the videos you produce which I find to be the best out there for technique and sharpening.
Seth

Haha... no problem... glad to be of service

Sarge
01-02-2012, 12:25 PM
:plus1:

Sounds like a plan.

Seth, I think if you want to give one a try and realize that even as a multi-purpose knife it is still very specialized then you'll probably end up really enjoying a Kiritsuke. If you go into it understanding there are limitations and things you'll probably not be disappointed and worst case find that you should either devote more time to it or sell it.

And as someone already stated I don't know why but aesthetically for me atleast it really is the best looking shape for a knife.

memorael
01-02-2012, 11:59 PM
Another thing I noticed or think might be an issue is that the tip of the knife could be a bit fragile due to it being mostly a straight edge so at least it my mind slicing fish or whatever when using the tip it could easily chip or if you lack a good technique the flat part could make for some troublesome slicing. I have tried slicing stuff with one and carrots are a real nightmare or any other food that is prone to wedging. I guess the shape is sexy enough to make people buy the ryoba style ones. The real killer of all kiritsukes I hear is the nenox one which somehow supposedly cuts pretty well, though I haven't used one I here it doesn't wedge... I have no fishing clue as to how they do it, other than maybe it is taller?

Sarge
01-03-2012, 12:46 AM
Yeah if you are cutting things that don't come up higher than the shinogi line there really is much wedging, so a taller knife with a wider bevel would certainly help with that. And yes the tip is fragile. Mine does have a touch of curve towards the tip so slicing isn't a big deal at all, my estimation is that the ones with small curvature like mine are more forgiving to the user.

phan1
01-06-2012, 04:36 AM
Fundamentally, I don't think there's a knife out there that can physically cut better than a kiritsuke. It's a knife that's shaped to get deadly sharp like a yanagi but also has the cutting power of a deba means that it cuts very well. But it's still functionally inadequate IMO. I can't see it really being used well in a professional kitchen.

Sarge
01-06-2012, 12:32 PM
Fundamentally, I don't think there's a knife out there that can physically cut better than a kiritsuke. It's a knife that's shaped to get deadly sharp like a yanagi but also has the cutting power of a deba means that it cuts very well. But it's still functionally inadequate IMO. I can't see it really being used well in a professional kitchen.

I wouldn't go so far as the say it has the power of a deba. It is certainly a bit more robust than a yanagiba, but the edge won't take the abuse a deba can. I don't know why you think it'd be functionally inadequate, if you are looking for it to do all the things you can with a gyuto then yes it'll fall short. But for very fine julienne or regular julienne or any dice or bruniose, replacing a mandolin, cleaning and portioning boneless proteins, slicing cooked proteins. Shaving chives or scallions ect. Really once you start to get used to it and learn how it cuts and what you can and can't do with it, and don't try to make it something it isn't it is awesome.