Questions for single bevel users
Ok, here goes-
Now that I am an incurable J knife addict, I am feeling cravings for a stronger hit.... Yep, you guessed it, single bevels
First some info about me: Amateur but determined home cook. Use a pinch grip and mostly a push or pull cutting technique depending on the knife and what I am cutting. Cook with a lot of vegetables prepared many different ways but not much fish (mostly because good fish is hard to come by here). Mostly chicken and beef (various cuts and preperations). Good waterstone setup (imo) and pretty good at sharpening (again imo). From lots of reading I have a very good Idea of how to sharpen single bevels and don't see it being too difficult. Almost all my outdoor knives are scandi grind which is pretty much the same as the frontside blade road of a single bevel. I know that the backside is sharpened very little, and only on the fine stones. I have gotten the impression that I might want to pick up something even finer than an 8000 for finishing. Any truth to this?
What I want to ask those of you who use them is the following:
1. What made you try single bevels?
2. What surprised you about them?
3. What was the learning curve like?
4. What style(s) do you find most useful and what styles do you think I would find most useful?
Of course Yanagibas are gorgeous but I also love the look of Usubas. Is there any point to a Yanagiba if I don't cook much with fish? I would get no use out of a Deba as I don't take apart whole chicken or fish with any kind of regularity.
I have been trying Katsuramuki with my Nakiri with pretty good results. Did a nasty old soup carrot today and only had it break twice. Cucumber and Zucchini went much better. Would a Usuba make it much easier?
Sorry, I know that was a ton of questions but anything you've got is always appreciated.
I first started using single bevels entirely out of curiosity. Then, once I learned how to make sushi properly and got into fileting fish myself and got to practicing it on a pretty regular basis, I couldn't go back to not having some good single bevels handy.
I have to admit that I don't get much use from my usuba, as I'm still used to using double-bevels for my veggies. However, there is a marked difference between using the usuba for katsuramuki and my nakiri or other double-bevels. It's a lot easier to keep the sheet thin and consistent with the usuba. Of course, that said, if I'm looking to prep some really fine julienne of cucumber, zucchini, or even ginger for garnish, I'm probably not going to whip out the usuba - I'll make do with whatever knife I happen to be using at the time.
What surprised me about them... mmm... well, I guess two things. First is that a single bevel blade is not automatically sharper or keener than a double-bevel. A single-bevel needs to be sharpened well to bring out its advantages. Otherwise, a dull knife is a dull knife, whether it's a single or double. The second is the fact the fact that the blades want to curve when going through something like a daikon. It is this tendency to curve in that makes it easier to make thin slices or katuramuki with a single-bevel, but it's something to get used to in order to avoid it when it comes to making simple vertical cuts through something thicker.
Learning curve... mmm... for me it was a gradual learning process. I had already begun weaning myself off rock-and-chop and training myself to get used to push-cutting, so that was already in-progress. It sounds like you're already a-ok on that count. I didn't encounter any big walls while trying to get used to single-bevels - it really was just gradually getting used to them and improving my technique just a little at a time. I'm still learning and improving, and I'm finding that it's spilling over to the way I use my double-bevels.
Because it's what I have handy most of the time - I cook for interest's sake, not professionally, and I actually carry some knives with me when I go to work or to friends' houses - the single-bevel I use most often these days is a kiritsuke.
Otherwise, if I had to choose one single-bevel as objectively the most useful, I'd have to say my deba. It's because I actually never learned how to filet fish with anything other than a deba I've been using a deba since the very first fish I tackled on my own.
The deba is pretty specialized, though, so I don't think that would be your best bet. If you really want to put the time into it to make it your go-to-knife, I think the usuba is the one to go for if you're prepping mainly veggies. I'll let those who actually get more use out of their usubas comment though
1.) I find them to be elegant and challenging, and want to prove myself on them... kinda hard to call yourself a Japanese knife aficionado if you don't have any experience with single bevel knives!
2.) How easy they are to deal with when things are right: straight blade, relatively even blade road, etc. If you know what you are doing, they take a lot of work, but they aren't a difficult task suited only for the gifted.
3.) Without help, immense. But from the information you can glean from this forum and users on this forum, it really isn't all that bad.
4.) Tricky. With the exception of a very few things (sashimi, katsuramuki, etc.), traditional knives aren't necessary. And you can even pull those off with success with wester knives, though the cuts won't be as elegant.
As for the 8000 grit question, it depends. Finishing the knife and getting an excellent cutting edge is easily obtained with no more than an 8000 grit stone. Making the knife look good on the other hand requires something else. Depending on the stone, you might be able to pull it off with an 8000 grit synthetic - but it will take a ton of practice and work to learn how to do that, and some stones simply aren't suited to the job (glass stones, for instance). You can use a natural stone to get a good finish (expensive), or natural fingerstones (cheap, but require that you get most of the way there with your synthetic stone), and some people use a combination of lower grit muddy synthetics to achieve a nice finish. All of these will require a lot of effort and practice, but it's well worth it in my opinion.
Originally Posted by Maluaka
Wow! Thank you all for the time you spent on some very thorough replies!
This is all great info. It sounds like they are challenging as expected, but the performance is worth it if you put in the time.
I have to say that a big appeal for me is the traditional, truly Japanese aspect of them (hope that makes sense). For example how a Gyuto is a Japanese take on a French chefs knife, single bevels on the other hand are the real deal.
It's probably safe to assume that it will be best to avoid "cheap" single bevels so that I'm not pulling my hair out over wobbly blade roads and chipping, folding edges? Would something like a Masamoto KS be a pretty good value/quality crossroads?
I'd suggest that you talk with Jon Broida, of Japanese Knife Imports. He's very knowledgeable about traditional Japanese knives and is more than willing to advise you. Check out his store (http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/) and his subforum (http://www.kitchenknifeforums.com/fo...-Knife-Imports). You can also PM him or email (Jon@Japaneseknifeimports.com). I've purchased knives and stones from him and have been extremely pleased with both the products and the service.
Originally Posted by Maluaka
You may also want to get a copy of this book: http://www.amazon.com/Japanese-Kitch.../dp/4770030762. It describes the usage of the three basic traditional knives, the deba, the usuba and the yanagiba.
There are lot's of lines that would cover this "better than cheap aspect". I personally think that Masamato is overpriced, relative to their competition. If you could snag them during Korin's 15% off sale that's a different story. I think a much better thing though is to to talk to a reputable dealer who knows single bevel knives and can check any that you purchase before sending them out to you. Even the most expensive knives can have serious problems (although it's much rarer for the more expensive lines), and ergo you are better off with someone you trust guiding your purchases and making sure you get quality product, regardless of the brand that you end up buying. Yoshihiro makes good knives on the cheaper end, and Konosuke also makes very good single bevels in their Fujiyama line that would be on par as far as cost with the Masamato, and I personally think they are better finished as well.
EDIT: I will also second everything Rick said. That book is great, even as just a "coffee table" book, full of really nice photography. And Jon is an absolute pleasure to deal with. He doesn't carry everything, but he carries a lot, and even if you don't buy from him he can definitely help point you in the right direction.
Also, if I were you I'd consider a kiritsuke or kirisuke yanagiba. They are both hybrid knives, but will allow you to do both slicing and board work, which you might find more useful than either a yanagi or usuba alone.
You guys are fantastic! I had also been eying the Konosukes as they aren't too badly priced either. I have heard the Masamoto sentiment before as it seems possible that they aren't as good a value due to people buying on a name. As you guys say, it's not such a gamble going with a small maker when you can have someone with a trained eye inspect the product first.
I like the Kiritsuke idea as my vain side thinks they are incredibly cool looking! Will they hold up to frequent board work? I tend to have a fairly light touch on the board.
Something like this? http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/...iritsuke.html# (Although the "requires great skill to use effectively" sentiment makes me nervous)
It's funny you mention that book, It's on my coffee table at the moment
Originally Posted by Pensacola Tiger
I like that kiritsuke. It doesn't look dead flat like some that I've seen, but I kind of like a little belly to it. It won't be any more trouble on a board than an usuba. Both are thin knives. I like a little curve for exactly this reason, it takes a little more work to get clean cuts, but with a dead flat knife you have to keep the blade exactly parallel to the board. If you don't you jam the tip or the heel into the board when cutting and can roll or chip your edge, or otherwise damage your knife.