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Thread: Exploring the Kiritsuke

  1. #1
    Senior Member Seth's Avatar
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    Exploring the Kiritsuke

    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

  2. #2
    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


    "All beauty that has no foundation in use, soon grows distasteful and needs continuous replacement with something new." The Shakers' saying.

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  3. #3
    Do you have one? If so, which one?

  4. #4
    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


    "All beauty that has no foundation in use, soon grows distasteful and needs continuous replacement with something new." The Shakers' saying.

    If my KKF Inbox is full (or not), please contact me via Email: anvlts@gmail.com

  5. #5
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    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.
    Last edited by Sarge; 12-31-2011 at 01:38 AM. Reason: Additional info

  6. #6
    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.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Seth's Avatar
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    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

  8. #8
    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.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seth View Post
    ...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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tk59 View Post
    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.

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