What (or rather, where) is the point of a nakiri?

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Xenif

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Since I'm here now.. nakiris are pointless, literally. Gyuto can do everything a nakiri can do, plus more.. so why a nakiri? If you want a knife that's modeled after a cleaver, just get a cleaver.......
Although I can agree that gyuto are more versatile than nakiri, I disagree that cleaver and nakiri are one of the same. Cleavers generally have a diffrent profile vs nakiri.
 
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refcast

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I think that the nakiri is useful for when you want to bash a knife and not want to break off the tip or gouge the board. Especially for deep plunge cuts. You can have a thin edge there while still having support. The curved tip of the nakiri lets you do a rocking motion at the tip, but with a higher angle that with almost every other knife. Though the length of the rocking part is pretty small.
 

stringer

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I confess. I own a nakiri (and two santokus). Sometimes I tell people they belong to my wife, but they are mine. She only uses gyutos. If I need a point when I'm using a nakiri or santoku then I flip it around, blade toward me, handle out. Grip the spine and use the heel. It's very pointy. I frankly very rarely use the point of my "all purpose" knives for anything so I'm not sure why this is always everyone's go-to argument. I can't remember the last time I cored a tomato or removed silverskin with a gyuto. If I need something pointy then I grab my Ginga petty or an ice pick.

And refcast brings up a good point. I'll take it three steps further. I actually round the tips of all my Chinese cleavers and santokus so they are upswept like a rounded nakiri. It makes it easier to rock chop with them. Yeah, I said it. I rocked and walked for too many years before I learned about push, draw, guillotine and glide. So I'll rock with about anything. If it screws up my edge then I sharpen the knife. The upswept tip keeps me from gouging the board or breaking the tip off as often. The best thing about nakiris though: My current nakiri is iron clad white #2 and I paid $36 for it.
 

Elliot

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Well, if I missed someone making this point already, I apologize.

But -- the point? Let's be honest now all, how many of us have less than five knives? Even that is more than one "needs," but for the sake of being easy, I will stretch it to five.

Since the answer to that question is surely zero, we can, at some level, disregard things being "necessary." As such, I say everyone should have a Nakiri. They're just a whole lot of freaking fun.
 

Michi

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I have a Takeshi Saji rainbow Nakiri, 165 mm:
Saji-Rainbow-Nakiri.jpg
The tip is sharpened around the curve for a few millimetre, so the whole front corner is sharp.

I find that it is actually easier to use for chopping onions than a Gyuto. There is no problem when making the vertical cuts. I can control very easily how far the cuts go towards the root. Because the blade is tall, when lifting it out of a vertical slit to make the next one, nothing catches, and there is much less of a tendency to lift up the adjacent top one or two layers of onion. (With a Gyuto, I have to pull the blade out more towards the rear rather than straight up, otherwise layers of onion catch on the spine of the blade above the tip.)

So, no problem when chopping onions. I did 3 kg recently, and they were done in a flash.

In general, I find a Nakiri fun to use and a bit more effective than Gyuto if I need lots of small dice or julienne. Having said that, a Nakiri is definitely optional. A Gyuto is a true all-rounder, whereas Nakiri is not: the Nakiri is hopeless at slicing and fine tip work (although, surprisingly, the Nakiri rocks quite well, more so than one would guess from looking at it).

I you plan on buying only one knife, the vote goes to the Gyuto, without question.
 

osakajoe

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joe i dont think most in here actually care about technique, theyre just in it for the nerdom. ie sports cars with automatic transmissions.
Yeah I know. Most my posts are when I’m 6 or 8 drinks deep and don’t care much either

I saw a question about vertical cuts and serrations. So here an easy test.

Take a sharp knife carefully rest the edge on your open palm and press down with a little firm pressure. Didn’t cut or break the skin right? Now do it again but now with light pressure and with a slight movement forward.

Well actually don’t do that. Pull out a tomato you fool and do the same test. A sharp knife will do the work as long as there is a movement forward or backward to allow the micro serrations to cut.
 
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tgfencer

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Another in a large percentage of threads that devolves into a revolving door of mini knife-related existential crises. Usually makes for an entertaining read. If anybody follows Joe's advice and test cuts their hand, I applaud you.

As for the topic at hand. I own a few nakiri. I like them. I own plenty gyutos. I like them too. Have many more knives. I like them as well. Cutting things is fun. Don't much care why.
 

ian

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... don’t think anyone’s arguing here that microserrations aren’t important to perceived sharpness, nor is anyone going to argue that having a refined acute apex doesn’t help. Anyway, I’m taking my vertically sliced onions to bed. We will both dream of this thread ‘till the morn.
 

KenHash

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I get that, but I'm asking why the (non)-tip is shaped like it often is...
Rather than looking at it from a knife perspective, I think a possible answer lies in culture and history. I believe the Nakiri/Usuba may be the oldest Japanese cooking knife. used by commoners and peasants. I also think that it has cultural origins in the Cai Dao of China during the Tang Dynasty when there is something of a similarity in blade shape. Closer than today's version. I suspect that peasants were permitted to have cooking knives that had no point, lessening their effectiveness as a weapon.

There is a theory that Chopsticks developed in China by Rulers as a means of keeping untrustworthy Generals sitting at the table from using knife points to eat. A practice which I believe also existed in the West until the advent of the fork.
 

Paraffin

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Since I'm here now.. nakiris are pointless, literally. Gyuto can do everything a nakiri can do, plus more.. so why a nakiri? If you want a knife that's modeled after a cleaver, just get a cleaver.......
A nakiri isn't a Chinese cleaver. It works differently and feels different in the hand.

I have a couple of Chinese cleavers I use for double-hand chopping of pork and fish for mincing. If I liked what a Chinese cleaver did better than the nakiri on vegetables, I'd use it. Everyone has a different opinion on this though, and I know there are fans here of the big Chinese (thin) cleavers.

For me, one big difference is the Chinese cleaver's sharp 90 degree angle at the tip vs. the nakiri's curved 90 degree angle at the tip (getting back to the OP's main question). The sharp angle of a cleaver tip digs into the board more when draw-slicing. The front curve of a nakiri glides more smoothly on the board without digging in, when doing precision draw cuts.

The smaller size and proportionally more weight in a nakiri also moves more quickly in my hand than a big Chinese cleaver. It's more nimble for freehand (off the board) fast chopping. I do a lot of that for garlic and ginger. I can flick my ring finger underneath the handle with a pinch grip for a pivot, to get a nakiri moving very quickly when freehand chopping. Can't do that with a big cleaver. Can't do that with a gyuto either, because the weight distribution and balance is different.

To be clear, I'm not dissing Chinese cleavers for those who can make use of them. I've seen experts doing amazing things, like videos of expert Chinese chefs cutting tofu "threads," for example. But for the mix of Western and Asian meals I make at home, a nakiri is a better vegetable weapon for the way I cook. That said, Chinese cleavers can be had for so little money that everyone should try one. See for yourself if it fits your style.
 

Hoonis

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Well, if I missed someone making this point already, I apologize.

But -- the point? Let's be honest now all, how many of us have less than five knives? Even that is more than one "needs," but for the sake of being easy, I will stretch it to five.

Since the answer to that question is surely zero, we can, at some level, disregard things being "necessary." As such, I say everyone should have a Nakiri. They're just a whole lot of freaking fun.
So you're saying I have to spend more bux Elliot? Damn it.
 

ian

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Rather than looking at it from a knife perspective, I think a possible answer lies in culture and history. I believe the Nakiri/Usuba may be the oldest Japanese cooking knife. used by commoners and peasants. I also think that it has cultural origins in the Cai Dao of China during the Tang Dynasty when there is something of a similarity in blade shape. Closer than today's version. I suspect that peasants were permitted to have cooking knives that had no point, lessening their effectiveness as a weapon.

There is a theory that Chopsticks developed in China by Rulers as a means of keeping untrustworthy Generals sitting at the table from using knife points to eat. A practice which I believe also existed in the West until the advent of the fork.
Now that is an interesting theory.
 

ojisan

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Didn’t know they were only for leafy green vegetables originally.
I don’t think this is true. It was/is just a vegetable knife, as its name shows (na-kiri, means vegetable-cutting). I think Joe just meant the current flat profile is good especially for leafy greens.

Some research say Nakiri style knives were found in pictures in the Muromachi era in 14th century (before that, knives looked like small samurai swards were used at kitchens. I don’t know if there were influence from Chinese cleaver), and the current profile was established in the Edo era around 1800 through 1860. At that moment, I don’t think we had much leafy vegetables in Japan (popular leafy vegetables today in Japan like cabbage, napa cabbage and spinach became popular after the Edo era). The star vegetable at the time was daikon radish, so it’s hard for me to think Nakiris were made for leafy vegetables.

You can see some photos of old kitchen knives: http://www.kiya-hamono.co.jp/hamono/wa_rekishi.html

Gyutos were developed around the very end of the Edo era through the Meiji era as Japan started trade with other countries and consuming meat/beaf/pork. Then the santoku was invented as a mixture of gyutos and nakiris (and potentially debas) after WW2 as consuming meat at home got more popular. So the santoku makes much more sense at home kitchens as a general purpose knife. I might choose a santoku if my wife brought KonMari to my home.

There are two types of Nakiris by the way, the western style and the eastern style. The western style has a flatter blade, while the eastern profile has a more curved blade. As Joe said, somehow the eastern style is very rare these days. My random guess is that’s because the western style looks smarter and we use plastic cutting boards nowadays that won’t warp.

I like the direct feedback from my 165mm light nakiri. It's a different feeling from what I get from my 27cm heavy gyuto cutting with its weight.
 

Hoonis

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I don’t think this is true. It was/is just a vegetable knife, as its name shows (na-kiri, means vegetable-cutting). I think Joe just meant the current flat profile is good especially for leafy greens.

Some research say Nakiri style knives were found in pictures in the Muromachi era in 14th century (before that, knives looked like small samurai swards were used at kitchens. I don’t know if there were influence from Chinese cleaver), and the current profile was established in the Edo era around 1800 through 1860. At that moment, I don’t think we had much leafy vegetables in Japan (popular leafy vegetables today in Japan like cabbage, napa cabbage and spinach became popular after the Edo era). The star vegetable at the time was daikon radish, so it’s hard for me to think Nakiris were made for leafy vegetables.

You can see some photos of old kitchen knives: http://www.kiya-hamono.co.jp/hamono/wa_rekishi.html

Gyutos were developed around the very end of the Edo era through the Meiji era as Japan started trade with other countries and consuming meat/beaf/pork. Then the santoku was invented as a mixture of gyutos and nakiris (and potentially debas) after WW2 as consuming meat at home got more popular. So the santoku makes much more sense at home kitchens as a general purpose knife. I might choose a santoku if my wife brought KonMari to my home.

There are two types of Nakiris by the way, the western style and the eastern style. The western style has a flatter blade, while the eastern profile has a more curved blade. As Joe said, somehow the eastern style is very rare these days. My random guess is that’s because the western style looks smarter and we use plastic cutting boards nowadays that won’t warp.

I like the direct feedback from my 165mm light nakiri. It's a different feeling from what I get from my 27cm heavy gyuto cutting with its weight.
Someone please send me a nakiri so I can decipher if it's a functional tool or not
 

Marek07

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... If anybody follows Joe's advice and test cuts their hand, I applaud you.
But what is the sound of one hand clapping? :rolleyes:

As for the topic at hand. I own a few nakiri. I like them. I own plenty gyutos. I like them too. Have many more knives. I like them as well. Cutting things is fun. Don't much care why.
Very well reasoned! Worthy of applause. (avoid clapping if still healing)
 

Forty Ounce

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A nakiri isn't a Chinese cleaver. It works differently and feels different in the hand.

I have a couple of Chinese cleavers I use for double-hand chopping of pork and fish for mincing. If I liked what a Chinese cleaver did better than the nakiri on vegetables, I'd use it. Everyone has a different opinion on this though, and I know there are fans here of the big Chinese (thin) cleavers.

For me, one big difference is the Chinese cleaver's sharp 90 degree angle at the tip vs. the nakiri's curved 90 degree angle at the tip (getting back to the OP's main question). The sharp angle of a cleaver tip digs into the board more when draw-slicing. The front curve of a nakiri glides more smoothly on the board without digging in, when doing precision draw cuts.

The smaller size and proportionally more weight in a nakiri also moves more quickly in my hand than a big Chinese cleaver. It's more nimble for freehand (off the board) fast chopping. I do a lot of that for garlic and ginger. I can flick my ring finger underneath the handle with a pinch grip for a pivot, to get a nakiri moving very quickly when freehand chopping. Can't do that with a big cleaver. Can't do that with a gyuto either, because the weight distribution and balance is different.

To be clear, I'm not dissing Chinese cleavers for those who can make use of them. I've seen experts doing amazing things, like videos of expert Chinese chefs cutting tofu "threads," for example. But for the mix of Western and Asian meals I make at home, a nakiri is a better vegetable weapon for the way I cook. That said, Chinese cleavers can be had for so little money that everyone should try one. See for yourself if it fits your style.
Fair. I like your argument.
 

rickbern

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Ian, I thought this image might be helpful for this discussion. Maybe not, we'll see.

I compared the profile of both my wakui 240 and kochi 240 gyuto to my itonimmin 180 nakiri.

As you can see, the wakui is, indeed, pretty much a nakiri with a tip and a little less height, while the kochi (image on the right) has a considerably different profile. I didn't shoot my ginga, but it's even more "different" from the nakiri than the kochi is.

I've never really been attracted to a 180 nakiri as an all purpose knife, mine makes it's living on all kinds of cabbage and chiffonading collard greens for caldo verde. (it may come as no surprise that I made cole slaw for dinner last night).

I used to have a little 165 mac nakiri that I thought was a much more generally useful knife, but not actually so great at cabbage and greens in general.

I decided on the itonimmin rather than a watanabe because it was half the price and I didn't think a nakiri was going to be useful enough to justify spending twice as much on one. I was right, but, who knows, self fulfilling prophecy?

nakiri with a tip.jpg
 

osakajoe

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So the conclusion is that a nakiri is a pointless buy for knife?
Nope. Depends on how you prefer your knife profile, how you use it, and what you intend to cut. I like to think of it as a secondary knife to support your main multipurpose knife. Unless your a vegan and mainly do salads, then it’s the opposite.

End thread.
 

gstriftos

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@osakajoe yes I see what you mean, I am too intrigued to buy one as I cannot easily find an affordable tallish gyoto with a large flat to enjoy my beloved chopping.
A CCK might be a good altenative but since I am not a pro and don't need to prepare massive amounts the CCK weight and volume is useless to me.
Or maybe get a hakata. Bad@ss looking knife, large flat, not so tall on the other hand.

(I waited patiently until someone made the ''pointless'' joke. Did not see anyone taking the liberty to so I did :D. )
 

ian

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Ian, I thought this image might be helpful for this discussion. Maybe not, we'll see.

I compared the profile of both my wakui 240 and kochi 240 gyuto to my itonimmin 180 nakiri.

As you can see, the wakui is, indeed, pretty much a nakiri with a tip and a little less height, while the kochi (image on the right) has a considerably different profile. I didn't shoot my ginga, but it's even more "different" from the nakiri than the kochi is.

I've never really been attracted to a 180 nakiri as an all purpose knife, mine makes it's living on all kinds of cabbage and chiffonading collard greens for caldo verde. (it may come as no surprise that I made cole slaw for dinner last night).

I used to have a little 165 mac nakiri that I thought was a much more generally useful knife, but not actually so great at cabbage and greens in general.

I decided on the itonimmin rather than a watanabe because it was half the price and I didn't think a nakiri was going to be useful enough to justify spending twice as much on one. I was right, but, who knows, self fulfilling prophecy?

View attachment 56195
That's cool to see the profiles superimposed. Thanks for the pics.
 

Xenif

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Looks more like a deba, no? She’s also wearing my fish-breakdown face.
Hmm considering the length of the handle and that it is burnt chestnut, the blade must be quite heavy, so yes I stand corrected.
 

ian

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Hmm considering the length of the handle and that it is burnt chestnut, the blade must be quite heavy, so yes I stand corrected.
Love your collection, though. What’s the cleaver in the foreground?
 

Xenif

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Honestly everyone in that anime seems to using a santoku 100% of the time [emoji14]

Tell us a bit about your other Nakiris?
Just a bunch of pointless knives apparently ...
Tanaka Ginsan, Hinoura White#1, Shigefusa, The Big Maz, Heiji 210 SemiStainless

Love your collection, though. What’s the cleaver in the foreground?
Yu Kurosaki Mini (175x73) Chuka, its almost a marriage between a chuka and nakiri
 
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