The Kiritsuke is a traditional Japanese knife that dates back to before the Meiji era in Japan, or before 1868. Unlike other Japanese knives like the Gyuto and the Petty, the Kiritsuke pre-dates the influence of western cooking in Japan which means it’s designed for use in traditional Japanese cooking and the preparation of native Japanese ingredients. Let’s consider the design and history of the Kiritsuke knife with tips for using a Kiritsuke in a modern kitchen.
What is a Kiritsuke knife?
The Kiritsuke is a Japanese knife that was traditionally used by the head chef of Japanese restaurants. The knife itself blends the properties of the Usaba and Yanagiba knives, which results in a versatile blade that’s suitable for preparing a wide range of traditional Japanese ingredients including vegetables and seafood. Contemporary Kiritsuke knives usually feature a double bevel, but traditionally these knives were only single-bevelled.
Kiritsuke knives boast a flatter heel than Gyuto knives and the tip of the knife has a sharper angle which makes it more suitable for precise, intricate tasks. Like both the Japanese Bunka knife and the Usaba knife, the Kiritsuke has a ‘reverse tanto’ shape, which means a prominent pointed tip and a spine that slopes downwards towards the end of the knife.
The history of the Kiritsuke
The term ‘Kiritsuke’ literally translates to ‘slit open’, and the knife was originally created in Japan - though it’s such a traditional knife that it’s not known exactly how or when the knife was first used. The Kiristuke is a highly respected kitchen tool in Japanese kitchens, which is why many kitchens only permit the head chef to use this knife.
The original design of the knife combined the features of two of the most popular types of Japanese cooking knives at the time: the straight edge of the Usaba knife, which was used for slicing fish, and the long blade of the Yanagiba which was used for preparing vegetables.
Tips for using a Kiritsuke
When you purchase a Kiritsuke, look for a blade that fits in well with your existing knife collection. For example, choose a Kiritsuke with a longer blade than your Gyuto or a flatter edge. This is an excellent knife for push-and-pull chopping because the larger heel of the knife gives plenty of clearance for your fingers underneath. If you want a Kiritsuke knife that’s suitable for a wider range of tasks, look for one with double bevelling.