What is a Petty knife?A Petty knife is a small utility knife first used during the Meiji era in Japan. The name ‘Petty’ comes from the French word ‘petit’, which means small, and this describes the Petty knife perfectly. It’s a small, thin, and agile knife that’s used in Japanese kitchens to perform precision tasks such as chopping herbs and vegetables and slicing very thin cuts of meat such as those sometimes used in sushi.
Petty knives have a very narrow profile, which impacts the way that you can hold the knife. The knife’s profile stops your hand from wrapping around the knife in a tight grip, instead encouraging the user to hold the knife in a pinch grip. This means that while Petty knives aren’t suitable for tasks that require lots of power, they’re ideal for small, intricate tasks that call for precision and care.
The history of the PettyPetty knives first came to prominence in Japanese cooking towards the end of the 19th century around the same time that the Gyuto and Bunka knives grew in popularity. Like these knives, the Petty was created to enable Japanese chefs to prepare western foods and ingredients more efficiently. Today, Petty knives are seen as one of the most essential knives in Japanese kitchens alongside the Gyuto. They’re available with both Japanese ‘wa’ style handles and western ‘yo’ style handles, and many professional chefs prefer to work with yo handles on Petty knives because of the anti-slip properties of this handle style.
Tips for using a Petty knifeIf you already have a Gyuto or a Bunka knife, choose a Petty knife that complements the length and type of Gyuto or Bunka you have. You’ll want to use a Petty for all of the tasks that your Gyuto can’t handle, so the variety of length, shape, and size in your knife collection is key.
You can use a petty knife for push-and-pull slicing of vegetables and thin meats, but they really shine when they’re used to chop herbs and fine garnishes including coriander, parsley, mint, thyme, and basil.