A common question in the culinary world is, “What is a gyuto knife?” Understandably, this Japanese kitchen knife is far from the spotlight in the west, mainly due to the availability of the all-encompassing Western Chef’s knives. However, the gyuto knife offers unique benefits that not even multi-purpose knives like the chef or santoku knives can achieve.
What is a Gyuto knife?
A gyuto knife is a traditional Japanese knife originally invented to cut meat, primarily beef. Many refer to the gyuto knife as the Japanese version of the Western Chef’s knife. This is because it shares many similar qualities regarding blade lengths, shape, and materials.
However, they designed the gyuto with a razor-sharp tip and a slightly thinner blade. This makes it more effective in cutting through tough meaty textures.
The gyuto knife has its origins steeped in Japanese tradition. They designed it to compete with the Western Chef’s knife. Like its Western counterpart, the gyuto knife was originally made for slicing and deboning large cuts of beef.
However, nowadays, both the gyuto knife and the Chef’s knife are used in a more multi-purpose fashion. Taking on vegetable-cutting tasks in addition to meats and fish.
Roughly translated to mean beef sword or cow sword, the gyuto knife blade comes in at about 8-12-inches long. That is usually a longer blade than the Chef’s knife and typically thinner in width. Its ultra-sharp edge combined with the pointed tip makes it more effective for cutting through thick pieces of meat than the standard Chef’s knife.
The gyuto is also a double bevel blade, which is sharp on both ends of the edge, making it easier to use and achieve the cuts you want.
Of course, there is a limit to how much meat the Japanese knife can take on, despite its naming convention alluding to a beef cutting specialization. The gyuto is enough for the common house cook to take on standard meat-chopping tasks. However, it should not replace a meat cleaver or butcher’s knife.
Finally, a gyuto knife combines a European chef’s knife and a Nakiri vegetable cleaver. It comprises the qualities of chopping vegetables and the ability to cut meat efficiently.
Gyuto vs Santoku
Despite its multi-purpose faculties, the gyuto is regarded as a beef-slicing specialist, while the santoku knife is considered Japan’s true multi-purpose knife. This is because santoku knives are smaller and are more practical for home cooking.
In that regard, santoku knives are typically more cost-effective than gyuto knives. However, it can perform many of the same tasks as both a gyuto and a Western chef’s knife.
In truth, however, the gyuto knife resembles a Western chef’s knife more closely than a santoku knife. Unlike the santoku, the gyuto’s cutting edge extends into a sharper pointed tip and the blade curves more prominently. The advantage of this is that you can achieve a rocking motion for rock-chopping vegetables and mincing meats more effectively and effortlessly.
The santoku knife blade features a “sheep’s foot” tip designed to prevent unwanted piercing of ingredients, essentially making it a “safer” option. However, the gyuto knife offers greater slicing prowess with its longer blade and sharper tip. This allows you to pierce through the toughest meats and vegetables.
On that note, the gyuto is certainly the more expensive option. That’s because of its higher performance and greater versatility, though many find the investment worth it.
Despite these significant and often game-changing differences, there are plenty of similarities between the gyuto and the santoku knife. Per the standards of Japanese kitchen knives, both are made with high-carbon stainless steel blades and feature a traditional Japanese-style handle in their product offerings.
Japanese knives like these often come with Japanese “super steel” which offers unique benefits such as AUS-10 or SG02.
Gyuto vs Chef’s knife
Indeed, the gyuto knife is vastly similar to the Western Chef’s knife in design, functionality, and visual aesthetic. However, one of the immediate differences is the origin of their respective materials. Traditional Japanese knives are made with super steels sourced from Japan’s best steel manufacturers. These often feature high-carbon steel, such as AUS-10 and VG-MAX.
The blade length is fairly similar between the gyuto and the Chef’s knife. However, the gyuto blade’s width is typically smaller. As such, it tends to be a lighter and thinner knife than the Chef’s knife.
Both the knives are available in full tang, partial tang, forged, or stamped construction. It also has its balance point further up the blade than the Chef’s knife. In this regard, the Chef’s knife may provide a more pleasant experience by taking the pressure off the user’s wrist.
As with most all-purpose knives, both cut just about anything from meats to fruits and vegetables. You can use a rocking motion or push-cutting technique as needed.
Traditionally, gyuto knife manufacturers only craft it with a traditional Japanese handle made of Tagayasan or Pakkawood. It is also typically designed in a D-shape. Similarly, Chef’s knives would take on a Western-style handle made of synthetic materials, featuring an ergonomic finger-lock design with rivets on the handle.
Today, you can find both these knives sporting both types of handles, giving you the privilege of mixing and matching designs.
The final difference is that they mostly sell Chef’s knives in double-bevel designs. On the other hand, you can commonly find the gyuto in single-bevel and double-bevel.
As such, the gyuto makes for a better choice for professional chefs. In addition, the single bevel blade provides skilled culinary professionals with the opportunity for more precise and accurate cutting.
Types of Gyuto knives
When people refer to the gyuto knife, they often refer to the one resembling a chef’s knife, as this is the most popular and widely used type. There are two main types of gyuto knives, the kiritsuke gyuto and the wa-gyuto.
The kiritsuke gyuto knife has a “k-tip” that features a sharp angle connecting the blade’s tip with the spine. Unlike the traditional version, the kiritsuke gyuto has a more flat edge that is ideal for tap-chopping and push-cutting tasks, enabling precision and delicacy in your cuts.
On the downside, you cannot achieve the rocking or rock-cutting movement with the kiritsuke gyuto. It is not ideal for dicing vegetables or mincing meats, though it can still make great cuts out of such ingredients.
The wa-gyuto is the Japanese Chef’s knife like the gyuto knife, but with one special condition. “Wa” is the Japanese term that refers to the traditional D-shaped wooden handle of Japanese kitchen knives, that is, the “wa-handle.”
These wooden handles are more lightweight than Western-style handles, allowing the wa-gyuto to have its balance point centered closer to the top of the blade.
Before purchasing your new gyuto knife, remember a few key checklist items. To ensure you get the best value for money and the most suitable product for yourself, there are aspects of the blade, handle, price, and warranty you should look out for (and some aspects you should avoid!).
Regardless of which gyuto knife you purchase, you must ensure the blade is made of authentic Japanese steel for the best results. Depending on your preferences, you could go for high carbon steel that provides harder steel than most, or you could try high chromium steel for greater rust and corrosion resistance.
Most Japanese knives are hardened to 60 HRC or above. This is ideal for a gyuto knife, so make sure to find this measurement in the product description.
In terms of sharpness, you could opt for around 10-15-degree angles per side of the blade. This range is steeper than regular sharp knives, but the carbon steel blades will ensure edge retention and razor sharpness.
For a more specialized meat-cutting blade, I’d recommend the kiritsuke gyuto. Otherwise, stick to the traditional wa-gyuto for a more versatile kitchen knife.
Handcrafted Japanese knives feature a Pakkawood or Tagayasan wooden handle designed in a D-shape called “wa” handles. I recommend this type of handle for gyuto knives as they are more lightweight than Western-style handles.
Furthermore, the lighter wa-handle works better in providing versatility and strain-less cutting for the user.
Many Japanese and Western brands and knife manufacturers offer gyuto knives, and you’ll find various price points on the market. Keep in mind, they are, on average, more pricey than standard Western Chef’s knives. That doesn’t mean they can’t be a worthwhile investment.
The standard of steel material and handcrafted practices cannot be beaten in Japan’s high-quality knives.
As baseline criteria, you should ensure your gyuto knife is covered by a limited lifetime warranty that covers you for any factory defects or poor quality materials. If possible, try to go with a brand like Shun that offers free sharpening services for a lifetime.
This means you can send in your knives for sharpening at any time when your blades go dull. They have them expertly sharpened and returned to you at little to no cost (shipping fees may apply.)
What is a Gyuto knife FAQ
What is the Gyuto knife used for?
The gyuto knife is an all-purpose knife that is primarily used for chopping meat as its main function. However, as a secondary use, the gyuto can chop vegetables, fruits, and even bread. This is because of its long, sharp stainless steel blade and lightweight handle design.
What is the difference between a Gyuto and Santoku?
A gyuto and a santoku are similar in that they are both all-purpose knives made for slicing, dicing, and chopping meats, vegetables, and fish. However, the gyuto is significantly longer and sharper than a santoku and has a curved blade shape compared to the santoku’s straight edge.
Is Gyuto knife good?
The gyuto knife is great for cutting through tough ingredients like thick meat and hard vegetables, though it should not be a replacement for a butcher’s knife or meat cleaver. Made for the home kitchen, the multi-purpose blade that can slice, cut, and chop meats and vegetables for various meal preparations.
What is the difference between Gyuto and a chef knife?
The gyuto is essentially the Japanese equivalent of the Western Chef’s knife, allowing you to achieve all cutting board tasks with one knife. The main difference is that the gyuto uses Japanese steel and craftsmanship practices, offering a lighter and thinner blade than the heavier European Chef’s knife.