It is my understanding that a Nakiri knife is one of the most traditional Japanese knives and it is still used for it’s original purpose in present times, and I would suggest it to anyone searching for this.
Some Japanese knives have been westernized, or blended between cultures, like the Santoku knife, and other styles have been adapted from other cultures. Even so, it is fitting that the design, feel, and performance of a modern Nakiri knife nearly resembles how the traditional ones were designed and functioned.
Nakiri knives have, of course, picked up some more modern techniques to use them effectively, but they still have a feel of the old days to them. As such, the knife has the capability of being used to chop, slice, and cut vegetables, so it’s very versatile.
The article below provides you all the information and resources you need to understand the traditional and modern uses of a Nakiri knife, how to use it properly, and how to maintain your Japanese knives.
Nakiri Knives Are Used For What?
The Nakiri knife is truly a Japanese kitchen instrument of medium length, and was designed specifically for cutting up vegetables, herbs, and other greens.
In terms of appearance, it is similar to the modern meat cleaver, however, it is bit lighter, sharper and much more durable, as well as being a lot more balanced, so you will have an easy time cutting vegetables of any kind.
Moreover, Japanese knives are at the pinnacle of craftsmanship, plus they are among the best in the world. Hardness is much higher than the German steel counterparts, which is why they tend to hold their sharpness for longer periods of time as well.
Moreover, they are frequently made to have a much sharper angle, allowing you to make cuts that are clean and accurate at the same time.
Nakiri Knife History
Although older than some of the more contemporary Japanese knives, such as Deba knives, or even more recently, Santoku knives, the Nakiri knife dates as far back as the 1600s.
Edo, or the Edo era, lasted from the 1600s to 1860s. Animals with four legs were not allowed to be consumed during this time period. Consequently, the Japanese diet was mainly based on vegetables and fish, leading to the development of some highly specialized knives.
Nakiri knives or ‘Nakiri bochos’, which are actually the same thing and translate to “greens slicing knives”, have become a very popular and widespread knife from home kitchens to restaurants alike.
Nakiri knives are still used as opposed to the more modern chef’s knife, gyuto knife, and santoku knife when chopping, slicing, and prepping vegetables even today.
The Yanagiba knife and Deba knife were also introduced as Japanese knives with specific functions for filleting fish.
How Do Nakiri Knives Traditionally Work?
Nakiri knives were traditionally made to be ideal for cutting vegetables, chopping them, and slicing them. You will find everything from high-quality vegetables like onions, potatoes, and pumpkin to leafy greens like chard and cabbage to sweet fruits like bananas and oranges.
There’s something very special about the square shape at the tip of the knife, and it’s not just for cosmetic purposes. There is a lot more steel at the tip of the Nakiri than a typical curved tip knife, so it has a more balanced blade compared to a normal curved tip knife.
This, along with the knife’s straight edge, over the circular edges, makes it much more suitable for chopping than a circular knife would be. Knife blades contact the chopping board at the same time as they fall.
It’s also a lot easier to transfer large amounts of vegetables to pots and pans for cooking with the wide surface area of the blade. It just makes the entire process a lot more straightforward.
Modern Uses Of A Nakiri Knife
Nakiri knives have been designed for cutting greens efficiently, and while this remains one of the most appropriate knives to use for this purpose, it remains one of the most effective types of knives. As of today, the Nakiri knife is virtually unsurpassed when it comes to preparing vegetables, even in the modern day and age.
There is an extensive range of vegetables, from the softest to the hardest. There is even an extensive range of fruits.
Among the best knives you can use for cutting fruits, the Nakiri is one of the best ones because you can make any kind of cut you want with enough precision, weight, and sharpness.
Nakiri knives have also been designed with a blade that allows you to cut in a wide variety of ways. So, you actually have the option of slicing, dicing, chopping, and even julienne your fruits and vegetables.
It is not only a useful tool for removing fruit flesh but you can also use its thin blade instead of switching to other tools just to do it.
In addition to the rectangular design, the vegetable knife can also be used for smaller herbs, garlic, onions, mustard seeds, and more, which is ideal for portion control while adjusting the flavor of your food.
A Guide To Using A Nakiri Knife
It’s important to understand how to hold a knife in order to be able to use it properly. The normal way that you would hold a Nakiri knife would be to hold up three fingers tucked up behind the blade, grasping the handle, and pinching the blade’s base with your thumb and index finger. As a result, it is called the “pinch-grip”.
For an absolutely dazzling demonstration of what this device can do, we suggest you watch the following video from Knifewear:
Here are some tips on caring for your Nakiri knife
Nakiri knives, and all Japanese knives, for that matter, require a bit more effort, awareness, and care than some of the other knives you may have in your kitchen that are of lower quality.
In addition to protecting the handle, you should avoid chipping the thin blade and causing scratches to the blade surface, which can ruin the beauty of the knife.
After making it second nature to take care of your Nakiri knife, you will no longer have anything to worry about. To keep your Nakiri knife in perfect condition, make sure to follow the following tips:
- Make sure the cutting board you use is made of wood or synthetic rubber if you are using Japanese knives. Try to stay away from cutting on marble, glass or other surfaces.
- Nakiri knives should be sharpened regularly. Using a ceramic honing rod, as opposed to steel honing rods, means that you will be able to achieve a much softer, none-scratch result.
- If you are cutting tougher vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower, make sure to keep the blade of your Nakiri knife evenly sharpened so it won’t chip or wear. In addition, a quality knife sharpener will not hurt since a whetstone can give you an edge that is 10-12° degrees.
- I recommend that you clean your knife by hand, and then store it in a sheath so that it doesn’t get damaged by other knives and utensils that you might be using in the kitchen.
“Ah, yes, that’s what comes to mind as soon as you use a Nakiri vegetable knife.
Known as the best knife for cutting vegetables, the Nakiri knife stands at the pinnacle of performance. It’s amazing how versatile the blades are, making it possible for you to do any preparation job without changing knives, regardless of whether you need to cut small intricate pieces, or break down larger tougher vegetables.
I am a huge fan of Japanese knives because they combine beauty, performance, and elegance. Visit our other articles on Japanese knives if you’re interested.