Kiritsuke Vs Nakiri: Do You Know These Differences?

The world of Japanese kitchen cutlery can be immense.

There are a whole lot of different knives that Japanese chefs use, each one with its own unique design and functions.

That’s why when trying to learn about the different Japanese knives, it’s really easy to get confused.

While they are two very different blades, two models that are often confused with each other are the kiritsuke and nakiri.

Thesen’t aren’t exactly the most well-known blades out there, so it can be really confusing to figure out which is which.

To help you out, we’ll dive into the differences, features, and uses of both the nakiri and kiritsuke.

That way, you won’t be confused as to which is which.

On top of that, you’ll also be able to know which knife to use for what task.

Read on to learn more.

Overview Of The Kiritsuke

A kiritsuke is one of the most unique and recognizable Japanese knives out there.

They come in a wide variety of sizes, and some people even say that the larger versions kind of look like short swords!

This is mostly because of the sword-like shape of the blade, which is one of the defining features of the kiritsuke.

It is an all-around and general-purpose kitchen knife designed to slice fish, cut vegetables, and do just about any prep task out there.

But just because they are all-around tools, doesn’t mean they are easy to use.

In fact, the kiritsuke is largely considered one of the toughest knives to use.

It’s because of this that a kiritsuke is traditionally only used by the executive chef in the kitchen.

So, not only is this an exceptionally crafted blade, but it is also a sort of status symbol in a Japanese kitchen.

Overview Of The Nakiri

The nakiri is a knife that may look confusing to those who aren’t accustomed to Japanese kitchen cutlery.

It’s a relatively small knife, measuring in at just about 6 to 8 inches in length.

It has a very sharp, squared-off blade with a flat edge.

This means a rocking chop motion won’t be ideal with a nakiri.

Instead, it’s best to use an up and down or push and pull motion when slicing.

The nakiri is specifically made to slice vegetables precisely and consistently.

With this blade, you can easily prep a wide array of vegetables with precision and make sure the cuts are all around the same size.

Since the edge is very flat, you can quickly get straight julienne vegetables, which can be a pretty tough task for a beginner chef.

While it may look pretty unique, it is actually pretty easy to use.

This makes the nakiri a great tool for any kitchen, whether it’s a simple home set-up or a professional kitchen for a fancy restaurant.

Nakiri Vs. Kiritsuke – What’s The Difference?

The Blade

The first aspect we’ll be comparing between these two knives is the blade.

After all, it is the most noticeable characteristic of the two.

As we mentioned earlier in the article, a kiritsuke has a sword-like blade.

A proper kiritsuke will have a long and straight blade with a clip point tip.

Since it is designed for cutting a wide variety of ingredients, the blade needs to be long and strong, to be able to withstand heavy use.

Traditionally, a kiritsuke will have a single-bevel edge.

This means that the knife is only ground on one side, making for a sharper edge.

However, these knives are not ambidextrous and can be very hard to sharpen, which is why it’s pretty common to see a double-beveled edge on a kiritsuke.

The edge on these knives will be very sharp, usually between 11-15 degrees, which is sharper than most other chef knives on the market.

Because of this, it isn’t a recommended tool for beginners.

On the flip side, a nakiri has a squared-off blade with a straight edge.

It’s also much smaller than a kiritsuke, as it is designed to handle smaller and lighter ingredients.

The shape of a nakiri will allow users to easily get straight and consistent cuts on just about all their vegetables.

And since it’s small and relatively easy to handle, it would be a great way for beginners to get into the world of Japanese kitchen knives.

Most nakiri knives will have an edge between 12-15 degrees on either side, which is very sharp and the signature quality of a lot of Japanese blades.

Construction

Like with just about every knife out there, the construction of a kiritsuke and nakiri will vary greatly depending on the brand and model.

However, a high-quality Japanese kitchen knife would ideally have to be forged from a single piece of steel.

This is how to get a very hard and durable blade that won’t lose its edge or chip easily.

Most Japanese chef knives use high-carbon stainless steel such as AUS8 and VG10.

Again, the type of steel varies depending on the manufacturer of the knife, so always make sure to read the specifications properly.

On top of that, to ensure you have a quality nakiri or kiritsuke, it’s best to get one that is full-tang.

These knives will be much more balanced and way easier to handle in the kitchen.

Usage

Lastly, we take a look at the uses of these knives.

As mentioned earlier, a kiritsuke is NOT a beginner’s knife.

In fact, it is a very tough blade to use and is best left to professional and executive chefs.

A kiritsuke’s long blade is designed to be able to slice through just about any ingredient in the kitchen.

It might take some getting used to, but the push and pull motion required by the blade makes for a very smooth and precise cut.

A kiritsuke can be thought of as a more advanced version of the chef’s knife, and as long as you know how to use it, will be a great addition to the kitchen.

A nakiri is made for vegetables.

Its size and shape allow it to easily slice and cut vegetables, but it can’t handle a range of tasks wider than that.

While it can also slice meat and fish, those are tasks best left for the Gyuto or Santoku.

So, if you need a task-specific knife that can easily slice through vegetables, then a nakiri would be a great pick.

Conclusion

Everyone has their own unique set of needs in the kitchen.

Everyone also has different skill levels, which is why the better option of these two knives will largely depend on you.

If you’ve been looking at getting either of these knives for your kitchen, make sure to ask yourself what you really need in your knife roll.

And since you know the uses and features of either of these blades, figuring out the right pick will be much easier once you know what you need!

Last Updated on July 19, 2021 by Andy Wang

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My name is Andy Wang, and I'm a retired chef. I used to work at the City Vineyard restaurant in NYC. I also had a culinary degree from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. And this blog is where I share my love for knives and cooking with people like you.