What Is A Deba Knife Used For?

By Ryan Leavitt •  Updated: 04/09/21 •  5 min read

The Deba is a traditional Japanese knife used for preparing fish, one of the most common ingredients in a traditional meal during the Edo period. Directly translated as ‘short fat tooth kitchen worker’, this features a high heel, slightly curved spine, and belly which meets at a pointy tip – much like a tooth.

One of the most recognizable Japanese knives is the Deba, traditionally used for fish preparation.

With its distinct incisor tooth-like shape, this can be used to cut off the heads of the fish using the high heel and then fillet the meat off the middle bones using the pointy tip.

Like the Chef’s knife, Debas come in various shapes and sizes. But unlike that conventional Western-style blade, certain Debas are used for specific kinds of fish and seafood. For example, the Aji-Deba is for Ajikiri fish while the Kanisaki-Deba is for crabs and lobsters.

Find out more about this intriguing piece…

What is it?

The literal meaning of the word “Deba” is “pointed carving knife”.

Here it is worth mentioning that Deba is not a Western-style carving knife and the structure is not like the traditional carving and slicing knives.

So you cannot expect thin blades like the western carving knives.

The tip of these knives is quite sharp while the belly is wider.

Why would you need one?

The most common use is for the cutting of the fish.

It helps in carrying out all the cutting tasks from beheading, filleting, and cutting of the fish bones.

As we know that fish is often sticky and needs extra care and handling which is only possible with the knife of the sharp edges.

It is used for efficient cutting including all of its toughest parts.

If you keenly observe the structure, you will come to know that it has various parts that combine together and perform the function of cutting.

Let’s break each element down.

If you were previously using the chef knife or the Western-style knife for the cutting, you should know that it is quite different in structure from the other knives.

The Deba has a large, wide, extended belly and a sharp blade that is perfect for the cutting of all kinds of seafood.

The blade of a dinner knife makes it the ideal choice when slicing cooked fish as well.

If you keep it with the cooked fish dishes, the diners and party-attendants will enjoy cutting thin slices of fish pieces without difficulty.

With it, you can enjoy eating sushi and other Japanese foods with maximum ease.

Different types available

The blade length is usually up to 21 cm, however, Japanese professional cooks recommend the use of longer blades such as 24 cm.

But still, if you are going to buy the knife for domestic purposes, you should opt for the 21 cm long blade.

According to the Naifu Blog, there are basically four different types of Deba knives and Japanese manufacturers have used the unique method of classification.

The names of these types also resemble the Japanese terms and colloquial tone.


This is the type that resembles in structure with the western knives.

It is due to this reason many American people opt for these knives and purchase them from Japanese manufacturers.


This one has a thin blade as compared to the other types.

The blade is specifically designed for filleting purposes.


It is a medium-sized blade that you can use for the cutting and slicing of medium-sized fish.


It is the smallest version that is used for the slicing, filleting, and scale removal of small fishes and other tiny sea creatures.

Care and maintenance tips

To ensure the long life of the Deba knives, you should wash them with soap and water after each use.

Moreover, you should store them in a wooden block that will not only keep their blades safe but also prevent yours from rusting.

The Bottom Line

Deba is the type of Japanese knife that has gained immense popularity in Western culture as well.

So if you need a Japanese tool for fish cutting purposes, a Deba should be your number 1 choice.

Ryan Leavitt

Hi my name is Ryan Leavitt a Marine Corps Veteran and currently an over the road trucker (Long Haul). I am no expert chef but am enjoying preparing my own meals on the road and testing all the different knives.