What Is A Kiritsuke Knife Used For?

By Ryan Leavitt •  Updated: 03/16/21 •  6 min read

The Kiritsuke is a Japanese knife used to chop vegetables and slice fish. Compared to more traditional Japanese blades which are single-serving (designed for a very particular task), this is relatively multi-purpose because of its appearance – rectangular like a Nakiri with a straight spine and belly and a sharply angled tip from the end of the spine which meets the belly at an incisive tip.

Japanese knives can be categorized into two general groups: traditional-style which are single-beveled and single-serving and modern ones which can be used for several chopping board chores and numerous ingredients.

The Kiritsuke, literally translated as ‘to split open’ and dubbed as the ‘cool cousin’ of the Santoku, is considered as both. It is a traditional single-beveled blade but it is interestingly versatile for a traditional piece.

It’s such a highly revered knife, only the top chef in the restaurant kitchen – and absolutely no one else – wields this piece.

What is it?

In Nihongo, it literally means “slit open” or “to cut at”.

This is traditionally used by top-class executive chefs, which comes with the difficulty to use and the perception of common people to it.

Most of the time, a Kiritsuke is expensive compared to a normal house kitchen knife.

It has earned its popularity among chefs and became a status symbol.

It became less popular even in the Japanese market itself.

A Kiritsuke knife (sometimes called k-tip) is the combination of the Gyutou and the Yanagi.

Gyutou is known in Japan as the all-purpose cutter which is preferred in slicing meats.

Yanagi is a Japanese chef’s knife for slicing a nicely cut of fish for sushi and sashimi.

The hybrid of the two results in a multipurpose traditional Japanese blade.

It has a flat and straight blade and spine, looking like a short sword with its perfect right-angled triangular end sometimes.

It is usually 8 to 10 inches in length and has a tall surface.

It is typically made with hardened high-end carbon steel.

Knifemakers sometimes add a special touch by giving different designs of the middle part of the surface to the spine, such as indentions, hammer finish, or the manufacturer’s logo.

When it comes to the handle, some of them use a more traditional round, octagonal, or hexagonal cut grip made from wood to give a more authentic Japanese look.

They are made with iron clad (which is harder to maintain) or with stainless steel.

Most cooks would compare it to another Japanese knife which is the Santoku because of the (almost) same size.

The Santoku is regarded as the Japanese equivalent of a Chef’s knife.

What is it for?

Before knowing what a Kiritsuke is for, it is important to understand why there are a lot of different knives in Japan compared to most parts of the world.

Since its people eat more fish and less meat, they usually focus on the proper slicing and cut that would be appropriate for the dish.

To be able to prepare different types of foods, they use several knives with different use for each.

There are two types of Kiritsuke: the single bevel edge and the double bevel edge (also known as Kiritsuke Gyuto).

The single bevel-edged model has a flat heel section like an Usuba knife.

It can perform some of the tasks of a Yanagiba (a Japanese knife used for making ultra-thin slices of boneless fishes) and Usuba (a traditional thin-bladed knife for vegetables).

On the other hand, the double bevel edge variant is said to have the combination of Nakiri (a full flat-edged knife for chopping vegetables) and Sujihiki (a long narrow-bladed knife used for slicing meat and vegetables).

This model was made to fit with the needs of the western users while keeping the aesthetic design of a Kiritsuke.

Both variants will give us an idea of what a Kiritsuke is more used for – for slicing fish and vegetables in Japanese cuisine.

It is perfect for slicing large fish for sushi and sashimi, because of its hybrid origin.

Its long length will help in cutting large vegetables and gives thin and long strips if used for peeling.

It can also be used for making rectangular sheets, and assist in cutting even against the grain.

Aside from making thin slices, the sharp tip of it can deal with small pieces like garlic and shallots.

However, the disadvantage of using it is it cannot do a rocking motion when chopping.

Sometimes, it is made with a full flat-edged blade and body from top to bottom that lays parallel with the chopping board.

If you are the one who will use it, don’t get intimidated to use this because of its perception of being a status symbol.

It works the same as the usual household kitchen knife but required to give extra effort as you have to lift the knife in an up and down motion.

Others considered using it for general purpose use, but it might need time to get used to it.

Where to buy it?

Coming from its name, buying a Japanese knife looks hard in real life.

Thank goodness for the internet – as it became the best place to buy hard-to-find pieces, including this special Japanese knife.

More and more consumers have appreciated the beauty and quality of Japanese-made items, making online sellers the bridge to get these Asian items easier.

The special price given by certain original Japanese knife manufacturers has made this a perfect gift.

Someone who is a cooking enthusiast who loves cooking Japanese foods, or a knife collector will surely love owning a Kiritsuke.

Some brands have a printed or laser etched Japanese characters to give it a more Asian-oriental vibe.

As mentioned earlier, some knifemakers made it fit even for western users, maintaining the beauty of Japanese design with general-purpose usability.

We can learn from the Japanese that cooking needs special attention, such as choosing the proper knife for the task.

Serving meals that are perfectly cooked and prepared expresses how much you deeply care for someone.

Some people may disregard the importance of different knives in the kitchen, but not all knives are made equal and up to the task.

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.