Yanagiba knives are at the pinnacle of beautiful Japanese craftsmanship. It’s a knife that cuts precisely, has a single-bevel blade, but because of its size and design, it also feels amazing to use.
If I’m honest, I use my Yanagiba knife at any chance I get in the kitchen. Aside from its traditional purpose in cutting raw fish, sushi, and sashimi, you can also use it for anything you want precise and thin cuts from.
The size and design of the blade make it very unique. Let’s look at what a Yanagiba knife is used for, what types there are, and what the overall best Yanagiba knife is for the average household kitchen.
What Is A Yanagiba Knife Used For?
Yanagiba knives originate from the Kansai region, near Osaka. These knives were traditionally made and used by chefs in West Japan while chefs in East Japan preferred the flat front-tipped Tahokiki knife — a variation of the Yanagiba knife.
So, what is a Yanagiba knife used for? There’s the traditional use, which is a Japanese knife for cutting fish, preparing sashimi, and sushi, which the knife is most known for. But, after it’s been introduced to the western world, the knife’s usage has expanded to other tasks which make use of its long and thin, single-bevel blade.
Let’s look at everything you can use a Yanagiba knife for and why it can be so valuable in your kitchen arsenal.
Traditional Uses Of A Yanagiba Knife
Traditionally, the Yanagiba knife is used for preparing sashimi and nigiri sushi dishes. Its long, sharp blade slices through the fish in one swift motion, delivering smooth, shiny, even cuts. It helps savor the fish’s flavors and textures by making clean cuts and preventing tearing of the flesh.
With the aim to preserve and accentuate the fish’s delicate flavors, the Yanagiba knife has a single-bevel blade meaning it’s only sharp on one side. This makes it extremely thin and sharp. The knife’s sharp edge, therefore, slices through the flesh with little to no force.
The other side of the Yanagiba’s blade is made to be slightly concave, meaning that only the ground side touches the flesh. This gives the knife a non-stick feature that preserves the texture and quality of the fish. This makes it a great sushi knife or sashimi knife.
Because of the Yanagiba’s uniquely shaped blade, slicing through fish depends mostly on the weight of this knife. This ensures that the flesh is smooth, glossy, and doesn’t suffer from any tearing or bruising, which a thicker, or double bevel blade could cause.
Other Uses Of A Yanagiba Knife
The Yanagiba knife, among other traditional Japanese knives like the Nakiri knife, Bunka Knife, or Deba knife, were all introduced to the Western world during the influx of Japanese immigration during the 1900s.
At the time, sushi restaurants were gaining popularity along the West Coast, and so came the rise in the use of the traditional Yanagiba knife, for use of both preparing the fish, and preparing and cutting the sushi.
Aside from the traditional uses, Western multi-culture has adapted it to the various cuisines of the world. Nowadays you can use the Yanagiba knife to produce paper-thin clean cuts of any boneless meat, including cutting raw chicken or other poultry. Plus it’s a great Japanese knife for cutting vegetables if you don’t have a Nakiri knife or Santoku knife on hand – particularly if you want thin, precise slices.
At a pinch you can also very easily use a Yanagiba to cut bread, fruits, or cheeses, or most of anything. Simply avoid cutting through bone as you may risk damaging the blade.
Best Traditional Yanagiba Knife
Keemake Japanese 11.5” Inch Yanagiba Knife
- Premium Quality VG-10 Japanese Steel
- Traditional 11.5 Inch Size And Design
- Razor Sharp 12-15° Single Bevel Blade For Precision
- Reasonably Priced
- Real Japanese Steel But Assembled In China
- Not Suitable For Left-Handers
If you are looking for a real Japanese, traditionally designed, durable, and sharp Yanagiba knife then the Keemake Japanese 11.5” Inch Yanagiba Knife will deliver on all avenues.
You can fillet fish straight off the bone using the razor-sharp single bevel blade. Because of its traditional 11” blade length, you’ll be able to slice up any sized fish. If you’re looking to create your own sushi or sashimi then you can use this precise blade to help create a stunning presentation.
Aside from the traditional uses, I tend to use my Yanagbia knife for much more. You’ll be reaching to use this knife for chopping vegetables, trimming fat, or slicing up meat and poultry. Because it’s a sharp thin blade, avoid using it to cut through bone as it can risk chipping the blade. Instead, use a knife that’s able to cut through bone for these tasks.
Although Keemake has used real, high-quality Japanese VG-10 steel, the knife itself is made in China. But, it does mean we can pick up the knife a little cheaper and still benefit from the top-quality performance. Do be aware, if you’re left-handed you’ll have to get a left-handed single bevel knife otherwise the sharp edge will be on the wrong side.
Other Variants Of The Yanagiba Knife
While the traditional Yanagiba knife is the most common Japanese sushi knife, there are other variants of it that have specialized uses in the kitchen.
The Fuguhiki knife is a broad, flexible, and thinner variant of the Yanagabi knife with a pointed tip. It’s designed to produce very thin slices of delicate fish flesh. It’s rather unique, but when precision is an issue, like when cutting Japanese pufferfish or “fugu”, hence the name of the knife, then it’s well equipped.
Kensai Yanagiba Knife
Also known as the Kiritsuke knife, the Kensai Yanagiba knife has an angled tip, unlike the Yanagiba knife. It’s known for its difficulty of use, which is why it’s traditionally used by executive chefs.
The shape of the Takohiki knife or “octopus cutter” makes it ideal for tough and dense flesh, like that of an octopus. Its blade is thinner and shorter than a Yanagiba, with a blunt, square tip. Its square blade tip is also used to transfer sliced fish or vegetables from one space to the other, which is helpful in the preparation of sushi or sashimi.
Sakimaru Takohiki Knife
While it’s also used to deliver clean and precise fish slices, the Sakimaru Takohiki knife is a combination of the Yanagiba and Takohiki knives. It also has a round tip that resembles a Katana. It can be used for trimming and cutting fish.
So, the Yanagiba knife is traditionally used for preparing sashimi and nigiri sushi dishes. Because of its sharp, thin, single bevel knife, It’s designed to deliver the cleanest cuts in the kitchen. This is vitally important when it comes to preparing delicate dishes, and thin precise cuts don’t tear the flesh. So the end result comes out smooth as can be.
Other uses of the Yanagiba knife include executing paper-thin, clean cuts, slicing meat tenderloins and raw poultry, and for medium-size or soft vegetables and fruit. As long as you avoid cutting bones or other hard surfaces you can let all the various uses run wild.