The Mighty Nakiri! A rectangular blade with no tip and a flat edge. The master of vegetation. The reaper of herbs. The bane of green leeks...
How grand and intoxicating! Every kitchen needs a Nakiri. Behind the classic 210mm (or 240mm if you’re cool) Gyuto, my Nakiri is the most frequently used shape in my home. It specializes in something that everyone needs to do - chop veggies! If you don’t eat your veggies, you won’t grow up to be big and strong. Everyone knows this! So how does one master this blade? It’s got a dramatically different profile than most chef’s knives people are used to, but don’t worry - coming to terms with and understanding how it works is extremely easy.
The key is to take advantage of its flatness. With a simple push-forward and pull-back method illustrated above, you’re making a TON of contact against the cutting board with very little need for follow-through. This makes it the ideal tool for effortlessly slicing through your green onions, tomato skin, or any other foods that you might have difficulty getting a clean cut through with one stroke. Have you ever julienned a pepper only to realize that you didn’t make it all the way through the skin? We call this an accordion cut. Accordions suck (unless your name is “Weird” Al Yankovic, in which case, I am deeply honoured by your presence, sir). Using a sharp nakiri is the best way to avoid accordion cuts!
Although most Nakiri knives are rounded up at the tip, they’re not actually designed for rock-chopping techniques used with a santoku or gyuto. The tip of the knife is typically the first part of the blade to make contact with the cutting board, and if you had a squared-off and pointy tip, it would be much easier to damage the knife. Hence the rounding!
The actual word “Nakiri” roughly translates into “leaf cutter”. Cabbages and lettuce are also an area in which the Nakiri can really shine. Using that sort of push / pull technique, slicing coleslaw can be done in a pinch.
In fact, some blacksmiths will even produce extra-large versions of the nakiri, which are designed for this very task. Take a look at this Moritaka Ishime “Mega Nakiri” - easily one of the best tools for the job!
The Moritaka Mega Nakiri is the perfect fusion of nakiri and Chinese cleaver.
But the fun don’t stop there! Nakiri knives are also really great at a technique called “mill chopping”. Mill Chopping is how I like to gently chop up my herbs, garlic, shallots, or ginger with great speed and care. The very gentle tapping of a sharp blade onto a little pile of parsley is the ideal technique, and the nakiri does the best job at this task because of its flatness. As long as the blade is sharp, you don’t need to use excessive force. Overly zealous or heavy-handed chopping with a duller knife will macerate your herbs into a disappointing pile of mulch.
Say no to mulch! Be gentle and use a sharp nakiri. The results will speak for themselves! Soft and slightly dry to the touch, well-chopped herbs will taste better. Don’t believe me? Try it out for yourself!!
Owen is another ex-chef among our ranks. he has been Chef-ing in Edmonton for around 12 years but gave it up to be a human being again! An avid music lover, he plays guitar, loves Radiohead, and has probably been to about 500 concerts. Oh, and he can most definitely beat you in a game of Street Fighter. come chat with him about football, and steel!