February 05, 2021 3 min read
Almost daily, while perusing our knives, a customer will be taken aback by a knife style they’ve never encountered before. Their eyes grow puzzled as they hone in on an oddly shaped blade, trying to decipher the reason for its creation before querying, “what’s this knife used for?” The knife in question is usually a honesuki.
A honesuki is a Japanese style poultry butchering knife and literally translates to, “bone knife.” Many of us in the western world are used to seeing a much different style of boning knife, with its most common characteristic being its flexibility. A honesuki doesn’t have that flex, but it definitely has the upper hand in efficiency and edge retention.
Honesukis have a thin, angled tip, which makes them agile enough to navigate in and around joints. The belly of the blade is more flat, which is perfect for slicing around the breastplate of a bird. The spine of a honesuki is generally thicker than other Japanese knives, which boosts the overall blade strength for when you’re trying to crack through tough cartilage and small bones. These traits mean you can also use a honesuki to accomplish other small tasks you may usually delegate to a petty knife. I regularly use mine to core cauliflower.
If you love chicken and other poultry then I’d say it’s a must. A honesuki is not only fun to use, but it’s also a money saver and a true investment into your future.
The cost of buying chicken in pieces can add up pretty quickly. A few chicken breasts here, some thighs and legs there, and your bill can add up to more than it would cost to get a couple whole birds. With a rudimentary understanding of poultry anatomy, you can easily learn to take apart your own birds and reap the rewards yourself.
Not only that, when you’re done, toss the back and any leftover bones in a pot of water, add some other veggie scraps, and get a nice stock going. Boxed and canned broths are often full of additives, sugar and other trash you can’t pronounce, so don’t be had! Making your own stock is easy, and freezes well too.
Here are a few of our favourite, most popular choices, and some that are just downright awesome.
This is the honesuki that you get when you sign up for our Poultry Butchering Class, so needless to say, it’s one of our favourites and is very easy to use. It has a carbon steel core with a protective coat of stainless steel. Because of this construction the carbon core isn’t as brittle as you would think. A perfect first honesuki!
Although made by the same people that make the Nashiji, this one has a little more heft. It is made of a semi-stainless SLD so you don’t have to worry too much about rusting,and it’s more rugged. It also just looks super rad and rustic, and grips up real nice with the thick octagon shaped handle.
Legend has it that Moritaka-san was unfamiliar with this knife shape before being introduced to it recently by Knifewear founder Kevin. Yet, when asked to produce one, he ended up making one of the coolest, old-school looking honesukis in our shop. Made of blue carbon steel with a dark, “ishime” finish exclusive to Knifewear, this knife is an instant classic.
Masashi-san’s knives are just plain dope. They’re a healthy balance of beauty and ease of use. This honesuki is hefty, robust and fully stainless steel so you don’t have to worry about wiping it off every time you put it down. And that damascus finish—I mean come on! Put that beauty on your knife magnet and try not to coyly smile at it everytime you pass by.
If you're planning on laying down an assembly line of birds to break down, this VG-10 stainless steel Tojiro DP is the workhorse your collection needs. It may not have all the thunder and lightning of some of the above knives, but don’t be fooled; it ain’t no joke!
It may not be the first knife you add to your collection of Japanese knives, but using one of these gems is a real treat and totally worth the investment. Not to mention, you’ll be a hit at the next yakitori party when you roll in hot with a smorgasbord of tasty skewers!
Knifewear owner and president Kevin Kent’s fascination with handcrafted Japanese knives began while he was working as sous-chef for the legendary chef Fergus Henderson at St. John restaurant in London, England. Back in Canada in 2007 he began selling them out of a backpack from the back of his bicycle, while working as a chef in Calgary. He considers his chef years as the best education for being an entrepreneur. Being a chef takes long hours, involves hard work, both mentally and physically, and chefs must be able to put out fires, both literal and figurative, with extreme competence. Today, Kent is still just as obsessed with Japanese knives as the day he first held one. A couple times a year, he travels to Japan to meet with his blacksmith friends and drinks far too much sake. Each visit he learns more about the ancient art of knife-making. Through this obsession Knifewear has expanded to include five Knifewear stores in Calgary, Vancouver, Ottawa, and Edmonton. Plans are also underway to open a store in Kyoto, Japan. He refuses to confess how many Japanese knives he owns … but he admits the number is rather high
Back in the day Colin cooked at a couple restaurants in Edmonton, and he used to make knives too. He later moved to Toronto and was seduced by a career in music, though he continued sharpening knives for friends and family. By night, he DJ'd and produced beats as Ronin E-Ville, and by day he taught music at several universities, all while training to become a kung fu master. Colin eventually moved to Ireland, working as a music researcher for a couple years and learning to make shillelaghs. Since returning to Canada, Colin is stoked to be getting back to his roots with knives, happily nerding-out on steels, blacksmiths, and sharpening. If you want to know about Chinese-style cleavers (chuka bocho), Colin’s your guy! (Photo credit @davidmarionphotography)
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