Your Cart is Empty

Japanese Knives
  • Sharpening
  • Accessories
  • Knifewear MERCH - Shirts, Stickers, & More

  • 5 Myths About Japanese Knives BUSTED

    April 25, 2024 6 min read

    Have you ever heard people talking about something you know a lot about, and they’re getting it all wrong? It’s so frustrating!! Like, I worked with people who put oil in the water when they were boiling pasta. What the hell is going on here? You say it’ll make the pot not boil over? You say that it makes the pasta not stick together? This is a fine dining restaurant. That’s so stupid. It makes me furious. You’re all deluded.

    Anyway, I know a lot about Japanese knives and noodles, so here are some myths that drive me up the wall and how much (if any) truth is behind them.

    The Myth: Most Japanese knives are right-handed

    The Bust: False on its face! It is, in fact, the opposite - most Japanese knives are ambidextrous. About 98% of the knives we carry work great for both lefties and righties. If you throw a dart at our website, it’ll probably land on a knife that anyone can use. But make no mistake - there is indeed a contingent of tools that require both a left handed and right handed distinction, but most of these knives are reserved for the butchery of fish and the preparation of sushi. Pretty specific stuff. We’ll also put a handy dandy little “this is a right handed knife” thingie on its webpage if you’re shopping online.

    Some knives do have a “D” shaped handle, meaning that one side (usually the right) has a small groove designed to face the palm of the hand - but lefties can still use this knife; it’ll just feel like that handle is oval shaped. Not a huge deal.

    The Myth: Japanese Knives are too brittle & delicate for everyday cooking.

    The Bust: This one is all about the user. Yes, it is true that Japanese knives are more fragile than most other kitchen knives. They’re harder and thinner. This is why they’re sharper, and it’s also why they’re more fragile. So yes, it is more likely to see chipping or damage occur along the edge of the blade with misuse - but that’s the keyword there: misuse. Misusing your knives can mean a lot of things. There’s some obvious stuff - frozen food, bones, tin cans, glass cutting boards, all of these things can damage your knife. But misuse can also include other stuff - overzealous chopping and excessive force are easily one of the biggest causes of damage. These knives are precision tools, and they should be used with precision in mind. Gentle slicing and chopping is good for your knife, good for your body, and good for your food!

    But I think it’s also really important to remember that this is a physical tool, and it’s built to do a physical job. Wear and tear will add up, and just like any other tool, things will eventually go wrong. Accidents will happen. Fenders will be bent. Knives will be chipped. I’ve been cooking pretty much every day of my life for the past twenty or more years - you’d better believe I’ve dropped a knife or two on the floor! To put it bluntly, shit happens. But here’s the thing - these knives can be fixed! Broken tips, chips in the blade, loose handles - these aren’t the end of the world. These are simply speed bumps encountered on the road of life! Bring us your knife or mail it in when it gets dull and damaged, and we will see that the road rises to meet your wheels once again!

    The Myth: Japanese Knives Rust

    The Bust: Meh… kinda. Well, no. Not really. But yeah. Sometimes. But also no.

    Look, let’s keep this simple. There are two basic types of steel: Stainless Steel and Carbon Steel. Stainless steel is stainless. It doesn’t easily rust. Most non-Japanese knives are made using stainless steel. Ever used a Henckels or Wustof? Stainless steel. EZPZ. About half of the knives at Knifewear are made using stainless steel too! Different types of stainless steel than the German guys, but stainless steel none the less.

    Carbon steel though. Carbon steel is not stainless. Carbon steel will rust, and carbon steel develops patina. I mentioned that about half the knives at Knifewear are stainless steel? Well, the other half are carbon steel. The reason we have lots of carbon steel knives is because carbon steel is, to put it simply, really good! It holds a great edge and is super duper easy to sharpen. So no, not all Japanese knives rust.

    Wanna learn more about carbon steel and why it’s great? Great! Click here. We can go down a huge steel rabbit hole if you like, but this isn’t the place. Let’s move on!!

    The Myth: Japanese knife handles break easily

    The Bust: Look - I’ve been working with Japanese knives for just about 10 years. Have I seen broken Japanese style handles? Of course - We sharpen and repair LOTS of knives. Is it something you need to worry about? Definitely not. MATH TIME.

    Let’s be generous and say I’ve seen about 25 broken Japanese style knife handles. It’s probably less, but just for the sake of argument, 25 is a pretty round number.

    Let’s say I’ve sharpened about 25 knives per day, 5 days a week, for 9 years. It’s probably  more than 25 knives per day, but I go on vacation and get sick and hide in the back writing blog posts sometimes. So let’s say 25.

    25 knives x 5 days a week = 125 knives a week

    125 knives a week x 52 weeks a year = 6,500 knives a year

    6,500 a year x 9 (actually almost 10, but let’s say 9) years = 58,500 knives

    Good Lord, that's a lot of knives. This is actually the first time I’ve done that math. Wowee Zowee. Anyhoo, this means that of all the knives I’ve sharpened or repaired, 0.000427% of them have had handles broken to the point that they needed to be replaced. I’d also like to point out that I said replaced. The knife turned out fine. I just put a new handle on it. Do you know what kind of handles I can’t replace? Riveted western ones! My!, how the tables have turned!

    Basically, if you put a modicum of care into your knife, your handle will be fine. And even if something crazy happens, like your house burns down, or floods, or your dog gets a hold of it (real situations, btw), we can fix it. Boom. Double bust.

    The Myth: Rinse your pasta after cooking to keep it from clumping together

    The Bust: This is a mistake. I really prefer taking my pasta straight out of the pot and into the sauce with a pasta strainer or wire spider, but if you must strain it into the sink, use a little bit of oil and toss the pasta around in the colander. This will help it from clumping together. Rinsing the pasta with water will wash away all the starch from the salted cooking water, which really assists in sauce sticking to the noodles. In fact, you should always add a bit of the pasta water to the pasta sauce while cooking. There’s plenty of starch in that water, and will help the sauce stick to your noodles even more!! BON APPETIT!

    The Myth: Japanese Knives are hard to keep sharp

    The Bust: Some Japanese knives are hard to sharpen. There is a huge difference between honing and sharpening. Honing is like brushing and flossing your teeth. It’s something that needs to be done frequently to keep the knives in good condition. Sharpening your knife is like going to the dentist. It’s something that needs to be done much less frequently to do the heavy-duty work. You need to do both, and you need to do them at their respective correct times.

    Honing is easy: Get a ceramic honing rod. It’s the toothbrush! It’s half-price with any knife, easy to use, and extremely effective. Check out how to use it here. Get a strop. It’s the floss! It’s how you get a professional-quality edge on your knife. 

    Unfortunately, this is where my totally awesome dentist analogy breaks down because you can absolutley sharpen your own knives with stones at home if you’re into that kind of thing. Check out our YouTube Channel for tons of awesome vids on knives, sharpening, and cooking! We go on some pretty deep dives about sharpening and steel, including info on why this myth exists. Some knives are way harder to sharpen than others, and we’ll tell you why!

    So, yeah. Myths busted? I think so. Can you think of any other myths? Do you think I’m wrong and that these myths have indeed busted me? Contact us—there’s probably some pop-ups asking if you need any help. Just blast your questions in there. I can’t wait to hear from you!

       Owen Whitinger
    Owen Whitinger

    Owen is another ex-chef among our ranks. After Chef-ing in Edmonton for around 12 years, he gave it up to be a human being again! He moved out to manage the Vancouver shop in 2018 and never looked back. Later, nerds! He can almost definitely beat you in a game of Street Fighter. come chat with him about football, steel, and how we are, once again, living in a golden age of rap music!