The Nakiri is a traditional Japanese kitchen knife. Recognizable by its rectangular blade with a square, flat tip and straight edge. At first glance, a Nakiri looks quite similar to a cleaver or even a Santoku. Yet, there is a big difference between them. A Nakiri is usually much thinner ground and only suitable for cutting vegetables. But why exactly? And what cutting techniques are the best for a Nakiri knife?
What should you cut with a Nakiri Kitchen Knife?
The two biggest competitors of the Nakiri are the European Kitchen Knife and the Japanese Santoku. A chef’s knife and a Santoku knife, on the other hand, are suitable for cutting meat and vegetables. Is a Nakiri knife only intended for cutting vegetables? Herbs and fruits can also be easily cut with a Nakiri. So it’s a special kitchen knife with a specific purpose that you use alongside other kitchen knives.
The advantages of a Straight Edge
The Nakiri has a straighter cutting edge than a Santoku. With a slightly rounded tip so that the blade does not get stuck in the cutting surface, such as a cutting board. Because of the straight edge, the Nakiri does not wobble on the cutting surface. This also applies to the convex edge of a chef’s knife and some Santoku knives.
This has the advantage that the entire length of the cutting edge is in contact with the cutting board on which you are cutting. You don’t have to pivot (tilt) the knife while cutting to use the entire length of the cut. The positioning of the handle is also helpful. It sits higher than the cutting edge so that your knuckles do not touch the cutting board.
Cutting with a Nakiri
The straight edge and its advantages affect how to cut with a Nakiri knife. The blade does not have a point. Making the best use of the straight edge is essential.
The correct positioning of the Hands and Fingers
Popular among chefs and amateur cooks is the ”pinch grip”. With this technique, you pinch the beginning of the blade between your thumb and index finger. The remaining three fingers are loosely folded around the handle. By holding the blade close to the handle, you have a lot of control over what you cut. Not only does this help you be more precise, but it also prevents overshooting and reduces the risk of hitting yourself.
That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to grip the entire handle. This way you put more power into your cutting motion. This is beneficial when cutting large vegetables like cabbage. Let the thin and sharp cutting edge do its work.
The sliding Technique
There is one technique that sets the Nakiri apart from all other kitchen knives. The sliding technique! Always hold the knife horizontally above the cutting board in the starting position. The distance between the tip of the blade and the cutting board is always the same as the distance between the back of the blade and the cutting board.
Use the height of the blade. Hold the object to be cut with your fingertips and curl your fingers slightly. Like a “claw.” Your knuckles will now protrude slightly and serve as a guide for the blade. Carefully slide the blade diagonally in the direction of the object to be cut. Then return the knife to the horizontal starting position.
Repeat this motion a few times and take your time to get the hang of it. Always keep the back of the blade at your knuckles while cutting. And slowly work your fingers backward with each cutting motion. After a while and after cooking several dishes, you will find that this works better and better. This technique works for almost any vegetable. Practice makes perfect!
Tip: The straight back of the Nakiri is perfect for sliding cut vegetables into a pan! Are you using the edge for this? Then there is a risk that you blunt or damage the edge.
Chopping and bobbing with a Nakiri.
Every Nakiri knife is different, and with a little practice, other cutting techniques can be used. However, we do not recommend this in many cases. The thrusting technique is the strength of this knife. Since a Nakiri is thinner than a regular kitchen knife, you can’t chop with it. Also, bobbing, where you use the knife as a “lever”, puts quite a bit of stress on the thin edge.
Now, you might be thinking: the Nakiri is pretty limited. Especially compared to a versatile kitchen knife like a Santoku or chef’s knife. Yes and no. Think of your kitchen knives as a toolbox. Where each tool has a specific function. So, too, does each kitchen knife have a specific purpose? Use the Nakiri for what it was made for, and you will get a lot back! Especially if you cook a lot, the right kitchen knife is essential.