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Using a sujihiki as a main knife: pros/cons?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

Hi all,

 

Could someone tell me about the pros and cons of using a sujihiki/slicer as a main knife? I've looked around many forums but have yet to find a thorough explanation. (In general I find there's lots of information to be found online about knives but not so much about technique - do point me to good references if you know any).

 

I've been shopping around for a longer gyuto for a while, but recently came across mentions of people doing the above, and am now wondering whether that could be an option for me.

 

Thanks,

Olivier

 

 

(PS: one of the videos that makes this look like a reasonable idea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YKRnv0aq-8&feature=related)

post #2 of 17

I think it would be do-able if you learned to just "pull" slice everything and forget about "rock chopping".

Personally, I will always use my chefs knife as a primary blade and keep my suji mainly for slicing fish. I can pull just fine with a chefs knife, plus it rock chops, suji can't do that. The suji has a pretty prominent point at the end that I would be afraid would get slammed into some stainless steel and break off if left out. I'm not so worried about the point on my chefs knife and leaving it on the cutting board and have other people handle it. 

post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 

I mostly push-cut everything with my chef's knife; I'm not too worried about not being able to rock.

 

I started thinking about this because I was already looking at pointy gyutos like the Masamoto KS or the new Sakai Yusuke (see http://www.kitchenknifeforums.com/showthread.php/7825-Gisele-(wanring-long-winded-and-pic-heavy).

 

I know this is possible, but I was more wondering what the advantages would be? The drawback are clearer, I think.

For example I've read that some people do it because of reduced stiction.

post #4 of 17

Advantages would be reduced weight, perhaps they'd be thinner.

The main disadvantage I see is that there is little knuckle clearance when using a suji

post #5 of 17

Jon at japaneseknifeimports.com says his 210 suji was his primary knife when he worked the line, perhaps talk to him about it.  I suppose it matters what your primarily doing.  As a home cook I cut most veggies in-hand, so a slicer works for me.  A 21 will work for most everything from salads to sashimi to boning chcken breast.  I use a pinch grip only when I need to shorten it.  The only thing I use a ck for is rough-chopping carrots, dicing onions, splitting hard squash, etc.  I used to actually do all those in-hand also, except hard squash, (takes good control of course, I don't recomend it for most) but since recently making a study of the subject I've realized how neat a ck and cutting board can actually be for this.  the pinch-grip and knuckle clearence really make it here.  Ahh, things just get better all the time.

post #6 of 17

The main benefit to using a suji as your "do it all" is that it shows off your grip and sharpening skills.  It's important that you're easily impressed by yourself.  Like me.  Rest assured you won't impress anyone other than yourself unless you're on TV.  Not even your wife.  Especially not your wife. 

 

A secondary advantage is that a slicer unsurprisingly makes for a better slicing in that it tends to stick less when being drawn through the cut.  Getting into the subtleties, wedging is primarily a problem with edge geometry and binding mostly comes from bad technique -- but a slicer is of some extra benefit. 

 

Gyuto are easier to keep straight.  Some gyuto profiles promote certain types of actions -- but that's not a function of the wider blades.  Gyuto tend to transfer more power than slicers, but if your knife is sharp enough than power is a non issue. 

 

It's conventional wisdom that German profiles, with their big bellies and lots of "rocker," transfer more power than French profiles, or the exaggerated flat profiles you see on some Japanese knives.  And more CW that the flatter the profile, the better suited to push cutting.  But you can rock-chop, push cut or use the classic French guillotine and glide with just about any profile. 

 

Using a suji doesn't mean you lose anything in terms of "rock chopping," or the "classic" French action which combines a tip down rock with a forward glide, IF you have the right kind of grip -- which is a soft pinch, which comes "over the top," and has the back finger tips on the handle, rather than wrapping the back fingers around it.  And, you certainly don't lose anything in terms of push cutting either. 

 

There's nothing very much superior about any chopping action as compared to any other

 

As long as you have the right grip ("right" in terms of using narrow knives to chop, not right in terms of being handed down from on high from Norman Weinstein) you can use pretty much any knife to chop without hitting your knuckles on the board as long as the heel of the knife extends below the handle.

 

Although you can use it to produce each part of the standard chopping continuum -- blocks, planks, sticks and dice -- what you guys are calling "pull cutting" is slicing, and not really a chopping action.  In terms of chopping, it's an inefficient time waster UNLESS, of course, it works for you.  If so, it's the Eighth Wonder of the World.

 

I often use one of my slicers to chop when it's too much trouble to take another knife out of the drawer or because I'm having too much fun screwing around and impressing myself.  Trust me, it's no big deal.

 

BDL 

post #7 of 17
The reason people use a slicer is there is less dragging, the blade being narrow. With a gyuto, the taper can be more subtle, facilitating push cuts, I would think. With the same spine, a gyuto will easier go thru a carrot.
post #8 of 17
the only disadvantage i can see using a slicer as your primary knife is that you'll have less height so it'll get used up faster over the years. but it's all up to you.
post #9 of 17

You guys have already figured out that narrow knives make it harder to keep your knuckles off the board.  You beat that with hand placement.  Here's a view from underneath of how you have to hold the knife:

700

Note that the finger tips of the third, fourth and fifth finger stabilize the knife from the side, and do not curl around the handle to the bottom.

 

A biggish problem with using a slicer as a chef's -- at least if you use a long suji -- is flex.  Obviously, longer, narrower and/or thinner knives flex more.  How important is narrower?  My 10" Sabatier slicer is more flexible than my 10-3/4" laser (Konosuke) gyuto.  The big deal with flex is that flex causes binding.  If you don't keep your knife absolutely square it will bind, and you'll either have to start your cut over or force the knife through -- at some risk to the knife of being slammed against the board when it does break free and finish the cut.  If your suji isn't extremely sharp and your skills very solid, stay away from melons, thick skinned gourds, etc.

 

Flex is not a big deal for people who use 8" slicers; a slicer that short is more like petty anyway and is going to be pretty stiff. 

 

Another slicer issue is that the "chin" of the knife is exposed, and if you keep the back part of the heel as sharp as I keep mine, accidents can happen.  I have a bad habit of tapping the nail of my index finger against the back of my blade when I've completed one chopping task and am moving on to another.  It was no big deal when my most used knives had finger guards, but now that I use the Konos so much and forget to respect the differences from the European knives with which I developed skills and habits, that exposed chin has caused me grief a couple of times.  Although tapping is more idiosyncratic than not, I'm not the only problem who loses track of the slicer's different geometry and has issues with the heel/chin.

 

Sujis don't have enough flat to lift prepped dice into mise bowls, etc.  That's a major disadvantage.  They're also awkward to use for crushing garlic. 

 

"Push cutting" means you chopping action consists of lifting the knife up and down with the edge more or less parallel to the board.  A slicer does NOT facilitate push cuts. Straighter geometry does, so do shorter length and wider blades.  Think about traditional asian knives:  Chinese "cleavers;" chuka bocho, usubas, nakiri, and so on.  Those are the knives with a built-in preference for push cutting.  

 

Slicers tend to promote more of the tip-down, rock, then glide forward of the classic French action I call "guillotine and glide."  If you're interested in the mechanics of the guillotine and glide you can read an article I posted on my blog which is already linked in my previous post in this thread.  French profiles are especially well suited. 

 

Just to continue the distinction between the three major chopping actions, "rock chopping," means keeping the tip of the blade in contact with the board (or nearly so) and rocking the blade by using the curve of the belly.  Rock choppers like to keep the tip of the knife in contact with (or at least aimed) at the same part of the board, and seldom glide the knife forward.  Rock chopping is facilitated by knives with a lot of belly and "rocker" along the rest of their length.  8" German profile knives are champion rock choppers. 

 

While different geometries make certain favor certain actions by making them feel more comfortable and natural, it's important to remember that very few knives actually control your action.  That's up to you.  You can rock chop perfectly well with a kiritsuke, and push cut like a champ with a Wustie.  

 

I'm not sure why this thread started.  If you've determined to buy a good knife, can only afford one, and are debating between a gyuto or a suji with the idea of using it to occasionally double as the other -- buy a gyuto. 

 

BDL

post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post

You guys have already figured out that narrow knives make it harder to keep your knuckles off the board.  You beat that with hand placement.  Here's a view from underneath of how you have to hold the knife:

700

Note that the finger tips of the third, fourth and fifth finger stabilize the knife from the side, and do not curl around the handle to the bottom.

 

[...]

 

I'm not sure why this thread started.  If you've determined to buy a good knife, can only afford one, and are debating between a gyuto or a suji with the idea of using it to occasionally double as the other -- buy a gyuto. 

 

BDL

 

 

Thanks for the picture, very informative.

Some people also seem use an index-finger-pointing grip, which I presume works well too.

 
On the subject of my motives: I have been eyeing 240 or 270 gyutos with Masamoto KS or Carter Funayuki-like profiles, because I want:
  • more length than what I currently have with my Tojiro DP 210
  • more of a flat spot for more comfortable push-cutting. I mostly push-cut.
  • a pointier tip (mostly because of the vertical cuts for dicing onions).
 
These gyutos are already on the not-tall side, so aren't very good at lifting things into bowls - which I keep a bench scraper for anyway, and therefore don't value much.
 
Then I started thinking that the qualities I'm looking for seem to be found in slicers too, as I was under the impression that many slicers were rather flat, except for the tip. But I was unsure of the tradeoffs involved; hence this thread.
 
The potential problems with flex are duly noted. Am I wrong about sujis being flat?
post #11 of 17

The "index finger pointing grip" doesn't work well for chopping because it doesn't rotate your hand enough to protect your knuckles.  We can get into more detail if you like.  Even though the bottom line is whatever works, you might find a "soft pinch" worth mastering for chopping.   

 

The Masamoto KS profile -- which is common to all Masamoto gyuto, Richmond Ultimatums (Ultimata), and I think the Moritaka KS -- is very close to the Sabatier profile.  I've had some experience with the KS and decades with Sabs.  The profile is wide enough to make for an adequate bench knife (for scooping) even though not exactly generous.  Or, maybe I should have said "adequate" compared to a suji.  

 

BDL

post #12 of 17
I use a suji as a main knife and while not as easy, it'll do everything (nearly almost everything) a gyuto will do.

I prefer a suji because it gets hectic in sushi bars sometimes and the agility is very good.

For it's length it's about the lightest knife in my opinion.
post #13 of 17

I need help with this, I am looking to buy a knife for breaking down fish and probably some slicing during service before plating, like steaks mainly. I recently used a tojiro sujihiki for breaking down and skinning a whole salmon and it kinda felt right... do you think is this a good idea? is this one of the regular uses a sujihiki would have? i would go for carbon steel or semi....

any ideas? suggestions? thank you in advance

btw this is my first post... :)

post #14 of 17
A suji is perfect for what you need. That's what I use mine for.
post #15 of 17
Consider the FKH 270 sujihiki. Lighter and thinner than the Tojiro, but remarkably stiff.
post #16 of 17

I am also thinking of buying a sujihiki. I'm thinking about the Misono stainlesss or mabye the swede. Mostly since I have a relative in japan who can buy the knife for me and those seem to have a good price on rakuten. 


http://item.rakuten.co.jp/shokki/misono__molybden_suzihiki27/


http://item.rakuten.co.jp/shokki/misono_sweden_suzi27/

 

How big is the difrence between the carbon and stainless?

Should I be loking at some other brand?

post #17 of 17
Misono would be a great choice because of their high level of Fit&Finish and constant quality. They have four series: moly, 440, UX-10 and Swedish Carbon. The 440 are a bit harder than the moly. The UX-10 are largely overpriced.
The Swedish Carbons are excellent knives, sharpen very easily but are highly reactive as long as you haven't forced a patina. All Misonos are thin without being a laser and have good food release. They are strongly right biased. Not suitable for left-handed!
Edited by Benuser - 3/20/14 at 9:45am
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