Honesuki knives are the Japanese version of Western boning knives. Both knife styles serve similar purposes, but do they do the same things? Learning about their differences will give you a better idea of why these knives excel at specific tasks.
A Honesuki knife has a triangular shaped carbon steel blade, with a thicker spine and a sharper straight cutting edge. On the other hand, western boning knife usually has a curved and more flexible stainless steel blade. These differences alone dictate the intended uses of the knife.
For example, Honesuki knives are thicker and can resist pressure. You can use them to break down poultry easily. Place the chicken or bird over the cutting board, and push cut to separate chicken breasts, hard joints, and other areas.
The curved and flexible blades of boning knives are better for delicate work. You often have to guide the knife around intricate sections, requiring more time and effort when you’re working on poultry. Nonetheless, this blade construction allows the knife to do more. For instance, you can use the knife to fillet, debone, and skin fish and get better results than with a Honesuki.
These are just a few differences between the Japanese boning knife vs Western boning knife. Stick around for an in-depth review of these knives to know which one is better.
A Honesuki knife has a short blade (5-7 inches), but it’s heavier than other Japanese knives. Honesuki is a specialty knife primarily used for breaking down whole chickens and other poultry.
Other purposes for this knife include trimming silver skin and slicing cuts of meat like beef or ham into smaller pieces. Some even use this knife to fillet fish and chop vegetables.
Typically, the Honesuki is available in two types: Kaku and Maru. The Honesuki Kaku breaks down whole poultry, whereas the Honesuki maru is more suitable for cutting large cuts of meat like pork and lamb.
Western Boning Knife
The Western boning knife is a butcher knife used for deboning, skinning, and filleting. Like the Honesuki, this knife is short, usually around 4 to 8 inches in length.
However, the blade is usually flexible and curved to adapt to different animal carcasses and bone shapes. As a result, boning knives are general-purpose butcher knives. Use them for deboning chicken or meat, filleting and skinning fish without bones or red meat, and trimming fat or connective tissue, among other things.
Boning knives also have different builds. Some have stiffer and straighter blades for thicker venison or beef, whereas others are semi-flexible and curved blades for filleting or skinning fish.
Japanese Honesuki vs Western Boning Knife: Key Differences
The Japanese Honesuki and Western boning knives are similar in size, but key differences set them apart.
While the Honesuki excels at preparing chicken, the boning knife is more versatile and can work with diverse cuts of meat.
|Differences||Japanese Honesuki||Western Boning Knife|
|Knife Shape||Triangular shape with a pointy tip and razor sharp cutting edge. Specifically designed as a true poultry and chicken master.||Generally curved with a narrow blade and needle like, sharp point. Versatile enough for deboning, skinning, and filleting.|
|Blade Material||Carbon steel. Durable but weak against rust and corrosion. Requires thorough maintenance.||Stainless Steel. Lower edge retention but highly resistant to rust, corrosion, and chipping. Little maintenance is required.|
|Blade Thickness||Thicker and heavier blades can resist pressure during push forward cutting motions.||Thinner and lighter blades. Better for slicing in long and precise cuts from the heel to the tip.|
|Bevel||Mostly single bevel. Left-handed cooks will need Honesuki made for their respective hands.||Double bevel. Left and right-handed cooks can use the knife without performance issues.|
|Handle Shape||Octagonal shape.||Ergonomic, with curves to accommodate fingers and palms.|
|Handle Material||Primarily wood, requiring more maintenance for preservation.||Wood, metal, plastic, and rubber. Less appealing than wooden Japanese handles but easier to maintain.|
Knife Shape, Tip and Heel
Honesuki knives have a flatter profile, a triangular shape, and a pointy tip. They feature a thick angular heel and plenty of height to keep your fingers away from the cutting edge. This shape comes in handy when you have to push the knife inside a chicken or rabbit carcass to release the joints from cartilage. If your hand gets greasy, your fingers will be safe behind the heel.
The tip of the blade is extremely thin for articulate slicing between breastbones. You can use it to separate ligaments and connective tissue at intricate angles. However, avoid using the tip to pry through hard joints forcefully. In this case, what you want to use is the heel. This section of the blade is stronger for slicing through dense meat like hard joints.
The blade shape of Honesuki allows doing various tasks. Nonetheless, it’s more suitable for prepping chicken, duck, and other poultry. It can also do a decent job of deboning rabbits and animals of similar size.
Boning knives have a curved profile with a pronounced belly for slicing. The knife is narrower, and the tip resembles a needle. The articulate tip is good for trimming work. It can get in between layers to separate fat and silver skin to produce cleaner cuts of meat. You can also maneuver the tip of the knife around the rib cages of fish to separate the meat with minimal waste.
Still, the curved belly is the most important feature of boning knives. It’s a visible difference that you notice quickly when comparing it with Honesuki knives. The purpose of this belly is to slice through meat with less drag. Plus, the blade’s curvature allows you to separate the meat from the bones using long strokes from the heel to the tip.
The shape of the boning knife makes it more versatile than the Honesuki knife. As a result, you can use boning knives for tasks like deboning chicken, skinning fish, and trimming cuts of meat, among many more.
Most Honesuki knives have carbon steel blades. These blades are durable and can hold a sharp edge longer than stainless steel. Still, this steel type is not highly resistant to rust or corrosion. You have to care for the knives frequently to prevent damage. Carbon steel blades may also require regular application of oils for preservation. Consider blades made with this material if you take the time to maintain your knives or if you use them indoors mostly.
Boning knives feature stainless steel blades. The edge retention is lower than carbon steel, but it can still hold an edge under frequent use. This material is more resistant to rust, corrosion, and stains. It can also resist chips if you hit chicken leg bones or fish’s backbones accidentally. Little maintenance is necessary to preserve the quality of the blade. You can wash it with warm water and soap only. Stainless steel blades are good options for outdoor activities with higher exposure to moisture, like fishing trips.
Honesuki knives are thick. The thickness level is usually on the higher end of the 2.5mm-3mm range. This build involves more steel and makes the Honesuki feel heavier. However, the wider top of the spine allows you to place your thumb or index finger comfortably. You can apply pressure over the knife and let the weight of the blade separate sections like poultry joints. This benefit makes it easier to break down chicken because you don’t have to guide every cut with your other hand.
Boning knives are usually thin. The top of the spine is approximately 2mm, and the tip is often less than 1mm. It feels lighter and easier to maneuver these knives. Thin boning knife blades can be flexible and are better for delicate work. You can guide the blade around the contours of chicken bones to separate the meat. Thin blades can do other tasks like filleting and skinning fish. Broad and stiffer boning knives are also available if you need extra rigidness for denser beef, pork, or lamb.
Generally, Honesuki knives have blades with a single bevel. Single beveled knives are often the sharpest. You can use them to cut super thin slices of poultry meat if you value professional and restaurant quality dishes. However, these knives require a more difficult sharpening technique, and left-handed users may have trouble using them. You would need left-handed Honesuki knives specifically. These are rare and more expensive.
Boning knives mostly have a double-bevel build. Double beveled knives are not as sharp as single bevel, but they’re easier to sharpen. Anyone can use the knives regardless of their dominant hand. The price is lower, and they are widely available under brands like Wusthof and Mercer. A boning knife with a double beveled blade is more versatile. It can separate cuts of meat evenly and slice close to the backbone of the fish. If you don’t need the sharper single bevel, double beveled blades are more convenient.
Most Honesuki knives come with the traditional Japanese Wa-Handle. This handle shape looks great but has some disadvantages. If you’re unfamiliar with it, you will have a hard time getting used to the octagonal design. It takes practice and patience. Sadly, it will likely affect your proficiency in the kitchen until you feel comfortable with the handle. People often prefer handles with a Western style like the Western Deba to perform the pushing down, back-and-forth cutting motion with more comfort.
The handle shape of boning knives is more comfortable. Usually, Western handles have curvatures that adapt to the fingers and palms of your hand. Therefore, you won’t have problems using these knives from the moment you get them. This shape also makes it easier to maneuver the knife when you have to guide the tip through tight areas. Additionally, Western handles don’t cause fatigue when while slicing silver skin or fat from big cuts of meat using the full cutting edge’s length.
Wood is the most common material for producing Honesuki knife handles. This material feels comfortable and provides a classic look to the knife. Unfortunately, it requires plenty of maintenance and can be a hassle sometimes. Wooden handles are also more likely to retain smells of chicken grease and similar substances. Overall, wooden handles look great but require plenty of attention.
Boning knives have handles made with different materials, including wood, plastic, metal, and rubber. Wooden boning knife handles require the same attention. Metal handles are more resistant and easier to clean, but they may be slippery without a textured layer. Plastic and rubber are good alternatives. They’re easy to clean and have a grippy texture that is easy to hold. A boning knife handle may not be as good-looking as the Honesuki handle, but they’re more convenient.
Whetstones are the most suitable tool to sharpen Honesuki knives. Either a 1,000-grit or 500-grit stone can produce a cutting edge on these knives. Nonetheless, you have to consider a few things before sharpening. If the knife has a single beveled blade, you must sharpen one side only.
Secondly, consider whether you want a razor-sharp edge. A Honesuki knife with a carbon steel blade can have a really thin and sharp edge. However, thinner and sharper blades are more likely to get stuck on chicken bones and receive damage. Moderate sharpening is sometimes enough with Honesuki knives. These considerations can be too much if you’re a casual home cook without sharpening experience.
Sharpening boning knives is easier. You can use whetstones, sharpening steels, and electric sharpeners. The knives require the same technique on both sides of the blade due to their double-bevel build. Plus, stainless steel is more forgiving. Even if you have a razor-sharp edge and hit chicken bones by accident, the blade is less likely to get chipped or damaged. Choose western boning knives if you don’t want to spend too much time on knife sharpening.
Other Japanese Style Boning Knives
Honesuki isn’t the only Japanese knife used for processing poultry and cuts of meat. Other options available are the Hankotsu and Garasuki. However, these knives may be better for professional work at restaurants. Learn what sets them apart from Honesuki knives to know when you should get one or the other.
Hankotsu means “Rebellious” in Japanese. This knife has a straighter edge unlike the triangular shape of the Honesuki. It’s most suitable for work on hanging carcasses. The ideal cutting technique is using a reverse grip, requiring you to cut towards you instead of away from yourself.
The tip of Hankotsu knives is pointy, and the height of the blade is shorter than Honesuki. This build allows you to turn the knife in various directions to separate the meat from bones, connective tissue, and fat. Sometimes, the Hankotsu have unsharpened heels to back up a stronger cutting edge for breaking down livestock. These blades are strong and people often use them for deboning thicker chunks of meat.
Preparing poultry and filleting fish are other uses for the Hankotsu. However, either the Honesuki or boning knives are more suitable for these tasks.
The Garasuki is a larger, thicker, and heavier Japanese poultry knife. It shares a similar profile to the Honesuki, but the lengthier blades are more suitable for larger poultry and denser cuts of meat.
Garasuki knives feature a clip point, with more metal that increases tip strength. This blade shape increases the knife’s puncturing ability to pierce through animal skin with ease. The tips are also good for precise work, allowing you to access tight spaces like chicken joints.
Overall, the Garasuki is a better alternative than the Honesuki for professional chefs working at restaurants. It’s a bit excessive if you only need a Japanese boning knife for home use unless you process turkey, duck, goose, and other poultry regularly.
Western Boning Knife or Honesuki – Which One Should You Get?
While choosing a Honesuki or western boning knife, it all boils down to what type of meat you usually process.
The Honesuki can do many things, but it excels at preparing chicken and poultry. It has a thick heel capable of scraping meat off hard joints and a fine tip for precision cuts around the usual intricate shapes of poultry bones.
You can’t use these knives to cut through bones, but they will slice cartilage and tendons with ease. The thicker spine also allows you to apply more pressure to work on poultry carcasses. This is something you can’t usually do with the thinner boning knives without snapping risks.
Consider getting a Honesuki knife if you prepare chicken frequently. With this knife, it will be easier to cut poultry into smaller pieces with minimal effort.
Boning knives are versatile kitchen knives to perform general tasks in the butchering field. The thin and curved blades can work around chicken carcasses, fillet fish, and clean bigger chunks of meat.
A boning knife can’t cut through bones either, but the blade is more likely to resist chipping if you do it by accident. Therefore, anyone with more or less experience can use the knife safely.
If you need a versatile knife capable of doing almost any butcher related task, then consider getting a boning knife. This type of butcher knife will complete the same tasks as a Honesuki knife and even more. You may need to put in more effort and thought before each cut, but the results can be equally satisfying.