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What do you guys think of using Deba knives?


austinlinecook
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As a professional, I LOVE Japanese knives. And I'm not talking about western-style Japanese knives, I'm talking about real, one-sided Japanese, high carbon knives. But one knife that I don't have and feel like I don't need is the Deba. When I break down fish, I use my sharp, stainless steel western-style gyutou, and I think it works just fine. So while a Deba's weight and thickness makes it easier to cut through fish spines and rib bones, my sharp gyutou can do it as well. Same result.

One major turnoff is that Debas get chipped really easily. My coworker uses his Deba to cut fish and it's chipped all over, which is normal for regular Deba usage. Another turnoff it the size of a Deba. It's just not a very long blade, so it seems limiting. It's definitely not for cutting salmon.

Anyone out there that can tell me why they love their Deba's so much?

austinlinecook.com

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I have a Deba but I almost never use it. I leave it on our boat in case of a shark attack :laugh:

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I actually worry a lot more about chipping my gyutos, and specifically reserve my deba for cleaver like tasks. In my amateur kitchen this mainly means breaking down chickens. I find my relatively inexpensive and heavy (ca. $75.00) deba is fun to use and perfect for the tough tasks but not for the longer periods of precise cutting I do with the gyutos. .

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I don't have a deba and don't know if I will ever get one until my fish duties increase, but I must say that I love watching this Japanese guy's videos where he breaks down fish with one. The music is bad, but there is something fascinating about seeing a deba in action.

Deba Skills

k.

I like to say things and eat stuff.

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It sounds like you've mastered Western fish butchering techniques, for which a deba is no help at all. It's designed to support Japanese fish butchery. A completely different approach.

Each way has its advantages ... the western way is quicker and also easier to learn. The Japanese way gives cleaner results (the difference is generally too subtle to be noticeable if the fish is cooked, but is significant if you're going to block the fish for sashimi).

Chipping is purely a technique issue. It usually means that a cook is using the deba for cutting the fish's spine, without knowing the right way to do it. Sharpening technique plays a role in this as well.

Size? For a big fish you need a bigger knife. I think people routinely break down 40lb salmon with a 210mm deba.

For your purposes, if you're happy with the results you get from your current knives, and aren't looking for an excuse to get new toys and practice a whole new skill set, I don't see any advantage to switching.

Notes from the underbelly

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I have a custom made Deba and never use it. I much prefer the Western approach which I think is cleaner.

The Deba and its use is a result of Japanese knife manufacturing which does not make or use flexible blades.

I just purchased this book http://www.amazon.com/Japanese-Kitchen-Knives-Essential-Techniques/dp/4770030762 and I will be using the book to increase my Japanese knife skills and will give the deba another try.-Dick

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debas are made for chipping. i have mine resharpened to remove all the chips about once a year. it is a utility knife just like a cleaver. there is no reason to buy an expensive one. In a professional setting there is no way to avoid chipping it. breaking down crabs, breaking down bones in fish skeletons, splitting fish heads.

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One common way to sharpen a deba is to use a microbevel at the heel to reduce chipping and use the heel for cutting through bone

Yup.

It is explained pretty well here: http://www.foodieforums.com/vbulletin/archive/index.php?t-6840.html

And if you want to master japanese knifes you really need to develop good sharpening habits. I would say minimum once a week in a working kitchen or daily depending on use. It becomes much easier if you don't wait until they get super dull. The egullet sharpening class is a great resource as well:

They shouldn't be all that chippy if used properly.

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debas are made for chipping. i have mine resharpened to remove all the chips about once a year. it is a utility knife just like a cleaver. there is no reason to buy an expensive one. In a professional setting there is no way to avoid chipping it. breaking down crabs, breaking down bones in fish skeletons, splitting fish heads.

Small chips are innevitable, but people avoid big chips (ones that are more than cosmetic) in a couple of ways. One is using the right techinque for going through bones. The other is putting a double (fatter) bevel on the couple of inches of blade closest to the heel, and using that for the brutish work.

I definitely agree that there's no need to spend $$$. Two of the pros I know who use a deba every day are partial to the cheap-o house brand sold by Epicurean Edge. Well under a hundred bucks for the 180mm length.

Notes from the underbelly

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I have a 180mm traditional deba and I find it handles domestic sized fish with no problem. From biggish 12lb salmon down to sea bass, bream, sole and sardines. I don't have any commercial pressures so I can take my own sweet time to do as clean a job as possible. I do think though that little chips are inevitable when you're going through fish bones using such sharp knives. Besides like others have said you can limit the chipping to the heel by cutting technique and contain them further by sharpening technique.

The real killers for me are crustaceans, in particular splitting live lobsters. You have to be quick and use the point to pierce the head. Then rocking the blade down along the shell causes so much damage along the whole length of your precious edge. After the first couple of times I decided that my trad deba was not the tool for the job. Not that it didn't split the shell cleanly, it did, but it just wasn't worth taking the 600 grit out everytime to fix the chips. So I'm using a heavy Chinese cleaver now with a sharpened point and it does the job but not so cleanly. The chunky belly of the cleaver sometimes crumples the lobster shell rather than splitting it, though the softer steel doesn't chip at all. But now I'm thinking a softer western style, double beveled deba would be the way to go. It just so happens I'm in nyc in October and might just persuade the wife that a trip to Korin might be nice, you know to check out the lovely tableware and oh look this Misono knife is nice too. So what do you guys think, will this wee beasty handle lobster shells without chipping or am I resigned to reinstating one of my crappy sabatiers from storage to do this one job?

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That's what my F.Dick chefs is for. Or a really old school knife like a Chef de chef:

http://thebestthings.com/knives/sabatier_canadian_knives.htm

The Japanese equivalent would be a western deba. You can scroll down the page for an example:

http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/SwedenSteelSeries.html

Because the Western Deba is not a single beveled knife it is better at dealing with bone with less chipping. I would still add a microbevel if I were chopping through a lot of fish bones or lobster shells.

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A good deba is next on my list of knife to buy. The last time I used one, it was to break down a bunch of fugu before deep frying them. The fugu spine is really hard and the deba was the right knife for the job. My japanese mother-in-law knife had some small chips, but I removed all of them on a wetstone.

What would be a good size for a deba? Is heavier better?

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d some small chips, but I removed all of them on a wetstone. What would be a good size for a deba? Is heavier better?

This advice that given to me by guys who break down fish professionally ... I can't personally vouch for it, but plan to act on it one of these days.

165mm is ideal for home use, especially if you don't plan to work with fish bigger than a few pounds. 180mm is good for fish up to 20lbs or so, and 210 for fish bigger than that.

Smaller is cheaper and easier to learn; bigger is more versatile. Bigger also gives you the option to put a back bevel on the couple of inches of blade by the heel for smashing through bones and shells.

I will probably get a 180mm, in a cheap and not very pretty model, and sharpen it like this.

As far as the utility of a Western Deba, I've decided to save space and money and just get a $10 Chinatown cleaver for the abusive tasks. It works fine. I haven't actually used it on crab or lobster, so I don't know if the shape is clumsier for this. But it's great for lopping off heads, talis, feet, etc. etc...

Notes from the underbelly

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