Hiromoto gyuto was selected by me as a present for my friend. Once again, a knife for a present, but frankly, of all the knives I've given as presents during my knife collecting years, which number closer to hundred I think, Hiromoto gyuto was one of the best presents, not in terms of cost or quality, but Mike is a really good cook. The other day we had a quite big party at my place, and he was checking out my Japanese Kitchen Knives collection, we talked about knives, then party went on, but few days later I've decided it would be a good thing to introduce cook like Mike to Japanese Kitchen knives. I had a choice between one really high end knife, or two or three mid range pieces, eventually I've settled with the set. So I've picked Hiromoto Gyuto, Miyabi Morimoto Paring knife, and shears. I thought, that would make a nice minimal set of good stuff for a good cook ;) Well, I'm glad I was right, very right actually. He really put the gyuto to good use. I'll discuss that later in the usage section. Most of the time when I pick a Japanese kitchen knife as a present, I have to count on two factors, inexperienced cooks, and people not experienced with Japanese kitchen knives in general. In this case, I didn't have to worry about experience, just explain the intricacies of the harder steel knife use, which eventually turned out to be minimal explanatory work. Other than that, there's not much to the story.
General- Hiromoto Gyuto arrived neatly packed in a black box, with gold kanji on it, assuming it's their logo or something relative to that. Blade was covered with a plastic sleeve. I did the usual inspection, which revealed no visible defects. I've seen couple reviews and references describing handle fit problems, but the knife I got had no issues. No gaps, nothing loose, everything was as it should've been. As far as Japanese kitchen knives go, Hiromoto Gyutos are somewhere in the middle. At 150$ price it is quite a deal, considering the quality and performance. And vice versa, for that price I'm expecting a quality piece. Next was the edge examination, which was also satisfactory. Mirror polished, thin edge, no rolls, no uneven grinds. Overall, fit and finish were good, the edge was good. Other than that, it is a typical Japanese gyuto knife. Thin, light and sharp. My personal choice would've been 270mm long blade, but the blade wasn't for me and I had to consider Mike's preferences and kitchen space as well. Hence the 240mm knife, which is still a decent size blade by any standard. Western handle was also chosen on purpose, I knew it would be a working knife, and the recipient of the present is more used to that type of the handle.
Blade- 240mm(9.5") long blade is very thin for those used to western knives, it's only 2.25mm thick. It is also thin compared to many other Japanese kitchen knives, gyutos to be specific in this case. Blade profile is very much gyuto-ish, tapers nicely towards the tip. Generally speaking, it is a high performance cutter. At the heel the blade is 50mm wide, and even though it obviously narrows at the tip, it still provides substantial support for the guide hand on most of the blade. The blade also features a bolster, which is quite nicely finished and rounded. Transition from the bolster is smooth, with no gaps. After initial inspection, I've tested edge sharpness, The initial edge was standard 30° inclusive, which makes 15° per side and it was very sharp, which was also expected. Still, I went with the usual stropping procedure. I've used 0.5µm and 0.25µm diamond loaded leather strops in successions, and then followed up with stropping on the plain leather. Stropping did improve edge aggressiveness and polish to some degree as well. As for the rest, because the knife was for a person who isn't exactly a collector, I've picked stainless steel blade as a starter, easier to care for compared to non stainless one. Steel in the Hiromoto Gyuto is Hitachi Gin-3 steel, which by the way has half a dozen aliases, some are used on knife forums mainly, but others I've seen listed on dealers sites or knife makers listings. All other aliases, at least known to me are listed in the steel info page linked above.
Gin-3 is a stainless alloy, although it contains respectable 13.00-14.50% Chromium, Carbon content is also high, 0.95-1.10%, so Gin-3 will not be as stain resistant as let's say X50CrMoV15 steel or its clones, which have similar amount of Chromium, but have half the carbon of Gin-3, i.e. more free Chromium, but on the other hand, thanks to higher carbon content, Gin-3 is much harder, and holds edge a lot longer compared to X50CrMoV15. Still, I chose Gin-3 specifically, since carbon steel would require more care, and I didn't want to add that to the maintenance chores for the beginner. I suppose, later on he can choose something more on the carbon steel side. And finally, the blade construction, it isn't a traditional Japanese awase, where hard core - hagane, is clad in a layer of soft steel - jigane. Hiromoto Gin-3 gyuto is a monosteel, and quite a few people prefer it, although for me main benefit of the monosteel and especially honyaki knives is that they can be made thinner compared to clad, awase knives. Lateral strength is lower of course, but one shouldn't need too much of a lateral strength, it's not a pry bar after all.
For the record, Hiromoto also makes the same gyutos in Hitachi Aogami Super Steel, in case you are looking for the higher end steel, although, Aogami Super being non stainless is more demanding in terms of maintenance, you have to clean and wash it more often, but that pays off very well, as it can be much harder compared to Gin-3 and may other steels as well, resulting in a thinner, and more durable edge, but also more delicate edge as well. It's up to you, judge yourself which version is better for you and your habits.
Handle- The handle is made of pakkawood, which is dense, solid material and withstands moisture and food acids quite well. Obviously, that doesn't mean you can neglect the pakkawood handles and leave them dirty or wet. Because the knife was for a person not accustomed to Japanese knives, I choose a version with western type handles. Nothing very fancy about the handles, two slabs, well finished and matched. The slabs are fastened to the tang with three rivets. Bolster-handle transition is very smooth, and generally speaking bolster is well done, no sharp edges, and most importantly it is not a full bolster making sharpening very difficult. In the end, it is a simple, working handle, and it has been quite comfy during prolonged use for me, and Mike was happy with it too. In short, it's a good one.
Usage - General- Normally, in the usage section I limit to my own use, simply because most of the time I only have my use experience to describe, and other times I get the mangled up knives, which makes it abundantly clear how the knife was used or abused. Not much to talk about in the usage section anyway. For Hiromoto gyuto I'll start with a bit of the info from Mike and then I'll move on to my own use. Well, Mike is a lot better knife user than myself, and that's the bottom line, but to give you a better idea. He regularly volunteers to cook on the veteran's dinners, hosted by another pro cook, unfortunately I don't know his name. But still, very honorable and nice thing to do. As far as I understand, the feat is to prepare food for few hundred people. And once he got my knives, he took them to the first volunteer session. As he told me he had both, Miyabi parer and Hiromoto gyuto with him that day, but main knife was a gyuto, which wasn't surprising, gyutos are general food prep knives after all. We didn't go through the exact menu in details, but the key point was that he prepped well over 100 chicken with Hiromoto gyuto, and the knife was still sharp at the end of the day. I was surprised myself with that result, and my first response was that I wouldn't be able to replicate the results, mentioned bones, cartilage, etc. His answer was that you never come in contact with bone, and the rest is easy. Well, not to me, at least. I know the theory, but I have hard time processing a chicken even with Honesuki, let alone doing it with a gyuto. In the end, proper skills are more important than the knife quality. Doesn't mean good knife isn't important, but it won't make up for the lack of skills. I'd probably drop exhausted after a dozen chickens :) Another bit of feedback was the knife usability, overall Mike was positive, after all, using the knife all day does count as prolonged use, matter of fact, doesn't really get any more prolonged than that. If the knife was awkward for use in some way, he would've noticed and so would I, even though I haven't used the knife as long as he did, few hours of veggie cutting is quite enough to assess its usability.
Usage - Vegetables- Alright, let's move to my own testing, which was focused mainly on vegetables as usual, although I did include meat in the tests, mainly slicing. Anyhow, the test was my usual 16-18lbs veggie mincing and shredding. I'll describe cleaning and prepping session in the Miyabi Parer review, because that's what I've used for preparation. The test started with the Brussels sprouts, about 4lbs. Sprouts were shredded, well, first quartered, then shredded. Next up, Broccoli, also shredded. Crowns are easy, light shallow cuts, but stems are quite tough. Sliced them on the board, then shredded. After that, asparagus, about 1mm wide dices. All of those were quite tough, but the edge showed pretty much no signs of degradation, the test was on the cherry tomatoes, slicing them using knife's own weight, it was about the same 2 inch slice, same as in the beginning. Next group included Italian parsley, 4 bell peppers, green leaves mix and eggplant. All minced and shredded. Considering that next batch was considerably softer compared to the first one there was no discernable edge degradation either. Red radish was next, sliced, then shredded. Next, two carrots, sliced and then shredded, rather rustic cut. Tested the edge again. It showed signs of the edge degradation this time. slicing the same tomato with just the weight of the knife now required about 2.5-3" long slice. Not much, but it was still a degradation. After that it was mostly soft stuff again, at least nothing comparable to carrots. The rest of the ingredients were easy job, cucumbers, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, that one is a pain because no matter how hard to you try squeeze the water out of it, it is still slippery and wet. Celery was easy, both due to the knife length and sharpness. Overall, the session lasted about 2 hours. Non stop cutting, as all of the ingredients were prepared earlier. Overall, even though the Hiromoto gyuto is good 30mm shorter than my favorite gyutos, still, 240mm(9.5") is a big knife and more than sufficient for most of the kitchen cutting chores. It's rather difficult to come up with something at home kitchen where 240mm is not enough, yes, 270mm is longer and better for me and quite a few people, but it's not universal. Besides, 240mm can be more convenient in crowded or small kitchens. I still keep my 240mm gyutos - Akifusa Gyuto, and Kumagoro Hammer Finish Gyuto. Overall, Hiromoto gyuto is what it is supposed to do. High efficiency, versatile kitchen knife. I really liked its thinness, and it's not flexible, at least I didn't notice it was flexing during all of the use. The handle was alright as well. 2 hours of continuous use, never had an issue, sore spots or whatever.
Usage - Misc. Use- In the end, I went on with other ingredients, just to have complete picture for myself. Mike's use did involve more cutting than mine, but I do not have very detailed report of it, plus when I was testing the knife, that was before I gave it to Mike. Started with a large piece of Chateaubriand stake. Had to cut it into small cubes for a stew. 240mm blade is quite sufficient for meat slicing. Obviously, dedicated meat slicers such as sujihiki knives will do better. Still, 240mm long Hiromoto gyuto is no slouch, especially with thin blade and really sharp edge. Next was the onion, sliced and diced, small cubes. Easy, almost effortless cutting. Smashed few garlic cloves with the flat of the blade, removed skin, and minced. I didn't attempt to peel an apple :) Too much for me with a knife that long, instead I cut a few potatoes, although they were peeled with Rossle crosswise peeler beforehand. Bread cutting was also tested, but bread knives to better, which was expected. I wouldn't really advice to cut hard crust bread with a gyuto, can cause real damage to the edge. Soft, white bread, or cake like a panettone would be fine. Well, that about covers pretty much everything I did.
Conclusions- Very good piece of cutlery. Well made, really good performer as far as cutting goes. It is a quite good choice for a workhorse, especially in the pro kitchen where you may not have time to clean it constantly as you'd do with a carbon steel knife, although that depends on the owner. Basically, what I am trying to say, Hiromoto gyuto has a quite good balance between the price, performance and ease of maintenance. Gin-3 steel is stain resistant enough to be easily maintained by a novice or a pro. Edge holding is very good, and sharpening it is not difficult, especially if the knife isn't abused and correctly maintained. At 150$ price it's hardly a budget knife, but on the other hand, it can easily match, or even beat comparably priced or even more expensive knives. Thin blade makes the knife both, light and a very efficient cutter. So, whether you want your first Japanese kitchen knife, or you're looking for a workhorse, Hiromoto gyuto will make a good choice, as long as you like it.
- Blade - 240.00mm(9.45")
- Thickness - 2.25mm
- Width - 50.00mm
- OAL - 370.00mm(14.57")
- Steel - Gin-3 steel at 59-60HRC
- Handle - Pakkawood
- Weight - 218.30g(7.38oz)
- Acquired - 07/2013 Price - 149.95$