Yesterday I had an opportunity to use the new Shun Classic Gokujo. It is a 6” bladed boning knife. It is totally different from any boning knife that I have ever used. The blade slopes upward at a slight angle and it is an inch and a quarter wide at the heel of the knife. The blade is very narrow for the the first two inches of the knife.
When you are trimming certain cuts of meat it is important to take off the major sinew coverings which cover the tender muscle beneath. (My grandmother referred to it as gristle, which is what you would have for your steak unless it is removed) The way it is removed is to set the meat on the board perpendicular to you and make the first cut outward about an inch and a half back from the far end. You do this by inserting the blade just underneath the sinew (Silverskin) going under as widely as you can and then carefully cut away to the end of the piece. The blade should remain just under the silver-skin the whole time. With this first cut a finished you now have an end to hold onto with your non-cutting (left) hand. For the next cut you turn your blade over and cut back toward yourself. By holding onto the end of the silver-skin you can keep the blade just under the skin and remove the sinew in almost one piece.
This is the way you use a boning knife when you are trimming beef. Here is where it gets interesting. With that first cut using a standard boning knife the blade of a normal boning knife rapidly grows from the tip to a half an inch (10 cm) in width for the rest of the blade. As you insert the blade of the Gojuko through the sinew there is less drag on the blade due to its narrow point.
The fact that the new blade was razor sharp did not hurt, but there was a noticeable difference in the amount of force needed to make that first insertion and cut. When I turned the blade over to make the cut coming back I was able to keep the blade just under the silverskin for the whole length of the roast that I was trimming. I found my fingers were reaching around the blade to guide it as I came back toward myself. This put my fingers closer to my work and I was better able to guide the blade to keep it under the sinew as it gets progressively thinner. The angle of the handle to the blade makes the knife sit comfortably in your hand while you are making these cuts.
Now lets talk about chicken and fish. Due to the fact that the flesh of these items is more tender than beef, the knife cuts will be made by cutting against the board just like you would treat vegetables. For this reason a boning knife is not a good choice. For instance with chicken breast the cartilage by the breast bone (4 to 6 inches in length) usually needs to be removed. If you attempt this with a boning knife you will only have a small portion of the blade actually touching the board at one time and the blade will tend to wiggle in your hand as you draw it back through the area next to the cartilage.
Here is where a French style or long straight blade is much better. With the Gokujo the blade is perfect for the job. It has a very slight curvature to the blade, but basically it is straight enough to sit down next to the cartilage in one stroke and trim the chicken with lots less effort.
With most fish coming in sides, the important thing is to be able to skin or filet it. Once again the straight blade is important. You put the fish on the board with the skin side touching the board. Then starting at the tail you make a cut between the flesh and the skin to get the knife started. I like to make a free hand cut into the fish about a quarter inch from the tip until the blade is just touching the skin and then turn the blade totally horizontal and cut away from myself for the full length of the fish. The only thing that you see during the process is the handle and the tip of the knife, the blade is hidden by the fish. When your blade comes out the other end then you can turn the fish over and see how you did. The salmon that I trimmed yesterday with the Gokujo worked excellent; however for that job I would really like a longer blade unless the fish side is less than 5 inches wide.
Over-all I would give the Gokujo an A+ as a boning knife. If you are using this as a home kitchen knife the sharpness will last a long time. If it ever needs to be sharpened then return it to the factory and they will do a good job for you. My fellow chef’s will like this in an industrial setting as well. It has a different feel from the standard boning knife, but being able to put so much of the straight edge to your trimming makes it more efficient. Like having a razor blade with a handle.
You can find this knife and many others in the Shun Classic knife line at Chef-Knives-To-Go. The are offering a great deal on the only boning knife you will ever need.