What are Deba Knives Used For- Types, Feature, and Maintenance

(Fact Checked By Luna L. Rusk | Last Updated on April 10, 2021 | As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

As a sushi lover, I often find double bevel knives are difficult to use on delicate salmons. They somehow ruin the texture of the meat. Ill-textured meat prevents me from enjoying the perfect sushi.

When a friend presented me with a set of Japanese knives, it changed my life. From the three models the set included, Yanagiba, Deba, and Nakiri, I love the Deba knife the most.

Some of you must be questioning, “Oh, I do not eat fish. Why would I want to know about different kinds of Deba knife, let alone their uses?”.

Let me tell you that Deba is a knife with versatile use. It is used for preparing countless dishes, including poultry, vegetables, and obviously, fish. So, it comes in very handy to know about proper Deba knife use. 

How Many Types of Deba knife?


The perfection of a meal in the Japanese culinary field depends on well-cut ingredients. Some cooks even say that perfectly cut components bring out more flavor in a dish.

The Japanese used their ingenuity to create kitchen knives with asymmetric blades. This kind of blade upholds the food’s structure and taste. Each Japanese knife has a specific purpose.

Some Japanese knives are similar to Western-style knives; others not so identical. They also make several kinds of knives to be used on different sizes of fish or vegetables.

Let us take a glimpse at how many kinds of Deba knives are there. Knowing the types of knives will help you choose the most suitable one for your needs.

Here are the common types of Deba knives:

  • Hon-deba: It is a model that is more popular in Western countries. It is the thickest and heaviest of all, suitable for poultry and large fishes.
  • Mioroshi-deba: This type has a relatively thinner blade, specific for filleting and beheading fishes.
  • Ai-deba: This serves as the perfect medium-sized knife model designed especially for regular-sized fishes.
  • Ko-Deba: You will find this knife very suitable for breaking down small birds or crabs.

Features of Deba knife


A Deba knife resembles a chef’s knife with its thick blade and concave edge. It is more like a combination between a butcher’s knife and a cleaver. But unlike a butcher’s knife, it is not suitable for cutting meat with thick bones.

The Japanese knife has been designed to excel in the preparation of fish mainly. For its thick and sharp blade, it is used to breakdown chicken and other lean meat also.

Chefs have been using Deba knives for chopping meat, filleting fish, and even for cutting bone. I have written down some of the critical features of a Deba knife to help you recognize it quickly. Here is the list:

  • It has an asymmetric blade that tapers towards the cutting edge.
  • Unlike other Japanese cutlery like shun Santoku, it has a single cutting edge.
  • Generally, the back of the blade is hollow ground.
  • Compared to other Japanese knives designed for preparing fish, it is thick, heavy, and sturdy.
  • A Deba of 16 to 17 cm is standardly used. However, some Deba kitchen knives can be up to 30 cm.
  • Traditionally, it is made of carbon steel. The blades need regular maintenance and oiling to prevent rust.

Professionals usually use larger Deba knives. I would recommend home cooks to use a Deba knife with a 12-15cm blade length.

How to Use Deba Knife?


Deba Knife is one of the best knives to curve a fish or break down a chicken or bird. It can be used to cut vegetables, but most people prefer Shun Hiro knives over Deba. The edge of the blade is used to cut bones of fish or small birds.

Its unique design enables it to make precise and deep cuts. The flexible handle allows controlling the pressure exerted on the blade. Even a beginner can work efficiently with a Deba knife. Its wide and sharp edge needs a little force to slice the ingredients correctly.

The blade is wide at the bottom and pointed at the tip. Each feature of the edge is made to serve a particular purpose. Mainly associated with preparing fish, the knife has many more intricate functions.

The below process will walk you through Deba knife use:

  • Cut the small bones with the heel (close to the handle) of the blade.
  • Slice fish and vegetables with the center of the edge holding it at a 90-degree angle
  • Remove the bone of the chicken and birds with the tip.
  • The blade’s dull side creates an air pocket that enables the edge to penetrate food easily.

The blade’s width and the handle’s flexibility make it very comfortable to hold and use, avoiding contact with the board when cutting.

How to Maintenance Deba Knife?


Wash the knife with soap and water after use and dry well. It is better to use a hand while washing. Using a sponge can scratch the shiny surface of the blade. As the blade is usually made of carbon steel, it has a higher risk of rust formation. It is recommended to oil the knife frequently to prevent rust.

The knives should be stored in a magnetic bar or wooden block to prevent dust accumulation. The dirt particles can damage the blade.

Moreover, it is wise to sharpen the knife using a whetstone when necessary. Dull blades are irritating during meal preparation.

The below steps will help you sharpen the blade easily:

  1. Use a whetstone to sharpen the tip
  2. Sharpen the whole cutting edge from the end of the knife to the heel of the blade
  3. Remove the burr
  4. Use Kobatsuke (for professionals)

If you are a newbie at sharpening a knife, steps 1 and 2 are sufficient.

You can now contemptuously say that you are an expert on Deba knife use! Deba is considered the best knife for filleting any fish.

However, you can try out two other Japanese knives with single-edged blades: The Sashimi and Usuba. One is excellent at removing fish skins, and the other is a traditional Japanese vegetable knife.

I advise you to use your shoulders to push and pull your knife instead of your wrist. Use your thumb and index finger as little as possible. Finally, always use a wide cutting board to maximize your comfort. With a bit of practice, you will prepare a great fish. 

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