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Generally, most chefs prefer a chef’s knife that works in the rocking motion for cutting large quantities of herbs and veggies. However, since the past few years, more and more chefs are embracing the Japanese santoku knife for chopping, slicing, and mincing large quantities of veggies and herbs.
A good santoku knife is a reliable pal for a chef, as it makes dropping and scooping the fresh, prepped veggies and spices easier and quicker than a chef’s knife. It is an all-purpose tool that can handle three different kitchen activities, namely, dicing, mincing, and slicing, for preparing a variety of dishes smoothly. While it works on veggies, herbs, cheeses, and fruits, it is specially made for veggies.
The term ‘Santoku’ in Japanese itself means three uses, which denotes its exclusive ability to mince, dice, and slice. Featuring a typical Japanese style, these knives are lighter than several Western counterparts. They have thinner and shorter blades whose end features a circular arc instead of a sharp point.
Despite this end shape, the cutting edge is flat due to which santokus support slicing motion instead of the rocking one. Just as chef’s knives of Western-style, santokus are sharp on both sides. This is unlike the chef’s knives of Japanese style, which are typically sharpened only on one side. Let’s learn more about this knife and explore the factors that help in choosing the best santoku knife.
2023’s 3 Best Santokus Reviewed
Wusthof WU4182 4182 Santoku, 5″, Black
Made in Germany, this Wusthof classic knife reflects a distinct blend of a santoku and a paring knife. This shorter knife than the standard 7-inch Santoku is an all-purpose chopper that features the same precision as its 7-inch model.
The blade is forged from the premium high-carbon stainless steel. Even the hardness level measures 58 on the Rockwell scale, which is equivalent to the 7-inch model. The handle grip comes from the famous POM synthetic material protected by strong rivets.
However, the shorter blade ensures more versatility at work. Its biggest benefit is better maneuverability in tight spaces or with delicate or small ingredients. Unlike other santokus, this one has a finger guard and a full bolster.
- Superb maneuverability
- Edge retention
- Great grip and control
- Resistance to fading
- Dishwasher safe
- No food sticking
- Needs regular sharpening
Zelite Infinity Santoku Knife 7 Inch
This Santoku features the best of traditional and modern features. The blade’s core is made up of AUS10 super steel and several layers of stainless steel with high carbon to ensure great edge retention as well as hardness. The hollow ground design means non-sticky performance, while the textured Damascus finish and liquid nitrogen tempering ensure resistance to rust and stain along with lasting performance.
The blade is full tang and is riveted with G10 grips for additional durability and sturdiness. The edge features a 12-degree sharpness and renders excellent precision and power even while handling the hardest foods.
- Great craftsmanship
- G-10 grip
- No food sticking
- Perfect balance and comfort
- Lifetime warranty
- No textured grip
Shun Cutlery Premier 7″ Santoku Knife
This Santoku is fabulously designed for function, artwork, and longevity. After all, it is forged by hand in Japan. The blade is forged using the Damascus steel and is folded several times to ensure maximum hardness as well as strength.
It also has a hand-hammed finish that is not only stunning but also is highly functional to prevent the food from sticking to the blade. The blade’s core is made using the VG-10 super steel of Japan that is globally admired for its superb hardness as well as edge retention. Containing vanadium, this steel is less likely to need frequent honing or sharpening.
The handle features the Pakkawood grips tailored flawlessly to the tang. This wood material is almost impervious to oils and moisture and is well-polished to reflect the grain beauty. The knife is ideal for both professional or home cooks.
- No food sticking
- Good grip
- No need for frequent sharpening
- Handle resistant to heat, cold, moisture, and oils
Santoku vs. Chef’s Knife
Both these knives differ significantly. Following are the significant differences:
- Blade Size: A santoku comes with a blade whose length ranges from 5 to 8 inches. However, a chef’s knife has a blade length of around 8 to 10 inches. A shorter blade is, however, better for smaller hands.
- Weight: Having a short blade does not make a santoku lightweight. It has a heftier build due to its modeling based on nakiri, a conventional Japanese vegetable knife. The blade of a santoku is made using Japanese steel, which is boxier than its Western equivalents. This steel and build give a hefty and sturdy feel, which ensures ideal balance and easy handling.
- Cutting Edge: A santoku has a straight edge that does not support the rocking motion required for fast, repeated dicing or cutting. It is ideal for occasional fast chopping and clean slicing. On the other hand, a chef’s knife has a more curved edge to trigger the rocking motion.
- Point: A santoku has a milder point that keeps the risk of accidents away. A chef’s knife comes with a sharp point to open thick packages or cut into thick foods.
- Bevel: This refers to the ground surface that makes up an edge. While a santoku can come with a single or double bevel, a chef’s knife typically has a double bevel. The single bevel facilitates sharpening at 12-15 degrees, while a double level supports 20-30 degrees for the same. The sharper angle of a santoku ensures easy cutting of thin slices of veggies.
In short, while a chef’s knife has a broader range of uses, a santoku is more specialized for cutting thin slices of fruits, cheeses, and vegetables.
How to Choose the Best Santoku Knife
There are many santoku knives, most of which tend to look similar. However, the truth is that no two santoku knives are identical. They are likely to differ in terms of price, size, and other features. To know which one can be the best Santoku knife for you, it makes sense to compare the popular or promising santokus based on the features.
These features are the buying factors that tend to affect your buying decision. So, let’s check them out now!
For a comfortable feel and more productivity, it is essential to have a light santoku. The overall notion is to have an easy-to-handle knife irrespective of the strength of your forearms. A few santokus are quite bulky, which weigh as larger as a chef’s knife. However, such weight is likely to defeat the Santoku’s purpose.
It is an illusion to choose the blade length as per the size of your hands. Indeed, you should select the length as per the knife’s purpose, food size, cutting surface size, and your comfort level.
Santokus are available in two common sizes, namely, 5 and 7 inches. A 7-inch long blade is perhaps the most popular one, as it is used for cutting a myriad of foods. It is pretty similar to the 8-inch blade of a chef’s knife. So, if you are used to this chef’s knife, a 7-inch santoku blade is what you should choose.
However, this popularity cannot overcome the importance of a 5-inch long santoku blade. It is useful for cutting small items. So, if your requirements demand, you can choose both sizes.
The blade should not only be thin but sharp enough to slice, dice, and mice a wide range of foods easily. How sharp a tool indicates the effort required by the user to get the work done. The sharper the knife, the quicker will be the cutting task with less effort. At the same time, you need to take care to prevent any harm to yourself.
The best santoku blades are finely honed. They are also thin enough to ensure precision while not getting chipped instantly or easily and are typically 15-20 centimeters long. However, precise thinness and length will depend on your preference.
It is wise to invest in a santoku having a Granton edge. This is because, as small divots along the edge, it makes slicing and chopping more efficient than usual. It does so by preventing food from sticking to the edge.
Another aspect to consider is the blade material. The best santokus are made up of special stainless steel called the Japanese super steel. It is an exclusive steel alloy made in the country, especially for swords and knives.
It is widely used as layers of stainless steel having high carbon. These layers are around the core for reflecting stunning designs. They also protect the blade.
The best santokus have quite hard blades to ensure a razor-sharp edge that lasts longer than usual.
A santoku should be easy, safe, and comfortable to hold. This handling can be via the handle or blade’s pinch grip. Overall, you should feel the perfect balance when you hold it. Frankly speaking, a balanced feel is not an objective matter, as it is one’s personal matter.
How balanced one feels while holding a santoku depends on how it is held, what is the weight that the hand can take, and who is holding the knife.
It is also essential to check the handle material. The build materials for Santoku handles range from artificial to natural ones, including wood with attractive grain patterns. In short, you have many choices here.
The synthetic ones are likely to be more resistant to cleaning solutions and kitchen oils. They are also quite affordable, unlike natural materials. Still, many buyers prefer the classical appearance of wood. However, wood is likely to spoil when frequently exposed to water.
The handle material you choose should be impervious to water, resistant to slip and breaking, and sturdy. One such material is G10, which is a modem laminate composite that is comparable to carbon fiber. Even some plastics and hardwoods can be checked.
In short, you should decide what is ideal for your hand. In case you are going to store your Santoku on the counter, its appearance is also what you may wish to check.
Santokus do come with some distinct features or abilities such as being dishwasher-safe, exclusive grip design, and unique Granton style. You may even find some models with a full-tang design, sheath, or a self-sharpening ability.
In short, do not buy a knife that has them all. Think about what you actually need and choose the knife that has only those extra features. It will save you money.
How to sharpen a santoku?
A santoku usually does not have a bolster due to which it is easier to sharpen it than a chef knife. You can use a whetstone for sharpening a santoku, which gives a sharper edge and keeps the tool in spotless condition.
This stone is immersed in water for soaking and then used against the edge by first using its coarse side. It is essential to tilt the tool to the right angle and move it up and down smoothly. If the Santoku is double beveled, repeat the same steps on the other side too. Avoid using sharpening steel, as using it can harm the thin Japanese blade.
Are santokus dishwasher-safe?
Most santokus are meant for only hand wash. If it is safe to put in a dishwasher, the manufacturer’s description should reveal it.
What should I not cut using a santoku?
Santokus are proclaimed as the go-to tools for both cooks at homes and restaurants alike. The credit goes to its exclusive versatility in the form of three functions it can perform. This also saves you from spending lavishly on a big set of specialized knives. The best Santoku for you is the one that is comfortable, durable, and reliable to fulfill your identified requirements.
Hi, I am Jay. I am the creator of Knife Guides, your one-stop site for everything related to knives. I am a computer engineer by profession, knife aficionado by passion. Here I work with a group of people who’ve always had a passion for knives and blades. Over the years we’ve kind of become experts and decided to share our knowledge and ideas. I am also an avid hiker and enjoy offshore gamefishing.