Santoku knives are a type of general purpose knife from Japan. The word “santoku”roughly translates to “three virtues” or “three uses” in English, which is a reference to the knife’s three main purposes of slicing, dicing, and mincing. These are the three main tasks the Santoku performs particularly well.
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The “sheep’s foot” design draws the spine of the knife down to the tip of the blade with minimal clearance above the cutting plane when the blade is sitting from the heel to the front of the blade. This all provides a more linear cutting edge and minimal rocking travel. The difference is especially noticeable when Santokus are compared to other cutting knives.
The flat edge sheep’s foot blade is usually around 13–20 centimeters in length and curves in a 60° angle at the point. The handle and blade are measured and weighed harmoniously to maximize efficiency and technique in order to enhance the knife’s usage. By balancing the weight and width of the handle with the weight of the blade tang, the knife sits comfortably in the hand, enhancing its performance.
The shape of the knife ensures that, while it can be used with a rocking motion, there is minimal contact with surfaces. This prevents the knife from blunting. The extreme radius of the knife’s tip and the minimal tip travel ensures that surface contact is kept to a minimum.
The Santoku is a shorter, thinner and lighter knife than Western style knives. It is also more hardened than Western knives. This compensates for the thinness, meaning that it is also a very durable knife. Most classic Western kitchen knives will have a blade angle of 40° to 45°.
Japanese knives often have a chisel tip, which is sharpened on one side, and have a more extreme angle of around 10°–15° degrees. See this post for more information about knife angles.
Santoku knives incorporate elements of the Western design in that they feature a bilateral cutting edge. However, they incorporate an extreme shoulder angle of 12° to 15°, similar to traditional Japanese knives.
The extra hardness of the Santoku knife is essential. It retains the edges of the knife and lessens a rolling motion on the cutting edge. But the harder and thinner steel of the Santoku knife is more likely to chip against hard or abrasive surfaces, such as bones. Western style knives use a softer kind of steel and have more material behind them, which makes them less likely to chip.
An average user of, say, a German style cutting knife will find it easier to sharpen the knife. However, if used correctly, a Santoku knife will retain its shape naturally for much longer than a German-style knife. Typically, Santoku knives have no bolster and sometimes have “scalloped” sides. These are “kullens,” which maintain a uniform thickness from the spine down the blade.
Some Santoku knives incorporate laminated steels, known as “San Mai.,” It has a suminagashi pattern, which refers to a similarity with the blade’s multi-layered, damascened steel alloy and the Japanese art of marbled paper. Laminated stainless steel cladding is used on the best Santoku knives as it improves strength and deters rust development. It also maintains the strength of the cutting edge. These are more expensive, higher quality Santoku knives.
What’s the Difference Between a Santoku Knife and a General Purpose Chef’s Knife?
The chef’s knife, which is also a popular all-purpose tool in any kitchen, was originally designed for disjointing large cuts of meat and beef. However, it has become a general use knife in most kitchens over time, as it is now used for slicing, dicing, chopping, and more – similarly to the santoku knife. Chef knives come in two main styles, one from France and one from Germany. French chef knives have a straight edge with a slight curve at the tip of the blade. German chef knives curve along the entirety of the blade. Obviously, these are both very different designs than santoku knives.
It’s important to note that neither one of these knives is necessarily better or more efficient than the other. They both perform similar tasks. They just have different designs and styles that may suit a particular chef better than another. The best way to determine which one is right for you is to test them out. Hold each in your hand and see which feels better. If possible, try chopping or slicing with each as well to see which performs better, in your opinion. Then decide from there. Both will be very useful and a great addition to your cookware arsenal, it just depends on your personal style of cooking when it comes to determining which style is right for you.
Why it’s worth the money
While these knives are generally expensive, due to their quality and design outlined above, they are certainly worth the money. The serious chef may be wondering, “what are the best Santoku knives you can buy for the money?”
The best Santoku knife for the money
The Aikar Multi-Purpose Santoku Knife is one of the best on the market in terms of quality and price. It is made with high quality Japanese stainless steel and a 71-layered Damascus blade. It’s an extremely durable knife, with a hand-hammered finish to reduce drag when cutting.
The Aikar’s ergonomic handle sits very comfortably in the hand, matching the natural curves of the palm. This means that it will suit a wide range of different grips for different users, and for the different foods being cut.
The sharpness and finish of the knife prevents food from sticking to the blade when in use. This all translates to finely sliced, diced or minced items, all with minimal effort.
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If you’re looking for a quality Santoku knife but are wary of the high prices, look no further than the Aikar Multi-Purpose Santoku. It’s a high-quality Santoku knife at nearly half the price of other similar models.
Second Best Santoku Knife Option
If you’re looking for some variety, look no further than the DALSTRONG Santoku Knife. This piece of cookware comes equipped with a 7-inch razor sharp, hand polished blade made out of imported high carbon steel. It is polished down to 18 degrees per side with the distinctive hollow divets that prevent stuck on food and make santoku knives so appealing in general.
This knife also has a very ergonomic handle, which will allow you to maneuver your cuts and slices with ease. It’s also make out of hand crafted pakkawood, giving a sophisticated touch to your knife set.
With an overwhelming majority of 5 star reviews online and DALSTRONG’s 100% satisfaction guarantee or your money back, this is a great runner up to Aikar’s santoku knife.
Of course, you may be on a budget with your cookware and need something a little more affordable than the two options above. In this case, give the Kyocera Advanced Ceramic Revolution Series 5 ½ inch Santoku Knife a shot. This thin, yet impressive, blade is perfect for thin slicing of fruits, vegetables, meats, and more – great for a home kitchen.
This is the only knife on the list that is made out of ceramic, but there are some very attractive advantages to using a blade crafted out of this material. Ceramic doesn’t rust, and also resists erosion from acids, oils, salt, and more. It also never alters food’s taste or absorbs any of the flavor, like steel might.
It’s also important to note that this ceramic knife is about half the weight of its steel counterparts, so if that’s a concern for you, ceramic is the way to go. It’s lightweight blade is also helpful for larger projects that require loads of slicing and cutting, putting less pressure on your hand and arm.
People also claim that ceramic stays sharp for 10 times longer than conventional blades, but of course, that depends on how well you take care of your knives generally, no matter what the material. Kyocera’s knife is hand wash only, and is perfect for the economic home kitchen.
If you want an awesome combination of value and performance, check out the Victorinox Santoku Knife. It’s cheaper price comes from its stamped granton blade. Because it’s stamped, the knife lighter than most of its counterparts, but some chefs believe that a stamped knife isn’t as high quality as a forged knife.
The main difference here is that a forged knife is made out of a singular bar of steel which is then heated, carved, and pounded into shape. A stamped knife is cut out from a large sheet of steel instead. With the advancement of machinery and technology, there really isn’t much difference in the quality of the blade anymore. However, forged knives are still more expensive because they require more time and labor to make.
The blade of the Victorinox santoku knife is also unique in that it combines the styles of a cleaver and a chef knife in its design, allowing it to also be used as a spatula to group and move whatever you are cutting. The knife also features a handle made of patented slip-resistant material, ensuring against any potential injuries or accidents.
With a lifetime warranty, this is a great purchase that is definitely worth the price.
High End Options
Want to go all out and invest in the best santoku knives money can buy? Check out the Zelite Infinity 7-Inch Alpha Royal Santoku Knife to start. This knife has a fully forged blade with full tang. Full tang knives are attractive (and worth the money) because they’re made from one piece of metal that is sandwiched in between the handle material and riveted through for added security, making the entire knife one cohesive cutting machine. These tend to be the strongest and most durable options on the market.
Aside from its tang, the blade is made from 67 layer high carbon Japanese stainless steel and it is tempered with liquid nitrogen to enhance performance and durability. Customers also say they’ve never received a blade so sharp upon opening the package. On the aesthetic side, the blade is decorated with a tsunami Damascus rose pattern, and really stands out as a centerpiece to the cutlery of any kitchen.
The Zelite knife’s handle has a tapered bolster design, making it ergonomic and comfortable. It is also moisture, heat, and impact resistant, which is great for a busy kitchen. It also comes in a beautiful box, making it a perfect gift for a fellow chef in your life (or a nice treat for yourself!)
Another awesome high-end pick is Kubu Professional’s 7-Inch Santoku Hammered Chef Knife. Its blade is also forged, but each is hammered and forged by hand, giving a personal touch to every knife. Each blade is made out of high quality carbon steel that is as durable as it is effective.
In terms of its handle, it is also heat and moisture resistant, making this knife dishwasher safe (a major plus for home kitchens). It is also ergonomically designed with the chef in mind, with smooth contours and comfortable material.
Like the Zelite, this knife comes basically gift wrapped for you. It comes in a gift box and a velvet bag to boost, and also includes a customized acacia wooden sheath guard with your purchase. Kubu has a satisfaction guarantee with a one year unlimited warranty as well, making this an awesome purchase for yourself or a loved one and a high-end addition to any kitchen.
For more recommendations on great knives, see my post on the best knife set for . You can learn about how to keep your knife razor sharp with this discussion of the best electric knife sharpeners of 2016.
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