Santoku vs Chef's Knife: What makes them different?

Knives on a cutting board Ask any chef or dedicated home cook what he considers his most important kitchen tool and almost certainly the answer would be "my knife." Because it's such a vital kitchen implement, there is a...

Knives on a cutting board
Knives on a cutting board

Ask any chef or dedicated home cook what he considers his most important kitchen tool and almost certainly the answer would be "my knife." Because it's such a vital kitchen implement, there is a wide variety of knives on the market--from cleavers to paring knives, to chef's knives, bread knives and fillet knives--the list goes on.

One type of knife that has recently gained a lot of popularity in the west is the santoku knife. Originating in Japan, the santoku gets its name for the Japanese word for "three virtues", referring to the three cutting methods it is best used for: slicing, dicing and mincing. It is therefore a very versatile, all-around knife that can be used for cutting meat, fish, fruits, vegetables and other foods.

What makes a santoku knife different from a traditional western-style chef's knife?

1. Shorter, thinner blade

Most santoku knives are about 5 to 7 inches in length, shorter than a chef's knife which is generally about 8 to 10 inches long. They are also thinner, but made of harder steel. This makes santoku knives lighter, easier to control and handier for slicing, chopping and mincing.

2. Flat blade with a straight cutting edge

Unlike chef's knives which have a high point and a curved blade, the santoku's cutting edge is relatively straight, with just a slight curve upwards towards the point. This blade design makes the santoku ideal for an up-and-down cutting motion, in contrast to the rocking movement typically used with a western chef's knife.

3. Granton edge

Many (though not all) santokus have a granton edge. These are scallops or dimples near the blade which not only make the knife lighter, but also provide less friction when cutting through food, and. This feature aids in separating slices, and is especially useful for foods that tend to stick to knives such as cheese or watery vegetables like cucumbers or zucchini.

Whether you favor a western style chef's knife or a santoku is generally a matter of personal preference. Cilantro The Cooks Shop carry an array of Santoku as well as other knives for you to choose from.