Santoku Knife Vs. Chef Knife: The Difference

Pros, cons and why your next knife should be a Santoku knife

Santoku knives and chef knives look similar in both form and function, it’s not surprising that many people wonder if they are in fact the same tool. Much like a chef knife, the Santoku is a general-purpose knife. Both knives are versatile and applicable to a variety of cutting tasks. In fact, they are so similar that the Santoku is often considered the Japanese version of the Western-style chef knife.

While these two cutting tools have gained popularity due to their exceptional performance on the job, there’s a lot that separates them. Neither knife is perfect and each have their own pros and cons depending on the job they’re used for.

Santoku Knife Vs. Chef Knife: The Difference

SANTOKU KNIFE HISTORY, FEATURES AND BENEFITS

Chances are that you’ve come across an all-purpose kitchen knife that features hollowed-out indentations on the edge of its blade. Most people often mistake this knife for the typical chef knife due to the numerous similarities that exist between them. However, a Santoku knife is not the same as a chef knife.

The Santoku knife originates from Japan and was originally created for home cooks who wanted to prepare Western-style cuisine. For Japanese cooks, the Santoku knife is the equivalent of the chef knife. The tool typically measures anywhere between 5.1- and 7.9-inches in length.

The direct translation of santoku is “three virtues,” or “three uses”. This single knife can effectively dice, chop and mince a variety of foods. This makes it a versatile tool to always have close at hand.

Scalloped edges for fine slicing

Every feature on the Santoku knife is designed with a purpose. The scalloped Granton edges (named after the first company to create them) provides air between the blade and the material being cut. This allows the knife to easily release foods which normally stick to blades during slicing. This key feature allows for precise and fine slicing, especially with delicate foods.

Better ergonomics mean greater comfort

The Santoku knife is designed with no bolster (the thick junction between the handle and the blade and provides a smooth transition), which allows you to use the full length of the blade. Santoku knives have a light weight, delicate balance and come with a thin handle that delivers a comfortable and well-balanced grip. Individuals with smaller hands also tend to find it comfortable and more convenient to use than a traditional chef knife.

If you typically cut a lot of fruit and vegetables, you can use the Santoku knife for a long duration of time without feeling fatigued. Its compact and lightweight design coupled with its great weight distribution makes this all-purpose knife one of the most versatile cutting tools you’ll use. It’s for these reasons that the knife has become extremely popular outside of Japan in recent years.

Lighter weight for cutting larger quantities

Its lightweight nature makes the tool great for cutting or chopping large quantities of fruit and vegetables, in addition to the fine cutting of fish, boneless meat, poultry and more. Its thin blade allows you to cut precisely, without exerting much force. Overall, the Santoku knife is built to give you more control over cutting, slicking and peeling.

How do you use a Santoku knife? 

With a Santoku knife, all you need to do is just push the edge of the knife in a quick, downward motion, no rocking needed. Many Japanese cooks use this way of cutting: forward and backward strokes or a straight up and down chop.

Comparison between a Santoku and chef knife

The key differences between a Santoku and a chef knife are:

Santoku Knife

Chef Knife

Size

5 - 7 inches

8 - 10 inches

Blade

Hollowed-out indentations
Easier to release food

Broad, tapered shape

Best Uses

Downward movement and
forward / backward motions

Faster, thinner, precision slicing and
peeling with easy food release


Delicate foods, eg. fruits, soft vegetables,
seafood, chicken and cheeses


Ideal for smaller hands

Rocking motion technique or
“rock chop”

Thicker slicing for heavier food
types and disjointing meats


Denser meats, fruits
and root vegetables



Good for all sized hands

Weight

Lighter

Heavier




Disadvantages of a Santoku knife

As you can see in the comparison above, while a Santoku knife is very useful for faster, delicate and precision cutting, it starts reaching its limits with heavier meats and harder vegetables. Although technically it could also cut through these types of foods, it may not be as efficient than using a larger and sturdier chef knife or meat cleaver.

Which knife do you prefer -- Santoku or chef knife?

 

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