Who Uses Santoku Knives and Why?



Santoku means “three virtues” in Japan where Santoku knives originate. The three virtues in this case refer to the three tasks the Santoku knife was meant to perform: slicing, dicing and mincing.

Santoku knives can most closely be compared to western Chefs knives and are used in similar situations. The Santoku is generally shorter and lighter than the Chef’s knife, although both are offered in a variety of sizes. The blades themselves are thinner and less pointed at the tip than the Western Chef’s knife. Some have compared it to a narrow cleaver and like it for its full blade usage.


Santoku knives come in multiple sizes, most typically five to eight inches. The non-cutting edge is flat, while the cutting edge is what’s known as a Sheep’s foot blade which curves in resulting in a near 60-degree tip. The top of the handle aligns with the top or flat edge, of the blade.

The “Sheep’s foot” tip provides a more linear cutting edge than a Chef’s knife which limits “rocking” motion. Instead users of Santoku knives find “chopping” motions more successful. This knife depends on a firm downward cut, even traveling from heel to tip, rather than the other way around as is the habit of many using Chef’s knives.

The Santoku is considered one of the most well-balanced Japanese knives. The blade is designed to match the handle and tang both in width and in weight, allowing them to work in perfect harmony.


Western kitchen knives have a sharpness or blade angle of 40 to 45 degrees. Japanese knives typically differ in that they sharpen to a chisel tip. In other words they are sharpened to a much sharper degree on one side where Western knives feature bilateral cutting edges. Santoku knives are a hybrid; they have incorporated the Western bilateral edge but maintained the Japanese traditional 12 to 15 degree blade angle.

To maintain this sharp an edge, hardened steel is a critical ingredient of all Japanese cutlery-corner38knives, including the Santoku. The helps maintain the sharpness and mitigate blade rolling. Of course, hardened and very thin steel has a higher risk of chipping, so proper storage and care is even more important with these fine knives.

Santoku knives, therefore, maintain their sharpness longer so require less maintenance than Western knives. Western knives are easier to sharpen for the average user, which is good because they’ll have to be sharpened more often.

Like its western counterpart the Chef’s knife, the Santoku is used for a general variety of tasks. Its design makes it especially useful for thinly slicing vegetables. It’s often preferred by professional and home chefs with smaller hands, because its weight and size fit them better. Beginners may also prefer Santoku knives for this reason.

Special Santoku Knives

Special knives made from San Mai laminated steels feature the artful suminargashi designs like those found in Damascus steel knives. These knives are among the strongest and hardest while maintaining their hard and sharp edges. These expensive laminated blades are considered amongst the finest in Japanese cutlery.

Santoku-style knives are manufactured all over the world today. One trend seen in non-Japanese Santokus is the small recesses along the side of the blade like in carving knives. These are an attempt to decrease food sticking to the knife by providing these small air pockets. Manufacturing constraints defer to softer metals in order to mass produce these knives, where the Japanese versions have instead relied on quality steel and more extreme sharpness angles to make clean cuts.

Today you can find Santoku knives in all sizes and prices. The price will depend on the quality of steel used, how it is assembled and whether or not in contains a full tang. Like all good knives, store it properly, have it professionally sharpened occasionally and hand wash it and it should last for many years.

Kim Brockman writes about buying and caring for kitchen knives along with nutritional information for the blog at Block Knife Sets , where most the knife sets featured contain Santoku knives. A high-quality single 7″ Santoku knife can be found in the Hanaita section.

Article Source: Who Uses Santoku Knives and Why?

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