What Is A Santoku Knife? The Roots Of This Japanese Kitchen Tool

If you're in the market for high-quality kitchen utensils, your knife choice is a great place to start. Maybe you've been searching but don't have a clear understanding of what makes one knife different from another. Or maybe if after watching Rachel Ray's cooking show you were still left asking yourself, "what is a Santoku Knife?" then this article is for you. If you're serious about making the right choice, don't leave this page until we reveal the truth about your cutting options, what you must look for in selecting the most appropriate knife for the task, and what makes a Santoku knife an ideal addition to your cooking repertoire.

What Is A Santoku Knife?

So, what exactly is a Santoku knife and why should you be interested? The Santoku knife, pronounced "San-toe-koo" is an all-purpose kitchen knife that originated in Japan. The name derives from a Japanese term that means "three virtues." The significance of the name is that this all-purpose knife is believed to be a great choice for three different food cutting tasks: chopping, dicing, and mincing. That means you can use it with meats, veggies, or fine foods. Its wide blade makes it perfect for daily home use.

Design Of A Santoku Knife

One of the most significant aspects of this knife is its design. The Santoku is noted for its rounded tip and short, wide blade, which usually ranges between 5-7 inches in length. It has a thin spine which is a common feature of the sharpest knives. The ergonomic design of the handle is strategically set to make this knife easy to grip and operate, even for a non-professional cook. The blade of the knife also has noticeable indentions called grantons, which are helpful in keeping food from sticking to the blade while it's being sliced.

Price Range

Before jumping in head first, you should know the Santoku knife comes in a range of options. Depending on various differences, the price of an individual Santoku Knife can range on average from $ up to $$$ or more. As the quality increases, so does the price. Obviously, if you're just starting out, we wouldn't recommend that you purchase a $200 knife.

Different Types Of Santoku Knives

So why the price difference? These knives are made from a variety of materials. Some Santoku knives are made of high carbon steel. If this is your preference, it is worth noting that usage of high carbon steel tends to make these knives heavier. The other concern about the high carbon material is that it is prone to rust if not cleaned and dried sufficiently after use. While it looks sleek, this knife will also require regular sharpening. Another option is the lightweight ceramic blade. This variety tends to last longer and won't need to be sharpened as often.

What Is A Santoku Knife Best Used For?

Answering the question, "what is a Santoku Knife best used for?" really depends on what you enjoy cooking. As we've already mentioned, this all-purpose knife can be used for just about any food. If you're vegan and want to slice veggies like thin carrot sticks or finely chopped onions, this knife will work well. Additionally, if you want to chop boneless chicken and add it to your chicken burrito, this is also a great choice. Without question, this knife is also the go-to for slicing and dicing fresh fruit or even fish.


The best chopping technique for using the Santoku Knife is in an up and down motion. This knife is especially useful in chopping nuts and other hard foods, and can even nimbly handle butternut squash.


When it comes to dicing your favorite vegetables, the Santoku Knife is sure to get the job done thoroughly. Its uniformly wide blade makes it perfect for the task.


Slicing herbs is a snap with the Santoku Knife. Its ability to perform precise cuts makes it the ideal tool for slicing even the finest of foods and herbs.

Are Santoku Knives Good For Cutting Meat?

chopping board with knife and meat

image source: flickr.com

What is a Santoku knife good for, if not cutting meat? Of course, Santoku knives are good for cutting meat. The versatility of this knife makes it good for cutting or chopping boneless meats and even poultry. Its original design was created during a time when Japanese families were adding more meat to their diets. So, they created this knife specifically for use with beef, chicken, and fish.

Do You Really Need A Santoku Knife?

knife and tomato

image source: pexels.com

If you're still confused about whether you really need a Santoku Knife, maybe this will help shed a little light on the matter. Most chefs prefer a range of knives because of the different cutting methods. They may select a specific knife for paring, one for slicing, one for serrating, and more. This is great, but you must realize these professional tools can be expensive.

The truth is, however, that most people really don't need such a diverse collection of knives. Really, the Santoku knife is ideal for so many tasks, that it will become your knife of choice. It is your workhorse of kitchen utensils and will be your go-to for chopping, slicing, and dicing.

Santoku Knife Vs A Chef's Knife

If you're familiar with the chef's knife, then you may notice the similarities in the style between it and the Santoku. Quite honestly, the Santoku Knife is very much like the chef's knife. In fact, it is considered the Japanese equivalent of the chef's knife. The design is similar, and its usage is also similar. They are both known for their versatility, comfort, balance, blade shape, and blade material, which are the most important elements in choosing professional cooking tools. So if they are so much alike, what is a Santoku knife good for if you already have a chef's knife?


One of the first differences between these two knives is their size. Typically, the Santoku Knife ranges from 5-7 inches in length and is smaller than the chef's knife, which ranges from 8-10 inches. If the size is important, just what is a Santoku knife sized for? While the 7-inch Santoku is most common, this knife generally comes in two sizes. Usage of the smaller knife is geared toward small to medium cutting tasks, while the larger size is for standard jobs.


Upon first glance, the blade of these two knives can appear to be very similar. However, closer examination will reveal noticeable differences. The Santoku blade has a rounded tip, while the tip of the chef's knife is pointed. As already mentioned, the blade length of the chef's knife is on average 3-5 inches longer than the Santoku. Both commonly have grantons along the blade. The biggest consideration when it comes to blade shape is the type and precision of cuts the knife is capable of achieving.


Another area that sets these all-purpose knives apart from one another is their weight. In most cases, the Santoku Knife is not only lighter, but it tends to be thinner and shorter than the chef's knife. A lighter weight knife means it can be easier to grasp, maneuver, and perform precise cuts, especially for those with smaller hands.


The Santoku Knife is known for its precision. One element that is worth considering when discussing usage is the bevel. The standard angle of the blade or bevel of the Santoku is 15 degrees. However, when it comes to the chef's knife, the average bevel angle is 30 degrees. What this means for you is that a single bevel or smaller angle can produce a more precise cut. So, if your recipe calls for a thinly sliced meat, the Santoku may be your best choice for the job because it is more efficient in achieving the desired cut.


Just like a car or anything you desire to keep in great working order, a high-quality knife requires proper care. When it comes to your Santoku and the chef's knife, neither should be placed in a dishwasher. These knives should be hand-washed and thoroughly dried after usage. You may even want to store them separately as to maintain the brilliance and sharpness of the blade. The biggest difference you will encounter in terms of proper care of these knives comes with sharpening requirements. The single blade of the Santoku generally does not require sharpening as often as the double blade of the chef's knife.


Now, answering the question, "What is a Santoku knife?" should be easy-peasy for you. Do you desire a professional kitchen tool that may cost a bit more than your average utensils, but can serve multiple purposes? Or, are you willing to settle for the standard bundled knife set and take your chances? If you're a budding chef or the chef of your household, gaining this understanding of kitchen knife types and quality can help you make the best decision on what you need and why. The Santoku knife holds great potential for taking your culinary skills to the next level if you are ready.

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