Santoku knives are increasingly popular - often featured in cutlery stores and online cutlery marketplaces. But what makes the Santoku knife stand out? And should I be using it for all of my kitchen tasks?
Although not all Santoku knives are made in Japan, the design is inspired by Japanese cutlery. (Santoku means having 3 “values” or purposes: chopping, dicing and mincing). The knife is a cross between a cleaver and a short chef's knife, a versatile size for many cutting tasks.
Santoku knives are popular kitchen knives for several reasons:
Size - With a straighter edge and shorter than a traditional chef's knife (typically either a 5” or 7” blade with a blunted sheepsfoot-tip and a thinner spine), these knives are often perceived to be easier to hold and thus better to control. Although not necessarily true, they are still very useful for efficient chopping, dicing, and mincing. In addition, a true Japanese Santoku knife is perfectly balanced and generally lighter and thinner than Western-style versions, often using superior blade materials to provide a blade with exceptional qualities of hardness along with a thinner, sharper cutting edge.
Non-stick Quality - Most (but not all) Santoku knives feature dimples (scallop cut-outs) on each side of the blade above the edge in order to add “air” to the cutting surface, which in turn reduces resistance as the blade cuts through thick or starchy foods. ONLY if these dimples go right to the blade’s cutting edge could this feature be referred to as a Granton Edge. This is important because many knife manufacturers say their product has a Granton Edge when in fact they do not. A true Granton Edge has the dimples (scallop cut-outs) applied right to the cutting edge to give you both the keeness of a hollow ground razor coupled with the strength of an ordinary knife. The dimples make the blade sharper AND reduce drag when cutting food. While there is some truth to the fact that these dimples give the blade a non-stick quality, the real intent of the design was to allow for a much thinner cutting edge without reducing the integrity and rigidity of the blade (important to note: the blade can still be sharpened with any quality sharpening steel).
Multiple Abilities - the length and size of a sharp Santoku blade allow you many options - you can dice, chop, mince, cut, slice... making it a go-to for home food preparation (on the Rachael Ray Show this style of knife is often referred to as her favorite go-to knife for general use in the home kitchen).
So will Santoku Knives replace all of the other knives in my kitchen?
No, not quite - despite its versatility and ease of use, the Santoku knife cannot chop as efficiently as the common 8” chef’s knife, cannot serrate like a bread knife, nor can it be used for flexible tasks like boning a chicken or cleaning a fish. It also cannot be used for peeling or paring, because of the thickness and depth of the blade.
However, the Santoku can be added to your essential kitchen knives. Even if you love your chef's knife, you will end up grabbing your Santoku for more tasks than you expect! So choose a sharp, excellent quality, long-lasting Santoku knife. Some of our favorites include the Japanese-made Kikuichi 6.5" Warikomi Elite Gold Santoku Knife, with its ergonomic handle, and the Kikuichi Ice Hardened 6.5" Santoku, with Western-style handle and Ice Hardened Molybdenum blade - both admired by professional chefs for craftsmanship and design.
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