Knives are the backbone of any kitchen—the most basic tool for preparing food. I recently upgraded my knife collection. I’d had the same cheap knives I’d used since university and they simply weren’t cutting it anymore (ha!).
As I took a careful look at knife options, I kept seeing Santoku knives and decided to look more into this Japanese tool! I’m glad I did; my Santoku knife has been a great addition to my kitchen. Here’s what I learned about Santoku knives and how to find the best Santoku knife for value and performance.
Table of Contents
- Quick Comparison
- What is a Santoku Knife: Features and Benefits
- Considerations When Shopping for a Santoku Knife
- Product Reviews
- The Final Word
What is a Santoku Knife: Features and Benefits
- Most home cooks are familiar with the basic chef’s knife. Santoku knives are a similarly versatile kitchen tool that offer some differences to a chef’s knife. As the name suggests, Santoku knives are a traditional knife in Japan, and the name means “three uses,” referring to the knife’s primary functions of slicing, dicing, and mincing.
- The most distinctive feature of the Santoku knife is the shape of its “sheepsfoot” blade. In this design, the cutting edge of the knife is typically straight, and the dull upper edge curves down dramatically to the cutting edge. As a single-edge style knife, you can hold the top, dull edge of the knife with your fingers or palm of your hand to direct the cutting force.
- The Santoku’s flat edge means that the knife is more suited to a chopping motion, coming down on top of the food, rather than the rocking motion you employ with a curved-blade chef’s knife.
This video gives a quick overview of the difference in techniques:
Kullens reduce the knife’s weight. The typically thin blade of Santoku knives, thinner than the chef’s knife, also makes them lighter. The lightness of Santoku knives is often one of the factors that its enthusiasts praise.I enjoy using my Santoku knife when chopping up pretty much anything. The lightness makes it easy to maneuver and reduces fatigue if I’m doing a lot of knife work, and the broad blade also makes it easy to scoop up whatever I’ve chopped to put it into a bowl or pot. The razor thin edge makes the finest slices of any of my knives.
Considerations When Shopping for a Santoku Knife
There are some important points to consider when shopping for a Santoku knife. In fact, these are important factors when shopping for any knife!
- One term to get familiar with is “tang.” Tang is the part of the knife that continues into the handle. A full-tang is when this piece runs the length of the handle, and this is preferable to a half-tang, when the tang only goes partially into the handle. A full-tang is typically more balanced and will be less likely to break.
- Another important consideration in a knife’s construction is the blade’s material and whether it is forged or stamped. Most Western-style knives are made with high-carbon stainless steel. Santoku knives are typically made with a harder steel to accommodate the thinner, sharper edge, but this can cause the blade to chip more easily, especially if it comes into contact with bone, for example.
- A forged blade is one where the steel is pounded into shape, whereas a stamped blade is formed when the blade is cut out of a piece of steel, like a cookie with a cookie cutter.
This is something of a personal preference, but important to consider. Some knife handles are made of wood, some of plastic, and some of steel or metal. I find wood can get slippery when wet or oily, so I prefer a solid plastic handle.
Weight and Balance
- As discussed above, Santoku knives are often praised for their light weight. However, a good functioning knife will also have a good balance between the blade and the handle. A large knife like a Santoku should have a fairly equal balance between the blade and handle, so that the balance point is where these two parts meet.
- With any knife, it’s important to take good care of it. Most knives should be washed by hand, even if they claim to be dishwasher safe. You should also brush up on the how-tos of sharpening and straightening your knives.
There are a number of great options for Santoku knives at all price levels. Here’s a round up of some of the best options based on user reviews, consumer tests, and blog recommendations!
- Given the very reasonable price point of this Santoku knife, reviewers are completely wowed by the Mercer’s ability and quality. Some even note that this knife outperforms more expensive knives they own! Users praise the knife’s very sharp, thin blade and even weight.
- This knife features a Granton edge and a no-slip Santoprene handle—which is a polymer that is something between plastic and rubber. The blade is high carbon, forged stainless steel. The steel is German-engineered, but the knife is manufactured in Taiwan.
- Given its low price point, it does lack some of the finishing finesse of more expensive knives out there. For example, the upper end of the blade at the bolster is a bit thin, which may lead to discomfort if used for a very long period of time. But generally, it seems this is an excellent Santoku knife for the average home cook.
- Wusthof is a well-known German brand of knives with a great reputation. This knife is no exception.
- This Santoku has a Granton edge, although some users find that food still sticks to the blade. It is forged from high-carbon stainless steel and features Wusthof’s edge technology, ensuring a very sharp edge. The handle is a plastic-like synthetic material with an ergonomic design.
- Users praise the solid feel of this knife, the razor sharp blade, and its overall balance. At this price point, however, some cooks feel there are better options on the market.
- Global is a well-known Japanese knife manufacturer. They are easily recognizable with their distinctive dimpled stainless steel handles that create a seamless look with the blade of the knife.
- This 7-inch Santoku knife has some other interesting features such as a hollow handle that is weighted with sand. The sand shifts with the movement of the knife to create a continual even balance. The blade is made of a molybdenum/vanadium steel with a long taper that is said to keep its edge longer.
- Chefs praise this knife’s fine balance, extremely sharp blade, and compact handle that aids in maneuverability. Chefs with larger hands may find this knife to feel a bit dainty.
- Overall, though there are so few negative comments about this knife that it’s hard to point out any flaws. I suppose the biggest complaint is its high price, so I recommend looking around for deals if you’re in the market for a high-quality knife like this one.
- Overview: Victorinox is a Swiss-made brand that is best known for its Swiss army knives. They also offer an excellent budget line of kitchen knives, and this Santoku knife makes a great addition to their lineup.
- Like most of the other European-manufactured knives in this line-up, the Victorinox Santoku is made with a high-carbon stainless steel but is stamped, rather than forged. It also features a Granton edge, and a slip-resistant, ergonomic plastic “Fibrox” handle.
- For the price, this knife offers a great value. Many users find it to be very sharp and appreciate how no-slip the handle really is. I have a Victorinox bread knife and it has held up very well over about 10 years.
- Other users, however, find that this knife needs very frequent sharpening to maintain the sharpness expected of a Santoku. Some of my cook friends also find that the handle is too light and the knife doesn’t offer a good enough balance.
- Shun knives are made in Japan, and have become a popular choice in recent years. This particular knife is possibly the most beautiful in this round up featuring a unique hammered finish in the forged Damascus steel blade. It also has a highly polished wooden handle that is very comfortable to hold.
- Unlike many other knives with a Granton edge, users report that the hammered finish of this Shun knife actually does release the food from the edge. This knife also retains its sharp edge for a long time.
- The greatest drawback with this otherwise lovely knife is that is tends to chip easily. Some reviewers even mentioned that the blade shattered. Chipping can be an issue with the very fine edge of Santoku knives, but it seems that this is more common with the expensive Shun than other Santoku knives.
The Final Word
- As with many kitchen items, it’s difficult to decide on the best Santoku knife for every chef. And especially in the field of knives, the range of quality and price is so great that there is a lot of variation between these options.
- All of these Santoku knives get high marks from users. However, the Global G-48 is the best all-around option based on reviews and features.
- Aside from being a beautiful knife to look at, it is an excellent knife to hold and work with. A knife, above all, needs to cut well, and the Global slices through the competition on that point.
- I also love the feel of the Global in hand. The unique handle design really does make chopping up a lot of food feel effortless. The knife feels sturdy and well-built, like it will indeed last a lifetime.
- If the Global’s price point is out of reach, my value recommendation is the Mercer. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a Mercer Santoku in a friend’s kitchen, and it really did feel and perform like a much more expensive knife. Happy slicing!