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Santoku Vs. Chef Knife: Which is Best?

4 Mins read

When you are going about purchasing a knife for your kitchen, it can seem like a daunting task. There are many different shapes, sizes, steel differences, and use cases that you could consider. You will run into two of the most popular styles: the santoku knife and the chef knife. While both may serve to function in similar culinary realms, they do have their own unique differences and advantages. This article will provide an overview of these knives, their pros/cons, and a comparison of Santoku vs. chef knife, helping you make an informed decision.

What is a Chef Knife Used For

The standard chef knife is known as one of the most reliable styles of culinary blade within the food world. It is a workhorse knife that can be used for precise cuts and a high cutting volume. This style was adopted by Western culture and features an 8 to 12-inch blade with a sharp point and sloping curve. The shape of the knife is designed to be handled for precise cuts, while the sloping curve allows a rocking motion for the speedy processing of ingredients. 

A chef knife is very versatile, as it is designed to be used for a longer period of time. They are generally easier to sharpen using a whetstone and can hold an edge for an extended time. Chef knives can score meat, break down root vegetables and brunoise carrots. They are the ideal kitchen knife for anyone in the food world and can be used in endless ways. 

Chef's knife slicing meat

Pros and Cons of The Chef Knife

Pro: Versatile knife that can be used in endless culinary applications. Easy to maintain and work with.

Pro: Designed to last for a long time, making them ideal for anyone who works in a kitchen.

Pro: Built to be comfortable and adopts easier knife grips. Easy to hold and balanced well for motions such as rocking and chopping. 

Con: Chef knives could be better for bones and butchery. They are lightweight and therefore do not offer enough gravity to withstand such hard surfaces.

Con: It can offer lesser grips than a more thoughtfully designed knife. They can be used for precise cuts, but there are better options.

Some Chef Knives To Try

  • The WÜSTHOF 6″ Chef knife is ideal for someone looking for a first of this kind. A German blade that is suited for all cutting types, this knife is the standard chef knife that will perform well and last a long time. 
WÜSTHOF Classic 6” Chef’s Knife
WÜSTHOF Classic 6” Chef’s Knife
  • The Shun Cutlery Classic 8″ Chef Knife is a Western-style blade that uses Japanese stainless steel to create a high-performing knife. The handle of this knife is D-shaped, allowing for a more comfortable grip and just all-around great performance. 
Shun Classic Chef's Knife 8”
Shun Classic Chef’s Knife 8″
  • The Victorinox 8″ Chef Knife is an affordable version of the Chef knife discussed above. It may not be made as well as the two options above, but it will still get the job done for large amounts of cutting in your kitchen. 
Victorinox Rosewood 8-Inch Chef's Knife
Victorinox Rosewood 8-Inch Chef’s Knife

What is a Santoku Knife Used For

The Santoku knife is a Japanese-style knife that is widely popular among chefs. This knife’s name translates into “three virtues,” which is to signify the three functions it is used for slicing, chopping, and mincing. This knife was designed to be very precise in these three functions and is meant for a more accurate cut when you use it. 

Santoku knives are generally only sharpened on one side of the blade, offering a more precise cut. This also means, though, that sharpening this blade is more difficult, as well as overall maintenance. The Santoku is generally lighter in design and smaller than a chef knife, with a 6 to 7-inch blade. The cutting tip is rounded, and the edge is much flatter, allowing precision for the person using it. 

Needless to say, santoku knives are amazing tools for cooks who are trained to use them. A newcomer to cooking may need to gain the skills required to use this knife effectively and the necessary food level to warrant the purchase. But a santoku knife’s precision and cutting ability is excellent, and it is used by chefs of the highest caliber worldwide. 

Santoku knife slicing a carrot

Pros and Cons of The Santoku Knife

Pro: Highly precise knife used for chopping, mincing, and slicing. 

Pro: Build is made to allow more precise knife cuts by more experienced cooks.

Pro: One-sided sharpened blade that gives the user better-cutting power. 

Con: It can be hard to maintain and use for the general cook.

Con: Not a workhorse knife; if you are not using it for the three functions needed, another knife will be required. 

Some Santoku Knives To Try

  • The WÜSTHOF 7″ Classic Santoku Knife is a stainless steel santoku style knife perfect for those wanting to try out this style. The handle is made with a Western style, offering a familiar grip for the more advanced blade type.
WÜSTHOF Classic 7" Santoku Knife
WÜSTHOF Classic 7″ Santoku Knife
  • The Shun 7″ Santoku Knife is well-made with Japanese steel. It also offers a Japanese-style handle for the maximum santoku-cutting experience. This is a knife that, with the right care, will last a long time and perform very precisely.
Shun Premier 7" Santoku Knife
Shun Premier 7″ Santoku Knife
  • The Victorinox Rosewood Santoku Knife is another affordable version by the brand of a generally useful knife. This knife offers a large, rosewood ergonomic handle for easy cutting and is a great first choice for trying this blade style with little commitment. 
Victorinox Santoku 7-Inch Knife
Victorinox Rosewood Santoku 7-Inch Knife

Santoku Vs. Chef Knife: Pick the Knife Best For You

The chef knife and santoku knife both have their uses and advantages when it comes to kitchen work. Your decision should depend on the use case you have for a knife. If you are looking to process a large amount of ingredients with a dependable blade, the chef knife is your best choice. If you are looking for a more precise cutting tool that does require more skill and care, then the Santoku blade is your best bet. 

Santoku vs. Chef Knife
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About author
Ray Delucci is a chef and content creator with over 10 years of experience in the restaurant industry. He has worked managing restaurants, in food manufacturing and food product development. He is also the creator of Line Cook Thoughts, a podcast and social media brand focused on sharing the thoughts of everyday cooks in the food world. He is currently located in the Greater Chicago Area.
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