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Santoku vs Chef’s Knife: Which is Better and what’s the Difference?

If you’re a cooking aficionado, you’d know that a lot of the cooking time goes over the pre-cooking prepping to be done so that you can create your next culinary master piece. At the same time, you’d also understand that the said prepping can be quite a time consuming activity and the right tools make a world of difference.

The first step towards this is to identify the right equipment depending upon your requirement. One of the more recent debate topics among culinary hobbyists and professionals has been about Santoku vs the Chef Knife and which one should be picked as the faithful tool to be summoned during times of need.

Though the design looks quite similar, there are a couple of differences when you compare the Santoku knife with the Chef knife. However, before we move on and elaborate on these differences, let us understand a little more about these knives, and which should be bought separately, or with a complete set.


The Chef’s Knife

A chef’s knife, though originally used for slicing meat, is used as a multi utility knife by most these days. It is said that this knife originated in Europe and made its way around the globe. Traditionally, the chef knife comes with an 8 inch long and 1.5 inch wide blade (they aren’t small) which is made from carbon steel, stainless steel or ceramic.  It’s usually the staple of any cook in the kitchen, along with other cooking essentials.

It is to be mentioned here that there are smaller chef knives available in the market to cater to all requirements. The chef’s knife can be easily identified thanks to the upward curving blade which forms the sharp tip and makes you use the rocking motion while chopping. . The presence of high blade allows you to hold the vegetable or fruit being chopped without worrying about cutting yourself.

The Santoku Knife

This knife, as can be identified from the name, has an Asian origin and comes from Japan. The literal meaning of the term is “three virtues” or “three uses”.The name in itself suggests that this is a multi-utility knife that can be used for slicing, mincing and dicing.

The standard Santoku knife comes with a 6 to 7 inch long blade and has a sheep’s foot curved end. Santoku’s identifying feature appears to be the dimpled grooves on the edge of the blade that helps to dice and separate the pieces easily without the slices sticking onto the blade. Traditionally, these knives are hand made from steel though the more modern variations come in stainless steel and ceramic as well.

Comparing the Two

Chef's Knife

Now that that’s covered, let us find out why Chef’s knife and Santoku knife are pitted against one another and what the major differences between these knives are:

1. Size

The chef’s knife is the more formidable looking knife with the 6 inch to 12 inch blades, sharpened tip and heavy feel and appears to be a preferred choice of professional chefs.

On the other hand, the longest Santoku knife will have a blade anywhere from 5 inch to 8 inch long and is lighter to hold and work with. Now you know why this knife a popular choice with professional chefs and home cooks alike. It is said that Santoku knives are preferred by female chefs in professional kitchens thanks to the ease with which it can be handled.

2. Design of the knives

The chef’s knife has a curved edge that taper towards the end to give it a sharp edge. The blade’s upward curve gives this knife its sharp tip which in turn makes it a good tool for complicated cutting and slicing of vegetables, cheese and meat.

The Santoku knife comes with a blade that has the same width across its plane and a slight curve towards the edge of the knife. This unique design allows Santoku knife to be picked as the go-to tool for delicate slicing.

3. Purpose of the knifes

The chef’s knife normally is used for cutting or disjointing meat, cutting and dicing vegetables and fruits, slicing cheese and chopping nuts. Chef’s knife allows you to chop vegetables safely and quickly which contributes to its popularity in the professional kitchens.

The Santoku knife can be used for dicing, mincing or chopping but shines when used to get delicate and almost translucent slices of your favorite vegetable or meat. Any cutting job involving slicing can be easily carried out efficiently using this knife. Additionally, as the name suggests, Santoku knife can also be used to dice vegetables, mince meat, and chop herbs and slicing cheese.

4. Presence of bolster

The chef’s knife normally comes with bolster, the gap between knife blade and handle, which allows it to be used for quick and safe slicing and chopping. The presence of bolster allows you to hold the ingredient without the risk of accidental cuts while chopping.

The traditional Santoku knives normally do not have a bolster and allow for wide and even slicing. However, having said that, this also means that you have to be extra careful while using this knife. The more modern versions of Santoku have considered this risk and has incorporated bolster to allow safe use.

5. Weight of the knife

The Chef’s knife is normally made from steel or stainless steel and has a weightier feel.  The knife design as well as the blade length and size allows for a thicker spine and adds to the knife’s weight.

Santoku knife blades are normally handmade from thinner steel that allows it to be the lightweight cousin of chef’s knife. The thinner blade also allows Santoku knife to be used for precise and delicate slicing work.

6. Technique used

While using a chef’s knife, the rocking motion is used where the blade is rocked forward after eat cut is completed. The curved blade helps with the back and forth rocking motion and helps to quickly and efficiently cut through the ingredients.

Santoku knife, on the other hand allows you to chop or slice ingredients using a single downward cut without accompanying rocking motion. When it comes to getting really thin slices for your dish, it is suggested that this method works better.

7. Knife sharpening

Chef’s knife can be sharpened to 15 to 20 degrees on both sides as most Chef’s knives have bevel on both sides. You can use whetstone or honing steel to sharpen a Chef’s knife. However, it can be a time consuming activity and would require attention, particularly so due to the presence of bolster.

On the other hand, Santoku knife can be sharpened to 10 to 15 degrees. It is comparatively easier to sharper Santoku knife due to the single side bevel and the absence of bolster. Using whetstone is the most effective sharpening technique for these knives. You would do well to not use honing steel as it may damage this knife’s thinner blade.

Our Favorites

Zelite Infinity 8 inch chef knife:

This knife is made of Japanese AUS 10 Super steel and boasts of 67 layer high carbon stainless steel. The nitrogen tempered blade ensures that you can use this knife for quite a while without worrying about staining, rusting and sharpening concerns. The 3 step Honbazuke method ensures that this chef’s knife is as sharp as a razor and will make your cutting and dicing work effortless. The handle has been built to be sturdy and easily graspable and allows you to get the rocking motion chopping mastered in no time.

This knife has been vouched for by hobby cooks and professional chefs alike thanks to its performance and durability. Though slightly on the pricier side, lifetime warranty definitely sweetens the deal and makes it a worthwhile purchase.

ZWILLING J.A. Henckels 30749-183 TWIN Signature Hollow Edge Santoku Knife:

This 7 inch stainless steel Santoku knife is one of the popular Santoku knives in market. Its special formula high carbon no rust steel blade, the easy to hold and use handle and superior slicing performance has made this an instant favorite with the crowds. The ice hardened Friodur blade ensures that the knife is long lasting.

Though lightweight, as most Santoku knives are, this isn’t allowed to compromise this knife’s strength and resilience. This German made Santoku knife comes with a warranty that covers any product issues resulting from defective materials and/or craftsmenship and you can be rest assured about the product quality.

Brands to look for:

Some of the other popular Chefs knife brands include Dalstrong, Zen’s Spirit and Shan Zu Pro Chef’s knives.

As for Santoku knives, Enso HD, Zelite Infinity, Dalstrong and Victorinox stock Santoku knives that would fit all budget requirements.

Chef’s knives have gained gradual attention as a multi-utility professional knife in the recent years thanks to the varied use it can be put to. Similarly, Santoku knife, as the name suggests, has been marketed as a multitasker knife that will help take care of most of your cutting requirements in kitchen. If we are to compare both these knives, you’ll see that beneath all the differentiating features, these knives have been made for essentially the same purpose; to be your go-to best friend in kitchen.