Santoku Knife vs Chef Knife – What’s the Difference?

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Unless you’re a professional chef, chances are you are probably not an expert in the nuances of a Santoku Knife. In some regards, a Santoku knife is very similar to the chef’s knife that you may already have in your knife block.

But in others, the two differ a little bit from one another.

Chef knives and Santoku knives are similar when it comes to their purpose and even in appearance. However, they have different details like knife length, shape, and cutting style.

Both types of knives are used for prepping food, mincing herbs and spices, and cutting up fruits and vegetables. However, their cutting technique is different, so you want to make sure your knife is living up to its full potential by learning the right techniques for each knife.

High Level Overview

If you really want to impress your friends and colleagues, you can show off the fact that you know the difference between a Santoku knife and a chef’s knife.

Although incredibly similar, they do have a few differences. Just like the chef’s knife, the Santoku knife is multi-purpose and is useful for everything from mincing vegetables to slicing through meat.

The Santoku blade however, has a different shape than that of the chef’s knife. It can cut finer slices and can be used to scoop up anything you may have been cutting thanks to its blade shape. Another major difference between these two is that the Santoku knife is crafted specifically in Japan.

Keep reading to learn more about the difference between Santoku knives and chef’s knives.

Santoku Knife vs Chef Knife

Santoku Knife

The word Santoku roughly translates to “three virtues.” Depending on which culinary expert you ask, these three virtues can mean different things. Some believe these virtues refer to the three different parts of the blade – the edge you use for slicing, the heel that you use for cutting intensely, and the tip that is used for a more detailed cut.

Others believe that the three virtues refer to the types of foods that can be cut with this type of knife: it’s essentially a Japanese steak knife but also great for other meats, vegetables, and fish.

Regardless of what you believe about the three virtues, it’s safe to say that the Santoku knife is essential for just about any type of cooking.

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Santoku Knife Background

The Santoku Knife is originally from Japan and incorporates a sheep’s foot design that makes it ideal for linear slicing. It is based off of a Samurai sword, but created for more practical purposes.

Santoku knives were first introduced in the mid-20th century, and were created as an alternative to a vegetable cleaver, otherwise known as a nakiri.

Santoku Characteristics

A Santoku knife can be identified by its shape and size. A Santoku knife is going to be much lighter and smaller than a chef’s knife. The blade is also wider and more flat than that of a chef’s knife while the tip of the knife also has a curve to it.

The Santoku has a scalloped edge that leaves air pockets in the food it cuts to prevent the slices from sticking together. As a result, the Santoku is ideal for slicing herbs, vegetables, fish, and even cheese.

As mentioned earlier, both knives can be used for slicing and cutting things in the kitchen. However, the Santoku knife is used when you need to make a more delicate cut. Don’t underestimate the Santoku knife though, it has a blade that can cut through bone, too.

Caring for A Santoku Knife

The Santoku Knife is easy to care for, it just needs to be sharpened and stored properly. You can do this by hand-washing the knife with dish soap and then storing it in a wooden box.

Chef’s Knife

The chef’s knife is perhaps the most common knife in the kitchen, aside from the steak knife. It can be distinguished via its 8 to 12-inch blade and its prominent curve. The curve is used for performing the “rock chop.”

The tip of the chef’s knife can be used to trim fat on meat, while the heel of the knife is used for thick pieces of meat and fruits like melons.

These knives are pretty common and a staple in most every kitchen.  We’ve written a couple of resources on chef knives – check out our articles on the best chef knife under $100 and best damascus chef knives to learn more about this classic type of knife.

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Other Types of Knives to Consider

If a chef’s knife or a Santoku knife aren’t for you, there are always other types of knives to consider.

Utility knives, boning knives and bread knives are also other common types of knives that people typically have in their homes and can be incredibly useful.

A bread knife is obviously used to cut bread, but it can also be used for other things like cutting cakes and seafood. They have “teeth” that can saw through bread without having to squish it in the process.

Boning knives are also pretty self-explanatory. They are ideal for separating meat from bone and also trimming vegetables. These types of knives tend to be around eight inches long and have different types of blade widths.

Utility knives are also common as they are useful for just about anything. They can be interchangeable for steak knives They can also be used interchangeably with a chef’s knife as they can cut through just about anything.

A fluting knife is also one of those knives that come in that knife block you purchased years ago and still have no idea what it does. The 2 to 4-inch blade and short handle makes it easy to hold and control. It’s ideal for peeling fruits or vegetables or even deveining shrimp. Once you get the hang of using it, it will come naturally and you’ll no longer need a regular old peeler!

A mincing knife ai s nifty contraption that takes all the work out of slicing up vegetables and roots. It has a curved blade in the shape of a half-moon that allows you to rock it back and forth when mincing things like garlic or onions. Even herbs are no match for the mincing knife. A mincing knife can also be used in place of a pizza cutter if you’re lacking one.

Final Thoughts

Santoku knife and a chef’s knife are both very similar. But if you’ve paid attention, you know there’s more than meets the eye.

At the end of the day, which is best for you comes down to preference and the type of cooking you like to do. And of course, it can’t hurt to have both in your kitchen arsenal!

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