Three Things You Need to Know About Santoku Knives

The Japanese version of an all-purpose knife might be the kitchen tool you’re looking for.

The santoku knife started to achieve big success in the West only about a decade or so ago, but there’s a reason for that: it’s a great all-purpose tool that can handle just about any kitchen task you can throw at it. Here’s what to know about the knife you may not have heard about before—but you will.

Textured finger points mean it won’t slip in your hand. Mercer Culinary

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The santoku emerged in Japan after World War II, and is a blending of the traditional Japanese vegetable knife—called a nakiri—and a Western-style all-purpose chef’s knife. Its name translates to something like “three virtues,” which might refer to meat, fish and vegetables, or possibly to slicing, dicing and chopping. Either one makes sense, because the santoku is good for all six of those options.

Indents in the sides keep meat and vegetables from sticking to this kitchen tool. Mercer Culinary

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A santoku’s blade is flatter than the blade of a chef’s knife, and it’s traditionally sharpened to a higher angle—between 13 and 15 degrees. Because of this, a santoku typically cuts in a more up-and-down motion, rather than the rocking, back and forth motion of a chef’s knife. Additionally, a santoku is usually shorter and thinner than a chef’s knife

The traditional, D-shaped handle is made from black Spanish pakkawood. Dalstrong

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There isn’t really an answer to whether a santoku is “better” than a chef’s knife; they’re simply different, and it’s important to figure out which one feels best for you to use. For example, a person with smaller hands may find a santoku easier to use than a chef’s knife due to its size and lighter weight.