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

Jeffrey
June 14, 2022
Santoku knife vs. chef knife.

Before we begin, it is essential to note that both the Santoku knife and the chef’s knife are in most professional kitchens. Between the Santoku knife vs. chef knife, neither knife is superior or better than the other. Instead, each blade offers its unique features which can enhance the cooking experience overall. 

The same goes for home cooks; most people really into cooking understand that a sharp knife that functions well is probably one of the most important utility items in the kitchen drawer. 

It’s the Preference that Counts!

With this idea in mind, many home cooks do have a preference. This article is about comparing Santoku knife vs. chef knife and how they differ, and from this, you might be able to decide which knife you will prefer. 

The best way to test a knife is to use it in person, so if you can, try and go to a kitchen supply store that offers that opportunity. If this is not on the table for you, the information here might help you make a better choice. If you cannot make up your mind, perhaps you would do better with both!

The Similarities of Both Knives 

Before we discuss the differences between the Santoku knife vs. chef knife, let’s look at the similarities. Both blades are considered multi-tasking knives, and both knives can carry out similar tasks, cutting vegetables, slicing meat, and handling poultry and other food products with ease. 

The goal of a multi-tasking knife is to use it for most tasks each day. A multipurpose blade can reduce the need for many knives, a space saver’s dream. This kind of knife works well in smaller kitchens and those on a budget. 

  • Both knives are multipurpose
  • Both blades can handle meat, vegetables, and fruits with ease

At this point, it’s kind of difficult to see where there can be some differences if both knives are designed to do the same thing. Well, even though the differences can be subtle, they do exist.

The Method of Cutting or Chopping Can Vary

(but not always)

If you have watched professional chefs cutting herbs or dicing carrots with speed, you might have seen them using a slight rocking motion. The chef’s knife is curved, and because of that, the curved blade can rock back and forth easily and quickly. This method is ideal for cutting vegetables fast and mincing herbs, for example, ready for the pot. 

The Santoku uses chopping motions so that you would be lifting the knife and chopping downwards to dice or mince vegetables. There is a slight trick to using the Santoku similar to the chef’s knife by raising the blade backward and moving it forward quickly. You can then use a similar rocking motion if this is still your preferred cutting method. As Santoku knives become more popular in the west, the design has changed slightly, and some have a more curved tip to suit the rocking style. So not all Santoku knives are the same. 

Once you start shopping for a Santoku, you will come across various styles of blades

While this does make life difficult when it comes to selecting a Santoku knife, we recommend going for something simple when you are new to the Santoku. Remember, your actual cutting motion is different, so you don’t want to further complicate matters by choosing a particular knife that requires specific skills. It just doesn’t make sense.

Choosing between Santoku knife vs. chef knife.

The Lengths and Weight of the Knives 

The classic Santoku knife has a large flat blade that rests squarely on a chopping board. The knife is shorter than the chef’s knife, usually between 5″ to 8″ long, whereas the chef’s knife is around 6″ to 20 ” long. The thickness of the blades can vary too. Still, Santoku usually is thinner, which is excellent for cutting very fine slithers of vegetables or slicing parts of meat into fine, super-skinny cuts. 

The Santoku knife is extremely sharp and can also slice across as well as the usual chopping method. Holding these two knives is different; with a chef’s knife, your hand will be further down the knife, holding onto the handle; with a Sontaku knife, your hand will be either on the actual blade or at the midpoint. 

You can also use the midpoint to find the center by balancing the knife on your fingers until it balances both sides. That is where you should be holding your knife. This method makes it less tiring on the wrist when you do a lot of prep work, as constant chopping motions could be tiring if the blade is too heavy. 

The weight of the knife is another aspect to consider. When purchasing a new knife of any kind, you need to ascertain the weight of the blade. Any knife will be lousy if you find it too heavy for your hand. A heavy knife could mean that food prep would be tiring instead of a pleasure. 

Chef’s knives are longer, and their weights can differ too. Traditionally chef’s knives are more curved, and this follows through the spine to the end or tip. This curve enables smooth rocking motions. The chef’s knife doesn’t enjoy the chopping motion that a Santoku knife employs. The blade is slightly thicker, so the finished result is less satisfactory than the Santoku. Depending on what your goal is. 

The Differences in the Santoku Knife and Chef’s Knife 

But now, onto several other differences between a chef’s knife and the Santoku knife.

The Origin of the Knives 

Chef’s knives originated in Europe. Their material of choice is stainless steel; stainless steel is a suitable medium for knives since it does not rust easily. It is also slightly softer, which means it has more flexibility than the Santoku. Pliability means less minor chipping on the blade. 

The Santoku originates in Japan, and their favored media is carbon. Carbon is a gem for getting that fragile edge, so these knives cannot be beaten for precision cutting, but none are perfect like all materials. Carbon can be brittle if not maintained well, and as a result, chipping can occur. They also do not have as much strength as a chef’s knife when cutting through challenging objects such as bone. This is not to say that the Santoku cannot cut bone; it is to say that the chef’s knife could outperform it. There are, of course, also steel mixes with Santoku knives. 

Also, the chef’s knife’s longer blade can allow you to lean down on the knife to add resistance when cutting. The shorter Santoku is too short for that method. You may want to keep this in mind when you think about how you plan on using the knives before buying.

A Lot of this Information is Outdated 

These ideas are a bit simplistic because most knives have changed their design over time to suit both western and Japanese markets. So it pays to shop around and see all blade shapes and what is the best knife steel before making your final decision. Here, the goal is to understand what each knife offers and find it in either knife. Clever marketing and time have allowed both knives to evolve, and knives and change are a part of history as in our kitchens today. 

Suppose you love the agile chopping ability of the Santoku, its ability to produce art in food with its precise chopping method. Yet, you miss the rocking ability of the chef’s knife when mincing herbs. In that case, you probably will find all of this in a Santoku if your heart is set on that particular knife. The same goes for the chef’s knife, their design has also evolved, and some chefs’ knives have employed many of Santoku’s excellent features. 

You can chop anything with the Santoku knife.

The Blade Shapes 

Previously, Santokus were famous for their straight-edged rabbit foot blades. Only one side is beveled while the other is straight. The bevel is to keep food from sticking to the edge. Even though this may sound like a simplistic idea, it will prove very effective.

On the other hand, the chef’s knife is beveled on both sides. Previously, the Santoku had grantons, and the chef knife did not. Now you can get beveled chef knives or Santoku knives with no grantons. Being beveled on both sides made the blade sharp on both sides. 

However, we know that this entire idea of grantons could be new to you, but we suggest you take the plunge. There’s nothing more annoying than having to remove food from the blade constantly. This eliminates that problem.

So, Which One Then? 

In a nutshell, both knives work perfectly in any kitchen. It is the precise cutting technique that people love the most about Santoku. If you are looking for stunning food preparation that catches the eye, then the Santoku will win hands down, but if you are deboning a lot of meat and working with bones in meat and poultry, the chef’s knife would be a better choice. 

Once again, it all comes down to knowing why you want a knife and how it will be used in your kitchen. It’s all too easy to be blinded by how a knife looks or feels rather than how well it works. When choosing between a Santoku knife vs. chef knife one of the most important things to consider is maintenance.

Maintenance 

Both blades require optimum upkeep and maintenance. This fact will depend on how much you paid for your knife. Many knife companies offer sharpening as a service, but you can learn how to sharpen a knife at home on whetstones or handheld sharpening apparatus. It is arguable, but people insist that the Santoku requires more frequent sharpening because of the carbon blade and its main feature being extremely sharp. People who care about knife quality will ensure they have the correct approach to sharpening their knives regardless of their chosen knife. 

You have to be careful with home sharpening, as you can oversharpen the blade easily or even change its shape by accident. Considering the potential cost of buying either a Santoku knife or a chef’s knife, this is certainly not something you want to be doing.

Whetstones 

Whetstones are easy enough to purchase and are not too expensive either. So all kitchens could do with them to keep their knives sharp. A dull knife is a hazard in the kitchen because of slippage. Whetstones come with various-sized grits, indicating the level of sharpening they offer. It will typically come two-sided, and one side will show the coarser grit and the fine grit for polishing. 

Whetstones have won favor over handheld or electrical sharpeners lately, as sometimes you can oversharpen your knife by accident with electrical sharpeners. You will avoid this with whetstones. 

Whetstones are easy to store as the stones can be placed on top of one another and packed away like that, wrapped in a polishing cloth. The polishing cloth ensures that you polish your blade to remove sharp carbon or steel debris. 

The primary use of whetstones is easy; you soak the tablet of stone in water and oil, then when ready, place it on a covered benchtop. You can glide the blade along using your hand as though peeling the stone. 

If this idea scares you since you might be paying a lot for a knife, it is suggested practice is the best route to go! You can also send your blades away for professional sharpening. More inexpensive knives often don’t take the sharpening process very well as the covering can come off. So for less expensive items, replacing them might be the best route. 

Both chef’s knives and Santoku knives do well with whetstone sharpening, but the chef’s knife can handle handheld sharpeners better than the Santoku. Once again, this may prove to be an important point for any individual considering purchasing either knife.

Wrap Up and Make the Choice: Santoku Knife or Chef Knife

Whichever knife you choose, remember to consider maintenance and requirements. Also, decide what you will be using the knife for the most. In most cases, people purchase both blades and use them for their most robust features. Getting both is not too pricey since both knives’ price ranges from relatively inexpensive to very expensive, depending on your budget. 

It’s tough to decide which one is best as knives are highly personal. The grip, weight, balance, and reason you want a new knife all play a role in your decision.

However, we can be sure that you will have a wonderful time creating amazing dishes, no matter what you opt for between the Santoku knife vs. chef knife. Neither will let you down. It’s just a case of looking at the different options and taking that plunge of purchasing a new knife.

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