Suppose you fancy yourself as a chef or start on a culinary journey. In that case, you probably already know that having great knives is an excellent starting point.
The problem is that there are so many knives out there; which one is which, and what does what?
Professional chefs will always look for the sharpest knife that does the most tasks with ease like the Serbian chef knife or the Santoku knife. But then, that doesn’t have to be something only a professional chef should do.
You see, with so many different knives to choose from, you have a number of key components to look at. In this instance, we plan on focusing on what is a Santoku knife used for. However, we will also throw in a quick comparison with a knife you may be more familiar with as well.
Chefs also critique the performance of a knife, including how thinly the blade can cut various foods and how easily it can diversify between food groups and performance. Most importantly, chefs will consider the tasks that the knife is suitable for. Is it chopping, cutting, slicing, dicing, or mincing food?
The Santoku knife is probably one of the most outstanding leaders in all of the abovementioned criteria for judging a knife. However, like most things in life, it is all about personal preference. The Santoku is not meant to replace the chef’s knife or any other knife. Still, you will find yourself wanting one as its abilities are phenomenal. The more knives you have for specific tasks, the better your kitchen experience will be.
Cooking and preparing food can be as pleasurable as eating it! If you have the correct equipment at hand like the Santoku, the chef’s knife, or Victorinox kitchen knives.
Here we will briefly compare the Santoku knife with the chef’s knife, a well-known and well-used tool in the western world. This alone will give you some insight into the reasons why you may wish to use a Santoku knife in the first place.
To understand the place a Santoku knife has in the food industry is to know a bit of the blade’s history.
Before 1940 the most popular and all-purpose knife used in our kitchens was the chef’s knife. Chefs’ knives hailed mainly from France and Germany and are still popular today. Most people who enjoy cooking have a chef’s knife handy as it can skim over most tasks with ease.
This, of course, depends upon the quality of the knife. You get blades, and you get knives. There is nothing worse than cutting a limp tomato with a blunt knife.
In the 1940s, the available chef’s knife came across competition when Japan invented the Santoku knife. Perhaps competition is not the right word; let’s just say the Santoku knife added a whole new experience or layer to preparing food. A kitchen is a lot about layering. Getting better equipment, the best knife steel, and adding variety to different skills and tasks.
Better known as the Santoku Bochu knife or three virtues knife, it is perfect for chopping, cutting, and slicing. Before the invention of the Santoku knife, the Japanese knives were placed firmly in three areas.
The gyuto knife was used to cut meat; it glided effortlessly through red meat and poultry.
The nakiri knife made short-work of vegetables, and the deba knife sliced quickly through the fish.
The Santoku knife makes the other blades less critical as it swishes effortlessly through all three above foodstuffs. This new all-purpose knife was mainly 13 to 20 cm long. It did not curve when placed on a flat surface, unlike the chef’s knives. Instead, it lay flat.
The curve in a chef’s knife allows the cook to gently rock the blade, a handy motion for cutting vegetables. The Santoku doesn’t have the same rocking capacity; instead, it is a precision cutting tool with a slight curve towards the weighted end.
Where chef’s knives are made for speed and quick slicing motions, the Santoku is made for precision chopping. The blade is thin, and because of this, slicing and precision are crucial features. The stainless steel is made from the same steel as the samurai sword.
This feature enables the knife to retain its characteristic thinness and still perform for years to come. It is argued that the German Chefs knife has more accommodating softer steel for cutting near the bone of meat. Still, the Santoku is sturdier and can be held longer in hand because of its shorter blade and more square-like function.
But how does this compare to other knives? For this, we need to go back to looking at the more common chef’s knife to see what the difference may be.
The chef’s knife has a longer blade made of softer steel. This enables it to cut near the bone of meat and not chip due to it being more flexible.
These knives are a staple in most kitchens because they are versatile and easily cut through vegetables, meat, and other food products. The main selling feature of a chef’s knife is its versatility and blade flexibility.
Keep in mind that most knives are made from stainless steel. The quality of the stainless steel will depend on the manufacturer and the price you pay. Santoku knives can be made from corrosion-resistant V Gold steel with Damascus cladding.
This makes them extremely hardy and corrosion-resistant over time. Typical chef’s knives are often made from softer steel that is hardwearing, but the softness of the blades can mean they need sharpening more often. This could be a deal-breaker or not. If you are used to sharpening your knives, often this is not a problem at all.
The chef’s knife will have a thicker spine, making it harder for demanding jobs like cutting through bone. It also has a clad handle for holding onto for more extended periods.
The Santoku, in comparison, is slimmer. The spine is thinner, but the material can be made from non-corrosive steel, making it harder to use. It can be durable for more demanding jobs. Still, many complain that the thinner blade will be subject to chipping against bone when cutting meat products. It is more square-set, making contact with the chopping board more than the chef’s knife.
So what is a santoku knife used for?
The Santoku knife is excellent for vegetables and foodstuffs that do not offer stiff resistance. This results in clean-cutting when preparing vegetables, for example. If you have ever watched Japanese cooking then you know what we mean when you look at how they cut vegetables. The precision of their knives is outstanding. It’s good to know Japanese knife types in order to buy the best one for your needs.
The knife is shorter and lighter, which home cooks often favor and find easier to handle. Also, most meat is deboned before purchase, so using a knife to cut through bone is not usually warranted.
When using the knife, think of short chopping movements and sounds. Once it hits its desired target, the product will fall into thin slices immediately, which is quite gratifying for a home cook.
Cutting with a Santoku knife can result in the tiniest impressively cut mushrooms, spring onions, and other vegetables often seen in Japanese cooking.
More and more people are eating a variety of vegetable dishes. Even keto uses thinly sliced courgette and cucumber to mimic styled sushi dishes. This is a quick and easy trick with a knife poised for super thin impressive slices of courgette.
Mushrooms can be made stick thin by first using the chopping motion to chop the thinly sliced mushrooms, then double back and a slight rocking motion to create slithers of mushrooms.
It was mentioned that rocking was not a vital feature of a Santoku knife, but little rocking can be used if you find its balance point and lift it slightly higher. Finding the balance point means balancing the blade on its side over your finger; if you find it, turn the knife and hold it, and it will flow more easily. Home cooks love this knife because it enables them to present stylized food that impresses an audience.
There are various methods of cutting with this knife. You can also pull the blade backward and slice forwards repetitively, creating shards of vegetables that you don’t want to clump together.
This is handy for more bitter vegetables like radicchio, which is better distributed finely over a dish. Using this knife could lead to a feeling of uniqueness in terms of pressure. The blade is so light and sharp no force is required while chopping, and instead, the knife simply drops through food without effort.
Desceeding zucchini or cucumber becomes a breeze. You can glide along the open spine and effortlessly slice it away, leaving a flat edge.
Honestly, the more you use a Santoku knife, the more versatile you find it becomes. It will rather quickly become your ‘go to’ knife in the kitchen when it comes to the art of preparation.
Santoku enjoyed a resurgence in the early 2000s when TV chefs declared them the holy grail in knives. Of course, that then led to countless individuals around the world than looking to snap up their own version.
As with all demand, the supply of Santoku became more variable. This included the price range. You could buy a knife from a very reasonable $24.00 up to a fancy $200 plus, depending on the type of knife and what it had to offer.
Along with the steady and straight original knife, Santoku also produced a beveled edge similar to the chef’s knife, enabling the cook to rock the knife the same way as a chef’s knife. Granton markings on the lower blade were one of the main features of the Santoku, but these slight indentations were found on chefs’ knives too.
So which knife is superior? Well, you don’t have to just rely on what we have to say regarding this.
America’s Test Kitchen put both the chef’s knife and the Santoku knife to task, pitting each knife against each other in several tests. Their goal was to mince parsley, cut through meat with bones, and test blades to their total capacity.
The Santoku only performed better with a very thin spine at less than 2 mm, so the slimmer the spine, the more quickly it slid through the butternut. Both knives got stuck in the butternut, but the chef’s knife outperformed the Santoku slightly because of the longer blade and the ability to grip the longer edge and use force.
Both knives were able to cut through bone in the test. This was often dependent on the price point and style of each blade. So, don’t expect an inexpensive model to perform as well as its more expensive counterpart. It just doesn’t work that way.
So, now you have learned what a Santoku knife is used for. It’s a great knife to have available in the kitchen. Like most knives, the better quality the blade is, the better it was experienced.
Home cooks wishing to grow their presentation and skill found the Santoku a fantastic addition to their culinary wear. This enabled vegetables to be cut in smoother and thinner slices, herbs could be minced quickly, and new ways of presenting vegetable dishes became unparalleled. Still, like all things, personal preference is always vital.
Do pay attention to the price point, and we must stress the need to read reviews before purchasing. Owning a fantastic Santoku knife will make such a difference in the kitchen that it’s worth putting in the effort to know you have bought a good one.
Some prefer the weight and holding capacity of the chef’s knife. In contrast, others prefer the light chopping motion of the Santoku. Each knife is a valuable tool in the kitchen, and each blade offers distinct ways of cutting and operating.
If you have the budget, the better high-end knives always performed well, albeit slightly differently.
Both blades can perform the tasks mentioned and serve them well, whatever your knife of choice.
Santoku is a revelation to novice cooks, allowing them to try new and exciting vegetables and add a professional touch to dishes. As a foodie, you might want to add as many knives as you need within your price point.
Cooking should be fun; it should remain interesting and unique to keep a budding chef’s interest. With the Santoku, this is guaranteed.
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