Santoku vs. Chef Knife-Ultimate Battle of Blades in Kitchen

If Chef Knife is the Emperor of European kitchens, then the Santoku is the Tennō of Japanese Cuisine. Both the knives are the core of the respective kitchens and the cuisines. They are the master of all trades for any prep and cutting job. Therefore, comparing the Santoku vs. Chef Knife is both easy and daunting.

The comparison is easy as the core duty of both the knife is the same. However, the features and additional tasks are so diverse that it will make any cooking enthusiast perplexed.

But you don’t have to face this dilemma. I have left no stone unturned to present the most complete and comprehensive comparison between these two great blades.

Before reaching the final thoughts at the bottom, you will have all the information to pick the best fit from any of these great kitchen knife for your kitchen.

What is a Santoku vs. Chef Knife

Santoku means “three virtues”. It is still a matter of debate among the cuisine and kitchen historians what these three means.

Santoku

One group believes it means the three ingredients the blade can handle-meat, fish, and veggies. Whereas another school thinks it’s the three tasks the blade can perform-chopping, slicing, and dicing.

No matter which belief is correct, Santoku stands for a multi-tasking, general-purpose knife. The knife has a harmony between the width and weight of the blade and the weight of the handle and tang.

A chef knife does the same job as a santoku. No wonder people call it the Japanese version of chef’s or cook’s knife. Made in the western world, the cook’s knife is also a multi-purpose general-duty blade for any kitchen.

Professional chefs and home cooks around the world prefer both knives for their unique features and diverse uses. Let’s dig in to see how these two master blades differ from each other.

5 Best Santoku Knives

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Difference between Santoku and Chef Knife

Despite the same core duty in the kitchen, the Santoku and chef knives have many differences. From outlook to blade length, so many factors distinguished the knives.

Origin

The origin of the word Santoku is connected with Japanese wisdom. Japan is one of the nations that search for virtue in almost any task, and cooking was no different. Japanese people find harmony between natural elements like metal and foods through the knife.

Chef or cook’s knife is a European invention. The distinct shape and features of the knife were evolved in the hands of the master craftsman of Solingen-the city of the blade known to the whole world. Despite the German origin, the knife went through numerous improvisation in different parts of Europe.

Chef Knife Set

You will be surprised to see the minute variations in the chef knives from Spain, Sweden, and France. Interestingly, all are called the chef’s knife!

Blade

Santoku blade ranges from 5 to 8-inches in length. This shorter blade is thin and comes with a flat edge. It won’t offer any rhythmic motion like a curved chef knife blade. However, the flat edge will give you a solid cut with each stroke.

One of the most distinctive features of the santoku blade is the single-bevel edge. It means the blade has angled between 12 to 15-degrees on only one side. Sharpening is only required on that particular side, not on both.

Japanese steel is typically harder than its European counterparts. Low carbon content enhances durability and edge-retention by compromising flexibility. Doing any hard job is easy, but you may face trouble while slicing delicate meat.

On the other hand, the original santoku knife has no bolster. It allows the use of the entire blade. However, the safety of your fingers may be compromised while you are on the go. Modern-day Santoku’s come with partial bolster for a better grip and protection.

The Chef knife has a longer blade of 8 to 10-inches. It has a curved cutting edge that curved from the bottom to the spine. This design is completely opposite of the curved downward from the spine design of the santoku blade.

You will find a bevel on both sides of the soft stainless steel blade. This double-bevel nature makes the edge moves smoothly but steadily through any food. However, you may see a much wider and thicker cut than any Japanese knife.

High carbon content softens the steel. It may enhance the toughness and flexibility of the blade but significantly limited the edge retention. So, you may end up frequent sharpening of the side of the blade.

A solid and full bolster is the distinct feature of any chef knife. The thick piece of metal works as a counterweight to balance the weight of the blade and handle.

Handle

Modern-day Santoku and chef knife do not have any significant difference in the handle. However, top-ranked models like Kai Shun Classic Scalloped Santoku knife come with a solid wooden handle with no rivet. These shun knives will give you the nostalgic and authentic feel of Japanese knife making.

Handles are secured by back and front metal pieces that cannot be called a bolster. In fact, the traditional santoku knife handle does not have any bolster. The blade started after a small interval from the metal piece. This is one of the stark differences between Santoku vs. chef knife.

Chef knife handle

Rivet is an essential part of any chef knife handle. Full tang and rivet enhance the stability of the handle, along with the appearance of the knife. Bolster, either full or partial marks the transition from polymer or wood handles to the blade.

Some of the best blades, like the Global Chef Knife, do not have any rivet or wooden handle. You will see a stainless steel handle with a dimpled grip. So, this is obvious that handle-wise, a chef knife has more diversity than a santoku knife.

Size

This Japanese knife is smaller in size. The total length, including the blade and handle, varies from 9 to 13-inches. The blade length will be between 5 to 8-inches, whereas the handle will range from 4 to 5-inches.

Smaller santokus’ are perfect for boning, paring, and slicing hard meats. On the contrary, you can use the long ones to do any sort of cutting, slicing, and dicing.

Chef knives are long. They will probably not fit with smaller hands. The blade itself ranges from 8 to 14-inched. So, with the handle, the length will be an astronomical one.

The long curved blade comes with greater weight. And you need that weight for a perfect balance and sheer force during any kitchen job.

If you have a perfect cutting board made with bamboo or high-quality polymer, these long blades will help you to deal with any kind of food materials.

Balance and Weight

These knives are lightweight than the chef knives. With shorter and thinner blade and lighter handle material, santoku knives weigh around ⅔ of any typical chef knives.

The lightweight may be an issue while dealing with hard food items. However, the same factor offers the efficiency of a samurai sword while prepping softer meat, veggies, and fish.

It is the lightweight that gives these Japanese blades flexibility and better handling. Moreover, the cuts are much thinner and precise with the blades.

Think blade, full tang, solid bolster, and above all sheer length compounded weight on any chef knife. These European blades are heavier than any Asian knife with better durability.

The thick spine and tapered-ground edge make the blade heavy enough to cut through any hard foods. Moreover, the solid bolster also added extra weight to ensure better safety for your fingers during the cutting tasks.

5 Best Chef Knives

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History of Santoku Knife vs. Chef Knife

The term santoku first surfaced during the mid-40s during the Second World War Technological advancement forced the Japanese knife making to shift from traditional nakiri to the modern-day santoku knife. The latter was friendlier to everyday cooking and prep jobs in the kitchen.

On the other hand, the history of the chef knife is deeply rooted in Solingen, Germany. Because of the iron-rich soil, the smelting and forging technologies developed in this ‘city of the blade’ for the last two thousand years. The evolution of the modern chef knives started in 1731 with Peter Henkel in Solingen.

The forging technology later expanded throughout entire Europe. Now, almost every knife producing countries in the world have its own way of making a chef knife. However, each process still uses some basics that were evolved in Solingen.

The Differences in Santoku vs. Chef Knife Use

When you are a beginner and want to do some prep in your kitchen, the santoku is the best that you’ve been looking for. On the other hand, if you want something to cut and slice at the same time then the chef knife can be a jewel in this regard. Let’s dive deep into it to find out the variations.

What’s a Santoku Knife used for?

Fineness is the key to a santoku knife. Single-beveled thin blade offers the most precise cuts than any chef knife. There a few kitchen jobs for which this Japanese knife is mostly used for

  • Slicing meat for strips
  • Seafood slicing
  • Slicing meat and fish for Sushi
  • Cutting and slicing food for decorative purposes
  • Cheese slicing
  • Chopping, dicing, and slicing soft and watery fruits and vegetables
  • Mincing herbs and meats
  • Scooping out food from a cutting board

What is the use of a Chef Knife?

There is a very few prep job a chef knife cannot perform. Therefore, it will take forever to make a complete list of tasks this champion knife can do. However, there are a few tasks that are monopoly to this heavyweight all-purpose European knife.

  • Cutting and slicing tough meat
  • Disjointing meat from the bone
  • Slicing hard cheeses like cheddar or parmesan
  • Chopping and dicing hard veggies like butternut squash
  • Any heavy-duty job that a paring or slicing knife cannot handle

Sharpening Tips for Santoku and Chef Knife

How you sharpen a knife depends on the bevel angle of the blade. Santoku has a single-bevel whereas the chef knife is doubly-beveled. Therefore, the way of sharpening them will be different from each other.

You need to sharpen the knife to reveal the edge that got dull with each use. A dull knife is not only frustrating to use but also dangerous. It will cost you more time and much effort.

Therefore, to make your prep time pleasing and motivating, you need to hone the blades.

How to Sharpen a Santoku Knife?

It is easier and less-laborious to sharpen a santoku knife. Firstly, it is just one side of the blade, and secondly, hard steel has higher edge retention. As a result, you will end up sharping one side at an extended interval.

Submerge the whetstone in water, start with the coarse side, and move to the dinner side-these steps are common for any knife. It is the angle that makes the difference between the Japanese and the German blade.

You have to maintain an angle from 10 to 15-degree to polish the edges to get sheer sharpness. Put equal pressure on each section while rubbing them over the stone.

Make sure you rub the entire length of the blade on the whetstone to get consistent sharpness. Repeat all the steps after flipping the stone to the finer side.

Thorough washing and drying the knife after sharpening is necessary.

How to Sharpen a Chef Knife?

You need to do exactly the same things you did for the santoku knife. However, there will be two differences. First, the angle will be between 15 to 2-degrees, and secondly, you have to sharpen both the side.

Hold the blade at the desired angle and make sure only the edge touched the stone, not the entire blade, Put medium pressure on the blade and slowly move the knife. Repeat the process each time you move to a new position on the edge.

Utilizing the entire length of the blade is the key to a successful sharpening campaign. Make sure to repeat the whole process when you switch to the other side of the blade.

Just like any knife, thorough washing and air drying is a must after sharpening.

Final Thoughts

I told you at the beginning that before you hit the conclusion, picking the perfect one will be like a breeze for you. Now, you know between Santoku vs. chef knife which one best fits your kitchen and cost.

However, if you are still in a dilemma, let me tell you one thing from my experience. Santoku is perfect for those who love delicacy and precision in the meal. This light blade will make feel in control with soft and delicate foods. Moreover, it will come at a more budget-friendly expense.

Contrary to the delicate job, the chef knife deals best with complications. The more complicated and difficult the prep job you have, the more you will discover the hidden potential of this German-born knife. Both the weight and price maybe a bit heavy it’s worth investing in the blade.

No matter it comes from the land of the sun in Asia or the fatherland of Europe, a piece of metal will form a harmony between the food and the food-maker to bring out the very best from both.

So do not hesitate. Get one and become famous.

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Thanks for reading!