A Santoku knife is a popular all-purpose Japanese knife for home and professional use. The knife comes in various designs, sizes, tip angles, and bevels.
As a result, beginners might find it challenging to pick the right knife for their needs. Hence why we curated these tips to show you how to choose a Santoku knife.
Style of Cut
If it is your first time purchasing a Santoku knife, the most important thing to note is how it differs from your standard chef’s knife. Its most salient characteristic is the shape of its blade.
Unlike western knives, the Santoku has a dull point that slopes downward. As a result, unlike a regular knife, it does not need to be rocked while in use; instead, it is maneuvered to cut straight.
The Santoku’s linear motion enhances efficiency and reduces prep time in the kitchen, which can be especially useful if you are a professional chef.
It will help to consider what material your knife is made from, as this will determine its resistance and durability. A standard Santoku knife is made from either ceramic or metal, the latter usually being Japanese Honshu steel.
Ceramic knives slice beautifully; however, they are much more brittle compared to metal knives and need meticulous care. If you plan on getting a ceramic Santoku knife, we suggest using it on a wooden or plastic cutting board.
We advise purchasing a stainless steel knife with a high carbon percentage. Carbon makes steel tougher and gives it more strength.
Moreover, we recommend getting a knife forged from a metal block rather than cut out of a sheet.
A forged knife has more strength as it has been hammered into shape. Resultantly, your Santoku knife will be laminated and, therefore, more durable.
It would be best if you opted for a knife with a sturdy blade. While it is alright for some knives to be slightly flexible, such as a serrated bread knife, an all-purpose knife like the Santoku has to be firm.
The knife is famous for its thin yet hard blade; therefore, it’s important to test the firmness of the blade. If your knife has a flexible blade, this will not only be dangerous but inefficient and inconvenient.
A good test is to pinch the blade from the base of the handle and move it. If it remains in place, it is a good Santoku knife.
Length and Width of Your Santoku
Another factor you should consider is the length and width of your Santoku blade. On average, the knife ranges between 5 to 8 inches. A normal western chef’s knife ranges from 8 to 10 inches.
This makes the Santoku shorter and more compact, which is helpful for fast cooking. However, a longer knife will be just as advantageous and suitable for more precise cuts.
Take care not to use a knife that is too long, though, as this can restrict cuts. Moreover, a Santoku is wider than most knives, making it have a larger surface area for cutting and perfect for scooping food off the board.
Single or Double Bevel Santoku
The bevel refers to the shape of the tip of the blade. Generally, western knives are double beveled, which means their point is v-shaped.
In comparison, most Japanese knives, such as the Santoku knife, are single bevel knives, making them more asymmetric.
With single bevel knives, an angle is formed on one side of the blade only, which makes sharpening concentrated on one side. This results in a sharp, precise tip.
Professional chefs sharpen their knives often as the blade dulls due to prolonged use. However, an average person doesn’t bother with knife maintenance the same way.
Therefore, it’s necessary that the knife you purchase is very sharp out of the box. A sharper knife is safer than a dull knife. A dull knife requires more force, so cutting at the wrong angle with excessive force can result in injuries.
Moreover, dull knives ruin the food cells, affecting the food’s taste and overall look. It’s best to opt for a knife with a tip angle of 15 to 20 degrees. The tip angle is the angle the knife makes with the surface it cuts on.
The shorter this angle, the sharper the knife. Depending on your needs, this angle can go below 15 degrees, and you get an extremely sharp knife suitable for the paper-thin cuts that Santoku knives are known for.
Handle and Grip
The knife’s grip is crucial as a good grip accounts for faster and better cuts and comfortable usage. The handle material is responsible for how good or bad the knife holds.
Therefore, we advise against getting a knife with a wooden handle as it isn’t weather-proof and might grow moldy in more humid months. Moreover, it is smoother in comparison to other materials.
Instead of rubber or plastic, three riveted grips are best as both materials are inert, and the three notches hold well. Moreover, the grain on rubber and plastic helps with friction as well, allowing a secure grip.
If you are wondering what the indentations along the length of your Santoku are, they are called Granton edges. The purpose of having those marks is to create suction on the blade, so food doesn’t stick to the knife during usage.
While this may feel excessive in a household kitchen, it saves much time in professional kitchens. Therefore, If you want to save time, you can opt for Granton edge Santoku knives.
Purpose of your Santoku Knife
Another essential thing to consider is the purpose of your purchase. What do you need a Santoku knife for? A good point to start from is whether it’s for home use or part of your professional equipment as a chef.
The knife serves as a valuable addition to your knife set to use in restaurant kitchens. With its unique shape, the knife is perfect for very thin slicing, appropriate for fancy garnishes or sauces; moreover, because of how sharp and sturdy the Santoku is, it’s efficient, fast, and durable.
All these qualities make it a tremendous all-purpose household knife as well. If you require an excellent knife that will help you hone your skills as a pro, home chef, or regular person, the Santoku is a suitable choice.
Uses in the Kitchen
Santoku roughly translates to ”three virtues,” meaning it is used to slice, chop and mince food. Before you buy the knife, it’s good to know what it can perform best and what you should refrain from using it for.
The Santoku is great for cutting meat, slicing and dicing fruits and vegetables, mincing herbs, and scooping food off the board.
However, due to the shape of the blade, it’s not suitable for precision tasks, chopping hefty meat bones, and cutting bread. It is particularly good at slicing seafood as it’s very sharp.
Proper Care for Your Santoku Knife
When buying a Santoku knife, it’s essential to know how to take care of it as proper maintenance can prolong the usage of your knife, preventing you from buying another one soon.
There are three main aspects to consider: washing, sharpening, and storing your Santoku knife. We suggest washing the knife by hand with water only and drying it with a clean towel. Avoid scrubbing it with any dish soaps and scourers as well, as this can tarnish the steel.
Sharpening is crucial if you want your knife to work well and last a long time. The best method is to use a whetstone and run the knife on it, first on the grainy side, then the smooth side.
Depending on the bevel of your knife, you have to repeat this process on both sides or just one.
We recommend storing your Santoku knife in a wooden box as this will protect it from humidity that can cause corrosion.
The price of a high-quality Santoku knife varies depending on where you buy it. The knives are cheaper in Japan but on the pricier side in the states. Some brands sell them for as low as $25 and can go as high as $150 or more.
We recommend getting a knife between expensive and cheap if you’re shopping for your household. On the other hand, If you’re a professional chef, splurging a little will benefit your dishes.
You can fix a budget and search for knives accordingly. The Santoku is a one-time purchase and, with proper maintenance, can last for several years, stretching to almost a decade.
Summary: How to Choose a Santoku Knife
Knives come in various shapes and sizes; therefore, navigating the saturated market relies on your personal needs. You will benefit significantly from buying your Santoku knife from a legitimate Japanese company.
Many stores sell the blade, so you can check it out in person or order it online. We always recommend going through user reviews, especially those of home or professional chefs; you can skim through those for insight on how the product works.
This article provides information on how to choose a Santoku knife and serves as a guide; you can conduct your research and make your purchase based on that.