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What are the best uses for a santoku knife?

What are the best uses for a santoku knife?

Popular with professional chefs and home cooks alike santoku knives are typically medium-to-large all-purpose knives originating from Japan. They are considered by many to be a smaller, slender chef knife alternative. The name santoku means three virtues in Japanese and alludes to the knife's versatility. There are disagreements to whether it describes the knives ability to handle meat, fish and vegetables or being well served to handle chopping, mincing and dicing. Without geeking out on the original meaning too much we can discern the santoku to be a Japanese chef knife alternative ideal for chefs preferring a smaller blade length that offers nimble precision. 

What Does a Santoku Knife Look Like? 

Like most Japanese knives, santokus are thin, hard, and sharp. The length of the blade is shorter relative to the western chef knife. Typical fitted with a traditional Japanese wa-handle. Wa-handles are majority wood with a plastic or bone collar shaped into an octagonal or d-shaped profile. Wa-handles are light and move the balance point of the knife forward. The wa-handle isn't exclusive however all in one metal santokus are on the market along with tradition three rivet handles.

wa-handle-santoku-knife

Santoku Knife Uses 

We've already said that santoku refers to three virtues so it's no surprise you can cut many items including meat, fish, cheese, vegetables and fruit. However, santokus shouldn't be confused with butchery or de-boning applications. The smaller blade makes them suitable for those who struggle with a 10-inch chef knife and those with compact kitchens cutting on small chopping boards. Many love the tall blade profile enabling you to scoop up chopped food from the chopping board for quick easy transfer to bowls, trays and pans. With everything, there are trade-off and one disadvantage to a shorter lighter blade is cutting items like butternut squash a heavier knife like such as a cleaver makes lighter work of bigger denser food items.

Santoku Knife Vs Chef Knife 

Santoku knives are thinner from blade to spine, lighter and shorter consequently they are often considered to be that little more precise than the typical chef's knife. You will also find that the flatter blade of a santoku offers a lot of blade real estate that hits the chopping board simultaneously perfect for slicing and chopping this is similar to gyuto and Sabatier knife profiles. For rocking knife cuts consider the rocking santoku or a German chef knife with a rounder belly. Another relevant consideration revolves around the tip differences, santoku knives have rounded tips that prove more difficult to execute piercing cuts into food items, the chef knife doesn't have the issue due to the spine and the blade edge converging to a sharp point.

How to Cut with A Santoku Knife 

To cut with a santoku, lift the knife above the food item about to be cut, then slice down and forward to use the preferred push cut technique used by professional chefs ubiquitously. The santoku can be used to great precision, vary the sizes of your slices or pieces to suit your preference by making the right spacing between cuts. This style is often slower than the western adopted rocking motion preferred by western chefs using western-style chef knives, but it is more precise than rocking. Before doing any cutting it is best practice to ensure the cutting surface is stable and solid for safety and sanity; theirs not many kitchen tasks made worse by an annoying cutting board that won't stay still when chopping.

What Is A Rocking Santoku Knife? 

This is a variation on the traditional shape and adapts a rocking motion more typically found with a western kitchen knife. The most obvious difference to a traditional santoku is the rocking santokus cutting edge profile. Typically with a longer handle for more leverage and rounded profile allowing the blade to perform a western-style rocking technique intuitively instead of the preferred slicing chopping motion a traditional santoku naturally gravitates towards.

What Is a Santoku Knife with Hollow Edge 

Hollow edge or granton edge is a manufacturing process used to help food fall from the knife more readily, scalloping out material from the side of the blade profile helps reduce friction and in turn, less material for cut food to stick too. Some prefer the look of a granton edge more than the performance gains. If you chop and cut fast the granton edge might provide some performance gains associated with not needing to clean food off your knife as often.

How to Sharpen a Santoku Knife 

Most santokus are double bevel, which means you can sharpen them by slanting to an angle typically 12º from the centre. While sharpening, try to achieve symmetry so that it can make uniform cuts. The best way to sharpen a santoku knife is by using a whetstone. Whetstone sharpening produces a sharper edge than other methods. For general sharpening tips, youtube is a great resource, many sharpening tutorials are available. Alternatively, follow the detailed instructions provided by the whetstone manufacturer to achieve uniform sharpening. 

Are Santoku Knives Any Good?

Yes, as mentioned santokus are all-rounders similar to a chef's knife. The knives popularity means the customer has a large selection of variations available to them. You will easily be able to find single edge santokus sharpened on one side of the blade typically to 15º along with the more common double bevel blades. The worlds your oyster when it comes to blade profiles and finishes too! Carbon steel, stainless steel clad, stainless steel, ceramic, hammered, damascus, kurouchi, matt and polished finishes are some of the more popular finishes.

Which Santoku Knife to Buy? 

The prices of santoku knives are comparable to those of chef knives. The price varies widely, depending on the associated features to that specific knife, like steel quality, manufacturing complexity, branding, and finish. Choose the knife that alines with the features you value the most and your cutting technique. In the interest of transparency, if you have a chef knife that you enjoy then a santoku might not be the best choice to add to your collection, you might be better served looking at knife alternatives, knives that will perform a task you do a lot that the chef knife isn't perfect for. However, that won't matter to the kitchen knife geek or collector who wants the perfect knife for every job.

Ready to add a santoku knife to your arsenal? We stock a wide range of premium santoku knives from revered manufacturers with long-standing traditions in the knife making industry. Also, consider cutting boards and sharpening equipment, no matter how good the steel is it will dull over time so you must use the correct cutting boards to retain the edge for the longest possible time and have sharpening equipment to hand when the blade edge finally does need a sharpen.

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