The first three virtues that should come to mind when a Santoku Knife is mentioned are slicing, dicing and chopping. Each one of these tasks can be easily achieved with one of these blades. It doesn’t matter if you are facing meat or vegetables, this knife will cut it through easily.
Are Santoku knives any different than a chef knife? There is a subtle distinction between a Santoku style of knife and an European chef knife in the sense that the former blade will have in general a flat profile that comes quite handy when chopping in up-and-down kind of motion.
Table of Contents
- Important Factors to Consider When Buying a Santoku Knife
- Best Santoku Knife Reviews
- Our Final Thoughts
Important Factors to Consider When Buying a Santoku Knife
The shorter a Santoku is, the easier it will be to direct that pressing power down and through the blade for chopping. Does that mean the shorter the better? Not necessarily.
If you decide to go with one of the bigger variations of the Santoku knife, it will cover more cutting area, which is nice if you happen to have a bigger cutting board and more space to use. You may simply find that an increased-in-size knife seems more appropriate for bigger hands.
That being said a Santoku will never be as a slicing knife as they have different purposes and are made of different kinds of materials which brings us to the next point.
Type of steel
As any great Japanese knife the type of steel is probably the most important aspect of a blade. Depending on how it was produced and with what kind of materials it can be easy to distinguish between truly superior knives and standard knives and separate them apart.
Steel used in Santoku knives should be around the 58-61 in the Rockwell scale that indicates the hardness. Having a superior hardness than 61 might be optimal for a slicing knife, however for a more all round knife like a Santoku that has to deal with tougher things, it is better to not treat its steel to the highest degree possible as it may introduce the problem of having a blade propense to chipping if not treated with care.
The hollow ground refers to the surface behind the cutting edge. It is considered a great feature to have specially when chopping and slicing things like carrots and other roots as these markings will push the vegetable away from the knife and allow it to make more cuts without pieces getting in the way.
Having this feature on a Santoku feature but if it has it, it adds a lot of value to the overall knife chopping experience.
Best Santoku Knife Reviews
What I personally enjoy about Shun knives is their handle. It is a low profile ebony Pakkawood Which is weird because when I first saw it I thought that there was no way it wasn’t slippery. How wrong I was, it feels right, and you can grab onto it really comfortably.
Although it is dishwasher-safe, I’d say that if you decide to invest in quality knives that you may also want to spend some time taking care of them to have them last longer.
Shun has been around for many years and is a trusted brand for many chefs and cooks so whenever you decide to pick a knife that they manufacture, you can’t be that far off. In this Santoku style of blade you are not only not making a mistake but actively choosing arguably one of the best Santoku knives out there in the market.
The fact that it is stainless and also dishwasher safe makes it super easy to be kept clean and healthy.
Although it is a great knife with a good grip, I’d prefer to have something like a Pakkawood handle instead of the European one it has.
If you are used to more European style of knives and you prefer their ergonomic handle or if you don’t want to spend too much time worrying about the maintenance of the knife, the J.A. Henckels International Classic Santoku might be a good choice.
This is more noticeable in the Rockwell test where it scores below in the test of hardness with a 56 rating. More than enough for a Santoku knife and may get away with getting not so careful with the knife without it chipping on you.
The fact that it has a hollow edge makes it a perfect match if you plan on chopping lots of veggies on a regular basis.
It may not be the sharpest Santoku Knife in the market but considering its pricing and how durable this knife without having to worry too much about rust and patina, I’d say it’s a pretty good deal as a first Santoku knife that will be reliable and has a great value for its price.
This version of the Santoku knife does not have a hollow edge, which is a nice feature to have if you are chopping lots of vegetables but it will still cut them with the same precision because of its incredible built quality.
If you are serious about cooking at home or professionally and you are looking for a tool that will stay with you for decades to come, not only because it will last that many years, but because you will always have a use for it and is not concerned about not having a hollow edge, this knife should be considered as a serious choice.
Being 5 inches long I find it a bit too short for this kind of all purpose use to replace a chef knife so that’s something to keep in mind before getting one.
I like the fact that it has hollow edges because it’s easier to process food in small pieces without getting annoying pieces of carrot sticking to the blade and then sliding beneath it after a few cuts while chopping.
If you look for a knife that feels more European, with a bolster and having an ergonomic handle and have smaller hands like I do, this might be a great kitchen tool to have around as it will prove useful over and over again. Also, it is stainless so it means less overall maintenance and that is always a big plus if you don’t have much time.
However, bear in mind that having the sharpness of a top-notch quality slicing knife into a Santoku knife might backfire. A Santoku knife is supposed to deal with heavier objects and therefore it should allow some flexibility so it doesn’t easily chip on hard cuts.
To overcome this, the manufacturer puts each knife to a lot of processes to prevent this from happening but it’s something to keep in mind.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of its flashy ‘LiquidMetal’ design, I like more sober knives. However I have to admit that it seems to play a role kind of a hollow edge to push away ingredients from the blade so I’m actually really pleased with that.
What I do like is its tip which can prove useful when trying to reach small places like meat around bones without using a second utility or boning knife. Because of this it also feels more like a Kiritsuke kind of knife. Oh, and also the fact that when I carry my knife around I can always keep it secure with a sheath. You don’t want to have a 63+ Rockwell hard knife laying around just like that for security and because it might bang into other items depending on how you decide to store it.
Our Final Thoughts
We have come to comprehend how Santoku knives are fully capable of replacing more traditional chef knives but also the little differences that grow them apart. Since there are many manufacturers each one offering so many alternatives we selected our top three:
Shun Classic Hollow-Ground Santoku should always be considered because of its brand trajectory of quality over the years. It is made with Japanese steel, VG-10, which is an implicit seal of warranty as it is well known to last for long periods of time combined with a sublime Pakkawood handle.
Of course the J.A. Henckles International Classic Santoku is also a great option as it uses high-quality German steel. However I do prefer more of the aesthetics of damascus steel and Pakkawood style. If you prefer an European kind of grip, this might be a good fit for you.
Lastly, the Mercer Culinary Genesis Santoku is a good alternative that proves value for its price. It may not have Japanese steel or a Pakkawood handle but it certainly gets the job done nicely. Finally it depends if you prefer the feel of more European or Japanese knives and if you are willing to go all out to get the best quality knife or is ok with accepting compromises in quality for the price.
What do you think about this selection of the Best Santoku Knife? Which one do you think it best suits you? Please let us know in the comments below!