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Chef’s Knife Vs Santoku Knife

Published by: Chef Matty Riedel • Updated: October 26, 2023

Home cooks and professional chefs have a wide range of knives that they use, which differ in size, shape and function.

And, when you consider chef’s knives and Santoku knives, both are quite similar in their looks, as well as function. And often, people confuse one for the other. Both knives are very versatile and can be used for a range of cutting tasks.

But when you look at the chef’s knife and the Santoku knife very closely, they are quite different from each other and it is important to know the differences between the two so that you can choose the one that’s most suitable for your cutting needs.

Chef’s Knife Vs Santoku Knife: Similarities

Both the chef’s knife and the Santoku knife are general-purpose knives that can be used for a range of cutting tasks in the kitchen such as chopping, slicing and mincing.

They are so versatile, which is the main reason why these knives are extremely popular with chefs and they are used very commonly in homes, as well as professional kitchens. Both these knives are available in different materials such as metal or ceramic.

The key difference in both these knives is their origin and the shape of their blades, which in turn, determines the kind of cutting and slicing you can do with each.

And, the differences in the design, as well as how each knife hit the cutting board, require different cutting techniques and knife skills, so that each knife is utilised to its maximum potential.

What Is A Chef’s Knife?

Originating from Germany or France, the chef’s knife is a Western-style knife that is a very versatile kitchen tool that has several uses.

Resembling the Santoku knife quite closely, the chef’s knife is different in terms of the design. It has a broad blade curving upwards that forms the tip.

Commonly available in double bevel, the chef’s knife comes in serrated varieties and may sometimes have a Granton edge. Heavy to hold, the chef’s knife comes in a range of sizes, from 6 inches to 12 inches.

The various parts of the chef’s knife can be used for different cutting tasks such as the heavy-duty blade that can be used to cut veggies and fruits like squash and melon and thick chunks of meat.

The pointed tip of the knife is very good for trimming fat, scoring meat, etc. And, you can use the blade to crush garlic and other ingredients.

What Is Santoku?

Originating from Japan, the Santoku knife is a general-purpose knife. “Santoku”, meaning “three virtues” in Japanese, probably refers to the 3 types of cutting tasks the knife can handle i.e., chopping, slicing and mincing.

Or, it may refer to the different types of ingredients the knife can handle—fish, meat and vegetables or even the different parts of the knife’s blade—the heel, the main cutting edge and the tip.

The history of the Santoku knife can be traced back to the mid-40s to the time when World War II was coming to an end.

The Japanese started making some changes to the traditional Nakiri knife and came out with a smaller and lighter knife, the Santoku knife which could be used by home cooks.

Smaller and lighter compared to the chef’s knife, the Santoku knife has a wide sheepsfoot blade that is between 5 inches and 8 inches long. The flat face of the Santoku knife curves downwards to meet the front blade that has a straight edge.

The Santoku knife has a thinner blade compared to the chef’s knife, which enables more precise slicing. The edge of the Santoku knife is thin, unlike the French knives that have curved edges.

The Santoku knife usually does not have a bolster i.e., the metal between the handle and blade and may have a bevel on one or both sides and may have a Granton edge.

Chef’s Knife Vs Santoku Knife

Chef’s Knife Vs Santoku Knife

The main difference between the chef’s knife and the Santoku knife is the blade tip. The chef’s knife has a blade tip that allows you to rock the blade of the knife forward naturally when you complete the cut.

The Santoku knife, on the other hand, does not have a tip, which means that it allows you to slice with just a downward cut, making your cutting more efficient and quicker.

Another difference between both knives is the bevel. Most often, professional chefs use Santoku knives having a single bevel and when sharpening it, you can create a smaller angle that makes the blade much sharper.

For instance, you can sharpen a Santoku knife to 15 degrees on just one side, offering a sharper cut rather than having 30 degrees with the chef’s knife’s double bevel.

And, can be particularly advantageous for cutting uniform, wafer-thin slices for Japanese dishes including sashimi and sushi and also mincing herbs finely.

Chef’s Knife Vs Santoku Knife

Chef’s Knife: Best Uses

Used very commonly in professional kitchens, chef’s knives can handle a wide variety of complex cutting tasks efficiently. The knife is suitable for slicing, cutting and disjointing meat, chopping, slicing or dicing, veggies, fruits and nuts and slicing cheese.

But the chef’s knife is not suitable for fine slicing or intricate jobs such as julienning or peeling. It is best to avoid using a chef’s knife for chopping frozen products or large meat bones.

And, if you want to use the chef’s knife for slicing bread, then it is best to use a serrated one.

Santoku Knife: Best Uses

The Santoku knife chops, dices and minces very well. You can use it to cut meats, chop, slice or dice veggies, fruits and nuts, mince herbs or meat and slice cheese.

The Santoku knife is especially useful to cut fine slices of seafood, vegetables and fruits and you can use the wide blade to scoop the ingredients off the cutting board.

Santoku knives are shorter compared to chef’s knives and have a blade-to-handle design that is seamless, which makes Santoku knives ideal for people with small hands.

But it is best to avoid using Santoku knives for jobs such as slicing, chopping large-sized meat bones and delicate jobs such as peeling.

Chef’s Knife Vs Santoku Knife: Care

Knives are quite durable and with proper cleaning, sharpening, maintenance and storage, they can last for a very long time.

It is best to hand-wash both the chef’s knife, as well as the Santoku knife. Avoid putting the knives in a dishwasher and don’t use a scouring pad when washing them. Use a soft towel to dry the knives and store them in a wooden knife block or box.

The care for both types of knives is the same; however, the difference is in the sharpening method.

Sharpening the knife helps to restore the knife’s blade angle and there are many reasons why you should ensure that your knife’s blade is sharp.

With frequent use or over time, the knife blade usually becomes dull, requiring you to exert greater force while cutting, thus increasing the risk of it slipping accidentally, which can cause you to get injured.

A sharp knife can help to preserve the integrity and shape of the food you’re cooking. Using a knife with a dull blade not only damages the cells of the food but also its aesthetics and also taste.

Finally, using a sharp knife can make cutting easier, quicker and more enjoyable and also enhance your cooking experience immensely.

Sharpening Your Chef’s Knife

When it comes to sharpening your knife, whetstone sharpening is a better method because it helps to create a highly defined and sharpened edge.

The chef’s knife must be sharpened up to 15-20 degrees on both sides. If you want to hone the chef’s knife in between the rounds of sharpening it, you can use steel to do it.

Sharpening Your Santoku Knife

Santoku knives are made of harder steel compared to chef’s knives. Also, mostly, these knives have a single bevel, which makes it a lot easier to create a sharper edge on just one side.

Typically, Santoku knives can be sharpened to an angle of up to 1- to 15 degrees. And, because they don’t have a bolster, these knives are usually much easier to sharpen. 

Since they usually have a single bevelled edge, it will take a lot less time and effort to sharpen a Santoku knife.

The best way to sharpen a Santoku knife is using a whetstone because this method gives your knife a sharper edge compared to other sharpening methods.

And, it is better not to hone the Santoku knife with steel because although these knives are quite durable since they are made of thinner steel, using sharpening steel can damage them.

Here are the steps you can follow to sharpen your Santoku knife using a whetstone:

  • Submerge the whetstone in water to ensure that it is soaked.
  • Tilt the knife at the proper angle.
  • Using the coarser side of the whetstone, run your knife upward and downward on it in a smooth motion.
  • Make sure to cover the entire blade from the edge to where the handle starts.
  • If the knife is a double-bevelled one, then repeat the same process on the other edge too.
  • Turn the stone to the finer side and repeat the entire process once more.
  • Wash the knife thoroughly and dry it.

If you’re wondering which Santoku knife on the market is a great buy, here is our top pick for the best Santoku knife you can get your hands on.

Zelite Infinity 7-Inch Santoku Knife

Zelite Infinity Santoku Knife | German Steel | Razor Sharp | Superb Edge Retention | Stain & Corrosion Resistant Chef Knives | Leather Sheath | Alpha Royal Japanese 7 Inches
  • 7-inch multi-purpose Japanese-style knife
  • Made from high-quality German ThyssenKrupp High Carbon Stainless Steel
  • Traditional 3-Step Honbazuke Method hand finishing
  • 15-18-degree side cutting angle
  • Full tang
  • Forged rounded ergonomic handle
  • Rare tapered bolster
  • 56 Rockwell hardness
  • Stain, rust and corrosion resistant
  • 100% satisfaction guarantee
  • Money-back guarantee
  • 15-year risk-free warranty (when sold by Zelite Infinity)

Chef’s Knife Vs Santoku Knife: Wrapping Up

Good kitchen knives are a chef’s best allies in the kitchen and can make all your chopping, slicing and dicing jobs easier and quicker. And, if you’re looking for a good multipurpose knife, then both a chef’s knife or a Santoku knife are great options.

Both these knives are very versatile and can help you accomplish your cutting jobs efficiently.

But, if you’re confused about which is a better option for you, then it all depends on your personal preference and what kind of cutting you do most in your kitchen.

When properly maintained and cared for both these knives will be a long-lasting part of your arsenal in the kitchen.

Chef and Restaurant Owner Matty Riedel
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