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Mar 30, 2006 08:30 AM

Santoku knives -- are they that great?

  • w

I keep seeing santoku knives on sale, every brand seems to have them now...they seem to be quite the rage. What's the big deal about them? Are they truly a "must have"?? I have a set of 4 Wusthof Trident knives that I love... (chef's knife, serrated bread knife, paring knife, and that other slender one...I think they call it a "sandwich knife") Plus the shears and sharpening steel. So I'm not sure I really need another knife, but would love to be convinced. :)

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  1. It's up to you if you want to put out the approximately $100 that one'll cost ya. I bit the bullet and bought one years ago as being an avid RR fan of the TVFood Network. She used one on everything. Now mind you, I am sure she had a sharperer man right there at her beckon call to make them slice a tomato. Anyway, I love mine. I had ordered one from the Mall at at specialty store and they got in a Henkel (SP?) and I was furious. No good at all and I took it back and got my $100 back on it. I ordered one Wusthoff online for #89 + tax and it came out to the hundred I knew I'd spend. It is an excellent knife in my opinion and for me, it 'is' a must have.

    3 Replies
    1. re: TUSCANY

      OK...but WHY is it a "must have"? What makes the knife so special/different from other knives?

      1. re: wyf4lyf

        I got the Wustoff Santoku - on sale when they put out the ones with the little dimples on the side so things stick less. I use it all the time (instead of chef's) since I don't cut heavy bones very often and it's thinner lighter great for all the veg I slice up. I don't really need the point or the heft of the big chef knife.

        And because it's new and pretty so I lavish it with the steel
        ; )
        of course there's an element of that

        I also really like an offset serrated bread knife I got a year or two ago (Wustoff again) - it's great on tomato, onions, or bread like it is intended for

        1. re: wyf4lyf
          Amuse Bouches

          The blade is very thin and very sharp, so it does thin slices and crisp vegetables very well. If you're chopping something that can take a lot of bruising, like potatoes or butternut squash, I prefer a heavier chef's knife, but for onions, tomatoes, and herbs, the thin blade means they slice up very nicely.

      2. I didn't buy the hype either. I love my forged chef's knife. But then I saw a high quality similarly sized santoku knife for an irresistibly low price and bought it thinking that if I didn't like it I'd just bring it back with my receipt for a refund. Well, I love it! I find myself reaching for it more than I do my chef's knife. If my chef's knife was capable of conscious thought it would be jealous and plotting a suitably knifey revenge.

        Here's the thing: the santoku doesn't have the long pointy bit at the end. The stubbiness actually works to your advantage. It feels like the fast, against the knuckles, pivoting chopping maneuver gets more leverage and is more efficient. That's the closest I can come to explaining why I seem to reach for it so much.

        But if you buy one at a reputable department store or something similar, keep the receipt and the packaging, and if you don't like it you can always return it for a refund.

        1. If you are happy with your chef's knife, then a santoku is not a 'must have'. Both work well for vegetable cutting. However many people who try a santoku end up preferring it over their chefs.

          Generally a santoku edge is straighter than a chefs, which means the rocking motion when cutting is different. While you can rock it, the santoku is better at the up down chopping, as with a Chinese cleaver.

          The santoku blade is usually thinner, and cuts through crisp vegetables easier. It isn't as good for heavy duty tasks, but fine for most home kitchen ones.

          The santoku blade may also be wider, making it useful for scooping up the cut food and transferring it to the pan.

          Some of these differences are evident from just looking at the blade shape.


          5 Replies
          1. re: paulj

            I think the Santoku is a cross between a chef's knife and a Chinese cleaver. If you already have a chef's knife, I'd think about getting the cleaver instead since it is cheaper and the two knives combined do the same thing as the Santoku

            1. re: cinderella525

              The Japanese also have a vegetable knife, that is rectangular like the Chinese cleaver, but much lighter weight.

              I believe the name 'santoku' means something like 'three way', suggesting it is a multipurpose knife, good for all around use, but not quite as good for certain tasks as more specialized shapes.


              1. re: paulj

                I have one of the Japanese "vegetable knives" and just love it. I must confess however, that I'm a bit of a knife freak. I have at least 2 chef's knives, 2 Santoku knives, several Chinese cleavers and who knows what else. Still, I use all of them at one time or another. The Japanese vegetable knife is shaped like a cleaver only about half as high and is much lighter. They are also less expensive than a Santoku knife.

                1. re: paulj

                  I, too, have the rectangular Japanese vegetable knife, and I use it for most things. I also have a much older version of that knife that belonged to my grandfather, and has since passed to my grandmother, my mother and now to me, so I guess I consider it a family heirloom. I love these knives because they really take a great edge.

                2. re: cinderella525

                  No. I 'cleave' nothing with my santoku. I have three. A Henckels, a Messermeister Meridian Elite (still from my original Le Cordon Bleu tool set from college) and a Mundial 5000. The Meridian is very thin and goes through any vegitable like a scalpel. My only concern with it is how easily the blade can ding on the edge. The henkels is a little heavier and does not hold an edge as well as the meridian. The Mundial is the latest purchase for me. It is very heavy for a santoku. The shape of these knives has more to do with proper knife handling technique than any cutting purpose. The Meridian is a $130 knife, while the Mundial is about $60. The only shame this knife carries is in it's association with rachael ray. Poor knife. I would like to see her poached in pomace.

              2. America's Test Kitchen did a comparison of them against other kinds of knives. (link below)


                2 Replies
                1. re: Pman

                  Please don't put links to America's Test Kitchen here. They lead ONLY to a site that says the article is ONLY available to members. To become a member, you have to sign up to receive "free" issue of their mag. If you don't subscribe, they start dunning you. They even resort to a fake collection agency letter (which is actually in-house and which, I was told by a staff person when I called to complain, "doesn't mean anything". I boycotted them ever since.

                  1. re: oakjoan

                    i think you may be confusing the america's test kitchen (ATK) site with their sister site, cooks illustrated magazine (CI). there is no fee for registering with ATK, but i there is one for CI. also, ATK does not put out a magazine, that would be CI. i have been registered with ATK for several years and have never been charged a fee, and have never received a dunning letter.

                2. I got one for my birthday and love it ... I chose a Henckel (sp?) after trying out both the Wusthof and the Global. Got it at WS - about $80. It has become my first knife of choice, I think b/c of the flat blade.