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I'm buying a good knife: 8-in chef or santoku???

p
pâté chinois Feb 2, 2007 06:56 AM

I have some Christmas money to spend and I decided to buy a good knife. I've been looking at Henkel's Professional line and am wondering which, if you had to choose between them is better... The 8-in chef or the 8-in santoku? They are both about the same price and I'm a bit puzzled as to what they do differently (apart from the fact that one is significantly heavier and the other has "aeration" dimples on its blade).

Also, in order to keep these as sharp as possible, I'm wondering what are my best options:

1. a sharpener (like Henkel's) AND a honing stick made of brushed steel
2. a sharpener and a diamond-encrusted honing steel
3. just a diamond-encrusted honing steel
4. something else?

thanks for telling me what works best for you!

Louise

  1. Snackish Feb 2, 2007 06:59 AM

    You must simply get the knives in your hand to get the feel for them. No amount of advice will tell you more than what your body will know by holding them.

    You need more than a steel to sharpen knives. I use a simple two-sided stone to start and a steel to finish.

    1. xnyorkr Feb 2, 2007 07:13 AM

      I agree with Snackfish. I bought both the chef and santoku, and, for my money, the chef wins hands down (Wurstof Classic)

      1. b
        Buckethead Feb 2, 2007 07:13 AM

        The dimples are not related to the knife shape, you can get a santoku with or without them. I prefer without, but it's up to you.

        I tend to reach for my santoku more because I like the wider blade for scooping up ingredients off the cutting board, and because my 6.5" santoku is much shorter and more maneuverable than my 10" chef's. The chef's knife has a much pointier tip, which is handy for It's really all personal preference, whichever knife feels best in your hand is the one you should buy. Try to find a store that will let you take them out of the case and test them out on a cutting board and get the one that feels best to you.

        As far as sharpening, I would get a steel to hone them between sharpenings, and leave the sharpening to the professionals.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Buckethead
          s
          slacker Feb 2, 2007 01:31 PM

          Those "dimples" are useless. They're supposed to help prevent whatever you're slicing from sticking to the blade. But they don't work at all. I have a Wustoff santoku with those dimples and love love the knife; paid a little bit more for those indentations, which was a little bit more than I needed to pay.
          I find the santoku more versatile than all of my chef's knives.

          1. re: slacker
            LindaWhit Feb 25, 2007 08:41 AM

            I agree - I was given a Shun Classic Santoku for Christmas, and it has the dimples. It doesn't "shed" the chopped items any better than a knife without the dimples.

            For the OP, I agree with Snackish as well - go to the store and feel the knife in your hand - weight, balance, etc. I have the Professional S Henckel's, and for my money, I always reach for the Santoku over the Chef's knife now.

        2. MiniMom Feb 2, 2007 07:55 AM

          I purchased a Paderno santoku knife, good quality, light. but DO NOT use for anything other than chopping easy veg onions, garlic & herbs. I made the mistake at xmas due to all my knives being currently used & chopped a turnip with it. It cracked the blade, so warning be gentle with your santoku knife.

          1. MMRuth Feb 2, 2007 07:57 AM

            I have a number of knives - mostly Henkles - and ever since I got the santoku, that is the one I use 90% of the time. I love it!

            1. t
              Theodore Feb 2, 2007 08:30 AM

              Sure, that's easy. The Santoku is a traditional Japanese bolsterless knife designed to chop fish and veggies. The Santoku blade is thinner than the chef's knife so it's not useful for cutting up a whole chicken, for example or anything with a bone in it.

              Because the Santoku is bolsterless, it will be easier to sharpen than the chef's knife. The dimples on the edge look great but there's no academic evidence they do any good. They work against you over time because if you keep your knife professionally sharpened, at some point the dimples become the edge and the edge will be wavy.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Theodore
                w
                will47 Feb 2, 2007 09:31 AM

                > Because the Santoku is bolsterless, it will be easier to sharpen than the chef's knife.

                Of course, there are chefs knives which don't have bolsters (at least bolsters that get in the way of sharpening). Messermeister is one (in terms of traditional german knives):
                http://messermeister.com/html/product...
                and most commercial kitchen stamped knives (Forschner, Mundial) don't have one either.

                And neither do the chefs knives of most of the Japanese brands (Shun, Global, Hattori, Misono).

                And you can get both chefs knives and santokus with or without the dimpled (granton) edges. I believe that they have actually been proven to make slicing certain things easier. If you're getting your knives professionally sharpened by someone who knows what they're doing (and therefore isn't taking off that much metal), I think it should take a long, long, long time before the dimples become the edge.

              2. w
                will47 Feb 2, 2007 09:57 AM

                I don't know if your decision in terms of brand is already made, but I would strongly suggest trying out some of the Japanese knives, like Shun, Global, MAC (and some of the more esoteric ones if you can find them near you). There are some other threads on the forum about why you should at least consider a Japanese knife. The steel is a lot harder on all the brands I mentioned, which makes them a bit harder to sharpen yourself, but will hold and edge for much, much longer.

                Also, for German knives, look at Messermeister - no bolster, which makes sharpening and honing MUCH easier. Most folks seem to think they're better than Wusthof / Henckels at a lower price.

                As mentioned above, a steel just hones the blade; if you want to keep a knife sharp, you can either take it to be professionally sharpened and hone before each use, or you can learn how to use a whetstone.

                If you have time, I suggest looking through the following threads:
                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/360328
                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/363929
                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/356486

                especially the first.

                Don't get me wrong - there's nothing wrong with Henckels / Wusthof - I own both and am happy with them. But if I were starting over again, I would definitely buy Japanese knives.

                In terms of which STYLE of knife you should get - some of it depends on your cutting style. A chef's knife is the choice if you want to do the traditional rocking motion, and it is a better general purpose knife (because it's heavier), especially if you're going to be cutting up chickens and whatnot with it. Also, the chefs knife is heavier, so as others have said, try the feel of both and see which feels better in your hand.

                My suggestion - get a chefs knife and get a santoku some time later.

                1 Reply
                1. re: will47
                  LindaWhit Feb 25, 2007 08:46 AM

                  "there's nothing wrong with Henckels / Wusthof - I own both and am happy with them. But if I were starting over again, I would definitely buy Japanese knives."
                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~
                  I've used Henckel's Professional S for a long time, and after being given a Shun Classic (and being excited about it because I was aware of the quality of the knife) I find myself using my Henckel's more than not, because of the weight and balance of the knife in my hand. The Shun Classic Santoku's handle is more oval/round than square/rectangular, and feels "fatter" and more awkard in my hand. It's also a heavier knife so my hand gets tired more quickly, so for me, the Henckel just works better.

                  It really is a personal preference.

                2. w
                  will47 Feb 2, 2007 10:03 AM

                  One other note.
                  A diamond or ceramic steel will take off more metal than a traditional steel. Some people recommend one over the other. With a knife that's not as hard, the diamond steel might actually be overkill (because it's actually doing a little sharpening instead of just honing). If you do get the diamond steel, be extra careful not to do it too hard, and don't do anywhere near as many swipes as you'd do on a traditional steel (1 or 2 vs 5-8).

                  1. mamaciita Feb 2, 2007 11:32 AM

                    I HAD to have a Wusthof Santoku for Christmas a few years ago. I love it, but about all I use it for is chopping onions (I do lots of that). It seems almost too fragile for anything much more heavy-duty, especially in comparison with my big ol' chef's knife.

                    My mom, on the other hand, has a Henckels Santoku that is much heavier than mine, and she uses it for nearly everything (might have something to so with the fact that it's the only sharp knife in her kitchen, but I think that discussion is on another board).

                    1. r
                      robertpasadena Feb 2, 2007 11:44 AM

                      I own the Henkles Prof S and love them. If I could only have one or the other I would go with the chef. But, the chef knife has always been my favorite. I do love the santoku. The chef is great for meat and cutting into hard large veggies (cabocha squash) The santoku rocks and kicks butt at slicing veggies and sushi. Sharpening, I went through heck until I figured out how to best maintain my blades. I bought the 3 step electric sharpner from chefmate or some name like that. Basically I sharpen my knives on that once a year. Every time I use a knife I run it 1 time on each side over the steel. The steel realigns the edge and removes any jagged edges. About once a month or so I take fine grit sand paper and run it from the base of the steel to the tip a few times all around. You will be amazed at the filings that come ut of the steel. If you don't treat your steel with the sand paper it will be useless in a year or two. This maintenance keeps my knives sharp all year long. It always looks cool to run your blades up and down the steel numerous imes, but, in actuality you are damaging your blade. 1 or 2 strokes per side just before you use the knife.

                      1. j
                        jkt Feb 2, 2007 07:02 PM

                        A great knife is a pleasure to use. So which knife would you spend the most time using? If most of your cooking is prepping veggies, go for the santoku. If you would use it for cutting meats and chopping harder vegetables, go for the chef's knife. It's probably not that big a deal since you can always buy the other knife later on...

                        1. jbyoga Feb 2, 2007 07:31 PM

                          I say get a WUSTHOFF!!! Santoku 8inch and a Diamond rod to sharpen.

                          If you have to cut anything super tough (bone) you should use a cleaver anyhow...

                          Also, have your local Japanese rest. chef show you how to sharpen one side only...

                          I've had mine sharpened that way and they will hold an edge for months....crazy!

                          1. SanseiDesigns Feb 2, 2007 07:42 PM

                            Like a car, "test drive" the knives. Any reputable merchant will allow you to do this so you can get the feel of the knife in your hand and on a board. Some people don't like the feel of a Santoku. I have different applications for my knives, depending on the food and type of cutting - classic chef for heavy duty cutting, while a Santoku for vegetables fruits, and more delicate foods. My Mac knives for sashimi, sushi, and volume/large decorative. I have Thai carving knives for the more intricate carvings.

                            1. eddy Feb 17, 2007 09:25 AM

                              cook's illustrated rated the Mac super santoku as the best knife in this style

                              1. gargantua Feb 18, 2007 06:07 AM

                                You might want to take a look at some of the handmade knives. I have two from Kramer

                                http://kramerknives.com/index.htm

                                A little pricey but you will have it the rest of your life. High carbon steel, not stainless for an incomparable edge. WOrks of art really but extremely functional. A pleasure to use.

                                1. ttriche Feb 22, 2007 08:37 AM

                                  As with most things, ''it depends''.

                                  Some suggestions that I have not yet seen from other posters:

                                  If you have smaller hands and prefer a rocking motion, the Ergo Chef 6" granton edge chef's knife offers many of the advantages of both a chef's knife (heft, curve) and santoku (relatively thinner blade with abbreviated bolster and grantons to reduce sticking), but with a rather clever shape that makes most prep work effortless. I bought one as a second for $30 on eBay and the steel is identical to the Henckels Pro S pieces (eg. our much-loved butcher's cleaver) that we received for our wedding. My wife loves this knife and it holds a brutally sharp edge.

                                  If it were me doing the choosing, I would choose the 8" chef's knife. Personally I use an 8" Mundial wood-handled full-tang chef's knife that I bought in college. It feels right in my hand and Amazon sells it (8" Mundial 2100 Chef's Knife) for about $30 (approximately half of the best price I have seen on the identical Henckels Pro S piece). Mundial is the Tsingtao of knife brands -- a bunch of Henckels guys took a field trip to Brazil, taught some Brazilians (in what is now the world's largest steel producer) how to forge German style knives, and they essentially took over the market in many butcher shops and prep kitchens. Cheap and indestructible pieces. As with the Ergo Chef piece, it holds a razor edge and glides through tomatoes of its own volition (with proper steeling, of course -- no knife can possibly stay sharp forever, you must sharpen and maintain them). If you're set on the Henckels, then for sure, the Pro S 8" chef's knife is a nearly indestructible piece and a delight to use. Just make sure it feels right in your hand. A knife that is not suited to your personal prep style is worthless. And as previously mentioned, maybe an 8" knife is not the right size for you -- maybe you'd prefer a 6", or a 10", or a 12" or even 14" knife. (The latter will all be old Sabatier pieces, most likely...)

                                  My father, and many chefs, prefer those older carbon-steel Sabatier chef's knives, which take an edge faster (but must be kept dry or they will rust, and regardless of what you do they will tarnish). If you look on eBay you can find carbon-steel four-star fruitwood 'Elephant' knives in nearly any dimension, at prices that are likely to be less than Henckels. Many people have opined that the older Sabs may be the most versatile and easiest-to-sharpen knives ever made.

                                  Since the Ergo Chef knife showed up, we never seem to use our santoku anymore. A santoku is a good companion to a chef's knife, but I would not want to be splitting bones, chopping winter squash, or hand-pureeing (smashing) garlic with a santoku. And it doesn't encourage the rocking motion which I like to use when prepping. To me, a santoku is a "nice to have", whereas a good chef's knife is probably the single most useful thing in a kitchen.

                                  Also, I have a Chef's Choice electric sharpener which I think is a marvelous device. And I have a $10 bench grinder in my garage for preparing steel to be welded... it is useful for ''abbreviating'' bolsters in a pinch, but then, I don't care how my knives look as long as they can shave the hair off my forearms without touching skin. Much better to purchase a knife from a sensible manufacturer that produces knives with abbreviated bolsters for home kitchens.

                                  If you want a really nice steel, Ergo Chef makes an oval diamond steel which is much nicer than the piece of garbage from Wenger that I use. However, you will eventually need to put a good edge back onto any knife that encounters real use (eg. the bone-splitting and coconut-cracking for which we often use our Henckels cleaver). Either get a stone or a Chef's Choice. I have both, but I find myself using the electric sharpener much more. Here's why.

                                  The Chef's Choice 120 or 130 sharpeners are expensive, but they are easy to use and, if you follow the instructions, remove a minimal amount of metal on each pass. Passing a blade through the sharpener 2-4 times in each of slots 2 and 3 is much easier than breaking out a stone, wetting it, swirling edge on it, and generally doing the whole meditative-sharpening routine. You will want to either purchase a knife with an abbreviated bolster, or else abbreviate the bolster(s) yourself, so that you can sharpen the whole length of the edge; but that is a small price to pay for a set (or even just a couple) of razor-sharp knives in your block.

                                  It took me about 12 strokes in the "bench grinder" number 1 slot on the electric sharpener to sharpen out a 1/8" nick in the middle of my cleaver (an unfortunate meeting of steel, coconut, and a porcelain-enameled sink at my old apartment). About 6 strokes in the number 2 slot, and another 6 on the stropping disk, and the cleaver was again shaving-sharp with no nick. That would have been an awful lot of work with a stone, and tricky to do right, as well.

                                  Obviously, if you store your knives loose in a drawer, you should ignore all of the above and buy the cheapest stamped piece of garbage that you can find, then throw it away when it stops cutting. But from the fact that you're considering a steel, I assume you are long past that stage!

                                  Have fun trying the various knives in the store and may your prep always be effortless.

                                  1. p
                                    phoebek Feb 22, 2007 02:22 PM

                                    I love my 10" chef's knife and I have pretty small hands. It just depends on what you get used to. I haven't tried a santoku, so I can't make a comparison, but am intrigued by this discussion!

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: phoebek
                                      n
                                      neighborguy Feb 25, 2007 05:08 AM

                                      Yes, get the knife in your hands for some time before you make that decision if you can. I have both a 6" and 8" chef's knife and most of the time I find the 6" heavy enough and light enough for my hands to work whatever it is I'm cutting. The 7" santoku is better IMO for cutting veg.
                                      Another good brand to consider is Sabatier. Perhaps a bit cheaper than the German brands.

                                      1. re: neighborguy
                                        ttriche Feb 25, 2007 09:56 PM

                                        Just a FYI -- Sabatier is not a brand per se -- it is a region in France, like Laguiole, well known for its quality knives. The Sabs that you will be most interested in if you go this route are likely to be the carbon-steel knives produced by Thiers-Issard in the town of Sabatier. Look for four stars and an elephant on the blade, which should stain when you slice acidic foods. I was surprised that some lengthy recounting of the history did not pop up when I googled the two, so I figured I'd jot down what I knew for posterity.

                                        In fact, if you're going to get a Sab, your best deals may be had on eBay. I've seen some truly gorgeous one-of-a-kind Sabatiers go for prices that would barely buy you a paring knife from today's Henckels, Wusthof, or Shun lines. Just make sure you know what you are getting into -- your effort in keeping the blade sharp and dry will be handily repaid over the years. My father uses his 30- or 40-year old Sab 12" chef's knife to this day, for all manner of kitchen tasks, and last time I watched Jacques Pepin, he was using a not-at-all-dissimilar knife for the same. If you like the weight and handle, few things can top a properly crafted Sabatier, and Thiers-Issard made (and continues to make) the best-known examples of hand-crafted Sabatier knives.

                                    2. c
                                      Cessna Driver Feb 25, 2007 08:38 AM

                                      A sharp Santoku is about as good as it gets! My only problem with mine is that it needs to be sharpened ever couple of days. I use a Chef's Choice 3 stage sharpener ( I have never used the 1st stage) and find that 3 passes on both sides of stage 2, followed by 2 kind of slow passes on stage 3 does the trick. I can cut a very ripe tomato into very, very think slices using only the weight of the knife. I like my Chef's knife also but it is pretty heavy. All in all, if I could only have ONE knife i would go for the Santoku! (I have about 20 knives of differing kinds atm)

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