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Classic Chef's knife or Santoku knife?

I am in the market for knives and I guess i will probably end up getting a 8inch knife from Shun..but the problem is, I don't know whether I should purchase a chef's knife or santoku knife. Any tips and suggestions?

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    1. I responded in the topic above, but I like my chef's knife far better. Maybe it's a better brand - it's a heavy Wustof Classic. The Santoku is by a less expensive brand (begins with an "S," like Sabatier or something) and I had to sharpen it after the first use, and veggies certainly didn't "fall away" from the knife as promised.

      5 Replies
      1. re: xnyorkr

        Santoku is a less expensive brand? I thought Santoku was a type of knife and not a brand.

        1. re: Monica

          Santoku is a style and not a brand. To futher refine, you can buy a hollow edged santoku that has indents in the blade that allow air to stay next to it so the potatoes do not stick when slicing.

          1. re: Monica

            I wrote Santoku is BY a less expensive brand....No it's not a brand, it's a type. I can't remember the exact brand name, but it 's something like Sabatier.

            1. re: xnyorkr

              Most, if not all, the knife companies produce a Santuko knife. You can get a German-made (Wusthof or Henkels) or Japanese-made (Shun, MAC) version. They, like all knives come in various qualities. I have a German Santuko (Henkels) and a Japanese (MAC) chef's knife. I prefer the MAC.

              1. re: xnyorkr

                Sabatier is a mid to high end knife.

                Cutleryandmore.com has a wide range of hollow and non-hollow santoku starting at $30. They are pretty reliable and price competitive.

          2. If weight is not an issue you should also look into Forschner/Victorionix knives. I started buying these in 1978 and still have my origina 10" chefs. They are light, hold an edge very well, are 75% less than the "name" knives and annually get rated as a "Recommended" by America Test Kitchens. I think an 8" chef;'s should be in the $30-40 range. GREAT DEAL.

            3 Replies
              1. re: xnyorkr

                type it into google and you will see the normal cast of characters selling them on-line.

              2. re: jfood

                I'd second this fine reccomendation. They were the "kitchen" knives at a restaurant I worked at. Not everyone had their own knives (or wouldn't use them for all tasks...which I always figured meant that their knives must not be worth much) and so we have several Forschner chef's knives that got absolutely abused. I was always impressed with how well they stood up to the use, held an edge and took a new edge. They're definitely a good buy.

              3. Choosing between the Shun Santoko and Shun Chef's knife isn't going to be easy because they both are made of steel that is much harder (Rockwell 61) than Westen knives (Rockwell 55-57) and can therefore support a more acute edge angle which makes cutting easier. Also, because they are both bolsterless, it will make it easier for your sharpener. Either one is a good choice, but if you are a purist, the Santoku shape is designed for cutting fish and veggies, not meat (although it can). The Chef's knife is a Western design for a do-all knife. Hope that helps

                1. And see if you can try out a Kyocera ceramic santuko....

                  1. If you're really not sure which shape you'll like better, you may want to hunt around for a place that will let you return the knife. Then buy both and return the one you don't like as much.

                    1. This recent thread is about the exact same thing:

                      1. I would go for the shun. The main question to me would be which knife would you use the most - what type of slicing/cooking do you usually do?

                        1. People told me that Santoku knife is good for cutting fish but when you go to a Japanese sushi restaurant, you don't see any sushi chef cutting his fish with a santoku knife...they use a knife that looks more like a paring knife...so what's up with that..hmmm...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Monica

                            Santoku is a multipurpose knife. In fact the name means something like '3 use'. There are specialized fish knives (longer, narrower), and specialized vegetable knives (such as a rectangular design).


                          2. Sushi chefs have specific knives for cutting fish, it affects the texture of the fish.

                            This would not be an issue if you are going to cook the fish. A santoku is shorter than a chef's knife. You could use a santoku for slicing a block of fish. If you are cutting down a big fish, you might use a chef's knife.

                            I think of a santoku more for vegetables, it great for cutting through veggies for various dishes (soups, curries, gumbos, chili's, etc). However, for very hard vegetables and meats, I usually use a chef's knife since I want to keep my santoku as sharp as possible. I have separate knives for boning, for the same reason.

                            1. I can't personally attest to the shun chef's knife, but I've had several santokus (Wusthof Grand Prix, Mac, Henckels twin signature) in addition to a Sabatier and Solingen chefs knives and assorted Chicagos. I didn't really need another Santoku, but I took a flyer on an ebay auction for a stainless shun santoku. It's absolutely insane, beautiful and incredibly sharp. If I was to start from scratch, that's the one I'd start with. I wouldn't quibble about cutting veggies or meat with it. It can slice through anything you choose to cut absolutely effortlessly.

                              1. I have a Shun Santoku and a Henkels 10 inch Chef's knife. I used the Chef's for 10 years and got a smaller 8" Global Chef's knife 2 years ago. I actually liked the smaller knife better. Then, I got the 7" Shun Santoku a few months ago. It has the indentions on the sides, which actually does keep potatos from sticking while slicing. This is by far the most wonderful and versitile knife of the three, in my opinion. It feels more balanced and fits better in my hand. I've let a few other people try it who also use their 10" Chef's for everything, and 2 people have also purchased the Shun. If you live near a Sur Le Table, they will let you hold and try out the knives. It's really a matter of personal preference, and mine would be the Shun Santoku for every day use.

                                1. I think it comes down to a matter of preference. My brother loves his Santuko knife, and claims it's the only knife he needs, but I find my 8" chef's knife to be more versatile and easier to use. I have both a Wusthof Grand Prix and the Forschner, and though I like the Forschner I have found it doesn't hold its edge as well as the Wusthof. I would go to the store and try out the two styles and see which feels better to you.

                                  1. I bought a brand new Sabatier santuko knife, and I had to sharpen it the first day I used it. It was >> dull << and I had trouble cutting with it. I went right back to my chef's knife. I don't know if it was me, or the knife, or the brand.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: xnyorkr

                                      Depends on which Sabatier you got. The Thiers-Issard knives are good quality carbon steel, though they can always use a touch-up with a butcher's steel prior to use. The ''Sabatier'' brand that has the trademark in the USA, by all accounts, pretty much sucks.

                                      Either way, if the knife sucks, put it on eBay and free up that money for more important things.

                                      1. re: ttriche

                                        I got a set of those "Sabatier" that's the US brand as a gift and they were HORRIBLE. And, I got them from an ex-chef. Which made me realize why his restaurant didn't fare so well...

                                    2. I just purchased an 8" Shun Chef's knife and I could not be happier. I bought it at Sur La Table and started with an 8" Global cutting a squash. By the time I moved onto cutting an onion with the Shun it was no contest. The saleswoman said that in her opinion, santokus were merely a trend right now. I watched someone else testing a Wusthoff (I think) santoku and the food stuck to it just like any other knife.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: foodiegal71

                                        > The saleswoman said that in her opinion, santokus were merely a trend right now.

                                        This is why Sur le Table is actually worth supporting as an establishment. They will level with you (you'd almost think that they value customers who are willing to pay for quality!).

                                        My wife and I have several knifes; I like my 8" chef's knife, she likes the santoku, and we are both partial to a neat little hybrid 6" knife by Ergo Chef for prep work with a massive mincing or dicing component. The key is to select the right tool for the job, always.

                                        (Personally, I feel that a chef's knife is the right tool for more jobs than most knives, but that's a matter for another time. If Jacques Pepin is using a santoku these days, there must be at least a little substance to this trend.)

                                        1. re: ttriche

                                          Different shapes for different uses. You have to try them. Also, if wanting a Sabatier from Thiers-Issard, France, look for the "walking elephant" logo on the blade.

                                          1. re: ttriche

                                            Look - a santoku is one of several general purpose Japanese chefs knives that's been around for a LONG time. Now it's true that it's very trendy right now, but there's a reason for that. I also think they're maybe more comfortable (and less intimidating) than a chef's knife for someone who doesn't know how to handle one.

                                            In any event, I have both; these days, I usually reach for my chef's knife, but I think it really depends on your style of cutting. Most santokus aren't great for that classic "rocking" motion type cutting, but are good for more of a "slicing" or "chopping" motion.

                                            1. re: will47

                                              I think the curvature of the blade is the essential difference between the two blade styles. The chef's has greater curvature, and hence better for the rocking style of cutting; the santoku is straighter, and normally kept parallel to cutting board. It can be used in a simple up-down chop, but one Japanese cookbook insists it should be moved forward while cutting, slicing, not just chopping. You can't slice while keeping the tip on the cutting board.

                                              There are other typical differences, but a knife could be made combining features, such as blade thinness (better with the slicing motion), lack/presence of a bolster, blade depth (better for scooping up the chopped food), and granton edges.


                                              1. re: paulj

                                                Your last paragraph is right on target. I've got quite the collection of knives after culinary school, working professionally for quite a while and being unable to refrain from trying something new when I see it. But the knife I use for 98% of all cutting jobs now is a modified Henckel 4 star 10 inch chef's knife. I was lucky enough to come across a master knife maker. He took about 1/4 inch off of the whole blade and bolster then hollow ground entire edge. I ended up with a knife that has basically the same curve, but weighs less and has a thinner, sharper blade. I love it.

                                          2. re: foodiegal71

                                            Are you talking about the granton edges? You can get both santokus and chef knives with or without granton edges (the little hollows along the edge).

                                            Some people believe that the granton edges help prevent sticking a little when cutting certain types of stuff (starchy foods, for example). But it's not a magic pill or anything, and I don't think anyone's trying to say that food's not going to stick to a santoku.

                                            I have several chef knives (Shun, Henckels, Mundial), as well as a Santoku (a Wusthof w/ the granton edge), and I will say that between the hollowed edge and the slightly thinner blade, I tend to find it easier to do really thin slices of vegetables with the santoku.

                                            1. re: will47

                                              I find it easiest of all to use a $10 Kyocera mandoline-type thingy (which is smaller, lighter, cheaper, and sharper than a 'real' mandoline) for making really thin slices. They are also far more uniform than I would ever be able to make them by hand.

                                              No need for a $30-50 knife just to make thin slices, that is a solved problem.

                                              This informs my bias towards a chef's knife as a better tool for general knife prep.

                                          3. Being on a budget, my knives are good quality but nothing fancy or high end. I love my Chicago Cutlery and they are guaranteed for life. But I bought two Santoku knives for about $13 at Sam's Club in their restaurant tools area and they are really good knives. They are not fancy and have a simple plastic handle, but are supposed to fight microorganisms and can be put through the dishwasher. IMO they cut very well and after several weeks of use, have not needed sharpening yet. I used them primarily for vegetables and the like.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: webecoxs

                                              Don't put your knives in the dishwasher - even "dishwashable" ones.

                                              And seriously... how much effort does it take to wipe down the blade and towel it dry?

                                              1. re: webecoxs

                                                I hope they weren't promised to cut through a can, and then slice tomatoes.

                                              2. I 2nd-3rd-4th the recommendations for getting a feel for the two styles with
                                                less expensive knives and then when you've got a good idea of what's working
                                                to drop the $100+ on a higher-end brand.

                                                I'm excessively happy with my Dexter-Russells that I pick up at the local
                                                restaurant supply store (haven't seen them elsewhere, are they generally
                                                available?). White plastic handles. Decent but somewhat brittle steel.
                                                Totally dishwasherable. They need to be sharpened pretty frequently, steeled
                                                before use and after washing every time, and a too-acute angle on the blade
                                                can result in a bit of chipping.

                                                Certainly not the Lamborghini of the knife world. More like an old Chevy you've
                                                gotta work on a lot. But they're cheap, adequately turn one piece of food into
                                                two, and have a down-market sexiness I really like.

                                                1. This seems to be a recurring question on this board. Here is the answer (IMHO):

                                                  You'll probably eventually have both anyway. Buy them both. If they're good quality, you'll have them for years.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: El Puerco

                                                    I've started using a 10 in chef's knife and now I can't go back to santoku or an 8in. I guess does matter :)

                                                    it's a 10 in Sabatier btw

                                                  2. A chef knife is by far a more versatile knife. The santoku is great for slicing vegetables. They are often thinner than a western chef knife so they have a lower bevel angle and can be very sharp. The santoku has a very flat blade with no belly like the chef knife. This makes it hard to get the rocking motion used in chopping things like herbs. The santoku also does not have a point like the chef knife. What people seem to like about them is that they are often lighter in weight and do a very good job of slicing. Not an essential knive in my book. The standard chef knife is an essential style knife whether it's a western chef knife or a Japanese gyutou.

                                                    1. There seems to be some misinformation floating about here. First, the santoku is a hybrid of the Western chef's knife and more traditional Japanese knife that gained popularity after World War II. As such, it is a recent development. Traditionally, a Japanese chef would use three knives: a "fish" knife (deba bocho) also used for meat and pountry, a vegetable knife (nakiri bocho), and a slicer (tako hiki or yanagi ba) used for sashimi and similar preparation. There are also a host of more specialized knives, but those were the three big ones. The santoku, which translates to something like "three virtues" (as mentioned by a previous poster) was marketed to replace all three.

                                                      The Japanese also make another kind of "all-purpose" knife, called the gyutou, which is essentially a Western chef's knife, but they do have their own character and blade shape, if you look closely. They tend to have a straighter back than Western knives and almost never have a bolster.

                                                      In my opinion, the most important quality of knives is not necessarily the blade shape as seen from the side, but the thickness of the blade and whether it is single bevel (sharpened on one side, as many Japanese knives are) or double bevel (as most Western knives are). If you buy a German knife in santoku shape, it will handle more like a German knife than a Japanese knife.

                                                      There are objective benefits and downsides to both styles, independent of your personal taste. The Japanese blade will be lighter, sharper, and more brittle. You will need to handle it more carefully, and if you get a single bevel blade, you will need to learn how to sharpen it correctly. The Western knife will be heavier (so it will do more of the work), stronger, but will almost certainly be duller (though this is relative... obviously you can get a double bevel blade pretty sharp).

                                                      If you do decide you like the thinner Japanese style, I would recommend shopping around for more than just Shun (though Shun is fine... I would just note that there are many other fine Japanese manufacturers out there as well, even if they are not being sold at common culinary stores). Some good info here: http://korin.com/knife.php