HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >


Switching from Santoku to Chef knife?

Ok, I currently own a Mighty Mac Santoku knife wich is really nice. My problem with it is that it seems to be too light, fragile and brittle for my taste (the 2nd day after I got it, I dropped it and the tip of the knife broke and went flying through the kitchen! doh!).

Now, I've tried a Henckels four star 8" chef's knife from a friend and I fell in love. Would you guys recommend buying the four star or going maybe with a wusthof (or any other high quality heavy chef's knife) and keeping the santoku or bringing the santoku back to the store and asking for a trade (don't know if that would happen now that the blade is chipped and its been about 8 months I've been using it)?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Knife manufacturer is personal preference, as is the length and style of blade. That being said, however, a trip to a kitchen/knife store is in order. Any knife that you use should be comfortable in the hand, and well balanced-so that the knife does the work efficiently. Make sure that any knife that you get has both of these characteristics.
    Another thing to look for is whether the "tang" or metal portion of the knife goes right through the center of the handle, or whether the handle is separate.this will determine how well it is made, and how long it will last. Four Star, and Professional "S" knives fron Henckels have a full length "tang" for strength and rigidity. In the case of Global knives, which are all metal, this means nothing.
    There are lots of good knife manufacturers out there(Wusthof, J.A Henckels, Global etc....) to choose from. So find a freindly kichen cutlery/tool supplier, and test a bunch out to see what feels comfortable for you-also remember, that longer blades are not always better(if you have small hands...you probably will not be happy with a 12" blade!)
    Happy hunting! The choices are endless-If purchased wisely, they will last a liftime.

    sidenote: the Santoku knife, depending on blade configuration, may be reground.

    1. Definitely try going to a knife store. try a BUNCH of different brands. I would also recommend asking about maintenance. some baldes require little (think ceramic), and others require frequent (carbon steel).

      1. I'm not a santoku fan since there is little belly in the blade geometry. I like a little belly to facilitate the rocking motion used in some knife methods. The thinness of the santoku and Japanese knives in general allow for some hair splitting sharpness. I have a 8" 4 star but have re-profiled the blade and put a lower angled bevel for a sharper edge

        1. probably can't return your knife after you tipped it, but you can get it reground by a professional so it will be usable.

          knives (all tools) are a personal choice and if you "fell in love" with your friend's henkels, go with that (not *that* exact knife, :) a new one. . .). you can also go to a larger kitchen store and try out many knives to test out how they feel in your hand. wustoff might be a good alternate brand to test against the henkels. an 8" wustoff weighs 10 oz, so it's a heavier knife as opposed to shun, global, and japanese steel brands. it is my personal theory that among professionals, female chefs in general prefer traditional chef's knives, and males may or may not prefer santokus, depending on style. i use a shun 8" as my primary knife and switch to a wustoff when doing different tasks when i prefer a heavier blade; dh uses shun santokus.

          1. For what it is worth, try to find a store with as many brands as possible I tried a small cutlery shop here in cary, NC. They had brands I have never heard of, and a few I had heard of but had never considered. Wound up with a Messermeister. It fit well in my hand, and I liked the nice edge it had. If I had not trried a specialty shop, I never would have known.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Westy

              What store are you talking abt in Cary?? I want to go and actually TRY knives.

              From what I see here, the Mac and Forscher sound interesting to look at. Money would be no object, I want quality and feel that AT times (not all), you get what you pay for.

              I am in Cary also. I have been to William Sonoma and another kitchen store in Smithfield outlet. Both stores only carried a few brands. (Wusthof, Shun Classic, Henkle and a few less expensive types). Is there another knife store?

              From what I see on websites etc, I am considering Shun (Elite) and Misono UX10 knives. Unfortunately, you can only buy Misono on websites. Have yet to find the Shun Elite at the stores in Raleigh-Cary.

              I am torn between a chef and santoku knife also. Becomes very confusing. Been reading a lot on websites and lots of pros and cons on both. Some way NOT to use the Santoku for meats, only vegetables.

              I THINK I like the dimpled style for food not to stick as much as my chef knife. But am unsure it if would really make a difference. Would a Santoku (dimpled or not) cut as thinly as a chef?

              What REALLY is the difference between the two anyway?? They call the Shatoku a 'japanese CHEF knife". Rocking motion...when would you use that more than chopping?

              Is one more suitable for vegetable chopping and the other style for something else?

              8 or 10"?

              Any advice is appreciated! Not a professional cook here, I am a woman and just LOVE to cook and want a good quality. I want to learn more.

              Great forum by the way. I am glad I stumbled upon it.

              1. re: medicinewheel8

                Beck Cutlery. Good people and amazing products. Some good Japanese ones and a lot of high end Western ones. Really patient - go ahead and try them all.
                if I had to choose one: A chef's knife. A Santoku is handy, but, as you noted, the blade is better at veggies than meat.
                As far as size - your call. I am happy with an 8", but go with whatever feels most comfortable.
                Truth be told - my favorite knife is a Dexter Chinese cleaver. Great for chopping, chicken disassempbly, works as a food scoop, awesome balance. But again - whatever feels best in YOUR hand is the one to go with.

                1. re: medicinewheel8

                  A few years ago I bought an 8" Santoku knife (a Wusthof) and fell in love with it. Used it all the time and stopped using my 8" Chef's knife (also a Wusthof, Grand Prix). I loved its thinness. But a couple of months ago I started using my chef's knife more and more. Now I've stopped using the Santoku. I found that I did miss that rocking motion. I think part of it is that I've made an effort to do better with my knife skills. I like having both and being able to switch around when I feel like it.

                  To pick a brand you absolutely have to try them in your hand. The Wusthof Grand Prix works for me. But I recently ordered online a Vicotinox Forschner 8" Chef's Knife 40520 (sight unseen but it's not very expensive) and it also feels very good in my hand. It's very light which I thought would be a problem but I like it.

                  1. re: medicinewheel8

                    The rocking vs. chopping thing is a matter of technique - a traditional chef's knife is better for a rocking motion (where the tip stays on the board), whereas knives like a Santoku are better for an up - down type of motion. I have both kinds of knife, but I use a chef's knife for basically everything I do (I only really cut vegetables, though, FWIW). I think you can cut as thin, or thinner, with a santoku, than with a chef's knife (and you could cut even thinner with a one-sided Japanese knife like an Usuba or Nakiri).

                    The Misono UX10s are fantastic. I got a 9.4" gyutou from Korin when they had it on sale. It looks like they take returns, but only in unused condition, so I guess you could try one and return it if you don't like the feel / balance of it. It is, of course, better to try a knife in person, but I really don't think you'll be disappointed by the feel of the Misonos. The big thing to keep in mind with a Japanese knife is that you need to commit to either learning how to sharpen them, or sending them out to get sharpened by someone who knows how to sharpen that type of knife properly.

                    As far as the dimples, I don't think it's been proven one way or another whether they make a big difference; some people swear by them, others insist it doesn't make a difference. Check out the Glestain knives that are completely covered with them.

                2. MAC has a 25 year limited warranty on their knives, you might want to contact them and see if the damage to your knife is covered. You will probably have to contact them directly as the reseller usually doesn't have the authority to approve warranty replacement. Keep in mind that the tip of a knife is its weakest point. Droping any knife on the tip is usually going to cause damage of some variety (unless you have your kitchen tiled with cutting boards)

                  1. If the Mac can't be returned (unlikely) I'd grind it to a servicable shape,after all a Nokiri is basically a blunt nose Santoku. The EDGE is what you mostly paid for. Figure the Mac for when you have light duty stuff and want a very fine cut.

                    Years ago I had a 10" 4310 Forschner I used as a professional cook for years. As we had a commercial Norton triple stone with the Fine Arkansas...I did a real nice double bevel on it and touched that up often,steeled it.

                    This is essentially the basic Forscher stamped knife,mine was the rosewood handle,now there is also the Fibrox handle...a little more comfortable and less $....it's still essentially the same blade. My "budget" 10" took a much sharper edge than I could get on the head chef's forged Forscner or expensive Henkel. I used to drop a cherry tomato and cut it CLEAN in midair. Almost any knife with a less than razor edge will "bat" the little tomato across the room. I'd also do my usual test....edge up on the counter...I'd drop a black olive from 12" onto the edge. It should be abould half sliced and impaled on the edge. That is MUCH sharper than "will shave hair off your arm". A lot of knives that can shave...fail the olive drop test..the olive bounces off.

                    I'd often have that knife in hand for over half of an 8 hour shift..5 days a week. I filleted fish,salmon,sandabs. I could cleave a watermelon in one whack. I'd hold a full celery over the trash and lop off the whole butt in one shot. I used it to thin slice cross rib and prime rib on the buffet line...to cleanly cut triple deck club sandwiches on the line. I might have to turn a case of romaine into salad,dice down 20# of onions then quarter up 30 chickens and in between split some lobster shells......the 10" Forschner was always good. A 10" is a tad big for home use. The 8" is the same knife ...as is the 12".

                    Mine was sharpened fanatically....and on a very nice stone (no damn salad oil in the pores!) However.....I was out of restaurants for quite a few years...had no stone of any quality,and that knife kept a decent edge while getting used for all kinds of things.

                    I'd like to see how sharp a good Japanese steel blade can get. I ordered a Kershaw 7" with VG10 steel ( as in high $ Global + Shun) laminated with another stainless on the outside. I'll also soon replace my since stolen Forschner with a new one,Fibrox handle,as I'm in a high volume college dining hall kitchen and need a full size 10" again.

                    If you want PRETTY....the Globals are great but pricey.....as was your Mac. The Forschner is what we use when we expect to be cutting for 30 hours a week.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: rerem

                      I'll second the forschner recommendation. I have a couple with the fibrox handles and they feel great in my hand. They're a very good knife regardless, and a real bargain compared to the more expensive german and japanese knives. They hold a great edge and can take a beating.

                    2. ...also...in it's years on duty in pro kitchens..my Forschner survived MANY drops and plenty of rough handling.

                      1. If you really want a high quality one, I would get a Japanese knife. In terms of ones available at around the same price as a Henckels or Wusthof, you could look at Shun, Tojiro, Suisin, Global, or for a little more, Misono, Masomoto, or Suisin (again). I just got a Misono UX-10 9.5" gyutou from Korin, and so far, it's amazing. Most of those (except for Global) are fairly heavy duty, though I wouldn't try throwing them around.

                        These should keep an edge longer than German steel, though they are trickier to maintain - you'd need to either learn how to use a sharpening stone, or find someone to sharpen them for you.

                        Not being able to try in advance is a bit of a disadvantage (though I think most of these are pretty well balanced, and should be good if you like a heavy German knife), but check out the sales at http://www.korin.com right now - their prices are at or below the prices places like www.japanesechefsknife.com/.

                        1. I would go with a Wusthof. I find that it is more balanced and feels more comfortable in my hand.

                          1. Well, thanks for all your replies. I called up the store and I'll be bringing the knife back to see what they can work out. I'll have a chance to try out alot of knives there, but I think my heart might already be sold on the Henckels. I'll give an update as soon as I have some news.

                            thanks again.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: nonnon

                              Henckels (at least the quality, forged stuff) is definitely good stuff, and should last a long time. I've got one, and one was my first "good" knife ever, so I keep it around (and use it). BUT, just keep in mind that the edge will take more constant maintenance (honing and sharpening) than something harder in order to keep a nice edge.

                              IMO (I've used both), there's not much difference between these and the ~ $25 Mundial forged knives, which are about the same in terms of weight, balance, and quality.

                              Then again, knives are very personal things; if you like it and it feels good in your hand, go for it. At least try Wusthof or Messermeister too (don't know if your store will have the latter, but one nice thing about Messermeister is that they don't have a bolster, which makes honing and sharpening a liittle easier).

                              Sometimes I wonder why people ask a question like this if they have their heart set on one thing, though. If your heart is set on doing something, why do you need our validation to do what you're going to do anyway?

                              1. re: will47

                                Actually, its just that I've actually tried the Henckels and really liked it. I just wanted to have opinions about the knife and other suggestions. Any comments or advice are always appreciated and if you find that my question is useless, then I suggest you just don't answer it. That being said, I'll try to check out Messermeister too.


                            2. all santokus are not made alike. I have a Mac superior santoku as well, and I like it for slicing and dicing. It can be crazy sharp. However, I also have a shun stainless santoku that's much heavier and more substantial, yet also wicked sharp. I also have a Heckels and a Wusthoff santoku. The Mac and the Shun were very sharp out of the box. The Germans not so much. I took them to be sharpened professionally, and they are just as sharp as the Japanese knives. Santoku vs. chef's is a different issue. Certainly you lose the rocker motion with the flatter santoku edge and you don't have the pointy tip, but I still find the santokus excellent for most chopping and mincing tasks.

                              1. I have been using Wusthoff for 20+ years - best knives I've ever owned period. Great feel/takes and keeps an edge very easily. Happy Hunting..

                                1. Knives are going to get banged up, we all know the kitchen can be a dangerous place for us and our tools. I would absolutley send the santoku out for professional reshaping and sharpening. I mail about 5 knives (wusthof, henckels, global) every 6 months or so to a company in New York (ambrosicutlery.com) The peace of mind I get upon the return of my knives far exceeds the small fee of about $6-8 per knife. If you are a little sketchy about sending your knives away to "boot camp" start out with a few of your older ones that aren't getting as much use.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: joeychef

                                    I prefer the Henckels for my hand, as every brand is the "best" in the hand of the beholder. They are soft enough to take a keen edge on a good steel, but hard enough to hold it. I also have found great results with Ambrosi Cutlery in New York. I guess they have done quite a bit of knives on the web circuit. I found them three years ago, and have used them five times so far, and they come back better than any factory edge, or any edge I could ever put on. For what they charge, it's not even worth my time to do it myself