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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)?

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  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.