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Santoku knife- What do you use for that you wouldn't use a chef knife?

In-laws want to buy us knives as anniversary gift. Mother in law swears by Wusthof Santoku knife (one with a shorter blade). What do you use this kind of knife for that you wouldn't use a regular chef's knife?

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  1. Santoku knives, merlot wine, Tuscan food, cupcakes, pannini presses etc. fall into the same catagory, FADS. Just a nuevo way to make money. Use your good chef knife and be happy!

    5 Replies
    1. re: mrbigshotno.1

      I bought my husband a Santoku knife two years ago for his birthday and just love it. First off, the blade is just beautiful. The handle is well balanced and designed to fit your hand comfortably. We have gone as far as taking our knife on vacation with us since other knives pale in comparison.

      If your inlaws want to get it for you as an anni gift, I say go for it!

      ps. True Tuscan food is amazing!!!

      1. re: mrbigshotno.1

        Agree on the cupcakes, disagree on everything else.

        1. re: mrbigshotno.1

          This may be about the most useless reply I've ever seen on this site.

          What -- you don't like, so it's just a fad, a "way to make money"?

          I like my Santoku knife. The blade is thinner and I have more control.

          And incidentally, I like merlot, Tuscan food, and my panini press as well.

          1. re: mrbigshotno.1

            Cupcakes ... a fad? I'm confused. They've been around as long as I have and that's a heck of a lot longer than "a few years". Oh yeah ... and they are GOOD. Yum! So there!

            And that's very much but I also prefer using a santoku vs. a chef's knife. I like the flatter edge profile - it's more knife where it does me the most good. But I'm happy that you prefer your chefs knife.

          2. Merlot wine? just a way to make money? have you had duckhorn merlot? Or, for that matter, good tuscan food? sure, you could stay within what you know and never venture far from pot roast and meat loaf and be perfectly content not challenging your palate, but I think most of the people who use this forum are a little more adventurous than just repudiating what they've never tried or had the palate to appreciate. Merlot is not my favorite, for instance, but i will acknowledge there are some good ones. And what's wrong with cupcakes? Santoku knives have a more shallow belly, and I like using it to chop veggies, but you can perform most kitchen tasks with either. you can't use a santoku as a sort of paring knife because it doesn't have the same type of pointy tip, but it's just about as versatile. I have a Wusthof santoku, btw, as well as a Henckels and MAC, and I have chefs knives too. If you like a bit of heft in your knife, you might find santokus a bit light weight. In fact, the shun santoku feels heftier (and keeps its edge better) than the Wusthof. Knifes are pretty personal, so if you can, go to a store where you can hold one, or better yet, try one.

            1. I used a chef's knife (a gift from my dad) for over two decades, from graduate school sharing living quarters through several moves to my own kitchen. Then several years ago I bought the MAC superior santoku that was recommended by Cook's Illustrated, and it became my top knife. I liked its lightness and sharpness. The only things I don't use it for are when I need a cleaver for smashing or chopping through bone, a serrated blade for some breads, and I hardly ever use a paring knife because I feel too clumsy and heavy-handed with it. I bought a Wusthof Santuko a little more that a year back because it had the bevilled blade and was on super sale ($49.95 including shipping) but I still prefer the MAC when both are similarly recently sharpened.

              1. I'm sure it's been discussed before but the primary difference between the two is the profile of the cutting edge. A chef's knife has a little more of a curve that aids 'rocking' the knife to make multiple cuts. A santoku has a straighter cutting edge and requires more of a chopping action. I think this important if you have a lot of experience using one type as you'll have to relearn in order to switch. If you're new to it, then it makes no difference since you can learn to cut food efficiently with either one. Also, for the same size santokus are a little lighter since the blades aren't as thick which some might prefer.

                BTW, the santoku knifes marketed in the US are different from the ones in Asia.

                Hey, if one's free you might as well have both and see which you prefer. At least until your mother-in-law asks which you like. (:-D

                1 Reply
                1. re: RichardM

                  This is a great reply, Richard. Thanks for the info. Your response was the first to actually address the question.

                2. Personally I almost always use the Santoku. My natural inclination when cutting favors the straighter blade.

                  I recently got a square-tipped nakiri and I think I may like it even better than the santoku. The blade has just a little bit of rocker.

                  I use the chef's knife mostly for carving meat anymore.

                  1. Santokus are general purpose knives. Unlike a chef knife a santoku doesn't have the belly needed for chopping with the classic rocking motion. They are excellent for vegetables and as typical Japanese technique is more slicing than chopping. Even some of the Japanese gyotu, which resembles a chef knife the most will have less belly. Shun knives are Japanese with a more European shape. Some santokus have no tip and other do. It just depends on the maker. There are several variations of the santoku. Santokus seem to be favored by women and have gotten a bad rap but are still very useful general purpose knives.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: scubadoo97

                      Thanks. Makes sense on the slicing vs chopping. FWIW, I have a large chef's knife that I have used for many years. I did bring home my new Wusthof 5 inch santoku yesterday, so I will look forward to using it. Thanks everyone!

                      1. re: ejpnyc

                        enjoy it, it's nice to have a smaller knife to take out when you don't want to use your big chef's knife. I use my 5-inch santoku a lot for chopping up fruit for breakfast.

                        1. re: ejpnyc

                          EJPNYC,

                          Enjoy your new knife! I still own one chef's knife and pretty much never use it. I'm part of the crowd that prefers rapid chopping over rocking, so I really like my santokus - I own 4. Actually one of them is exactly your knife but mine is the standard 6.5" size. I wish you many happy years with it.

                          My favorite "go to" knife is an entry level japanese carbon steel blade. It takes a crazy sharp edge with little effort. Someday you may wish to get a Japanese blade for yourself as your skills and needs develop. They make food prep an absolute pleasure. I'm going to treat myself to a really nice Japanese blade for Christmas.

                          Please note that while your knife is stainless steel it is pretty resiliant but can still be damaged. So after use - please just give it a quick wash, dry it off and then "back into the block". The one other consideration is that you will soon need to consider how you'll keep it sharp. With regular use, you'll merely need to give it a quick touch up every 1-4 weeks. Please only use wood or plastic cutting boards - anything else will very rapidly take the edge off your blade.

                          As to sharpening, there are many systems out there. I'd recommend a self-contained guided system - these hold the blade at a precise angle - and this gives you perfect control over your edge. There are a few different companies that make these but I use the DMT Aligner - for $40 it's a very good deal and makes sharpening easy.

                          Enjoy!

                      2. If you could cross a nakiri or chinese cleaver with a western style chef's knife, you'd wind up with a santoku.

                        I'd recommend a santoku for vegetarians, and chef's knife for carnivores and omnivores.

                        Santoku is better at chopping veggies into slices or small bits, the point of the chef's is better for skinning and defatting.

                        I have a Wusthof 7 inch santoku, and it's my second most used knife after my Hattori gyuto (like a 6" chef's knife / utility blade).

                        1. Keep in mind that true Japanese santoku or gyuto will have real issues doing some of the things we take for granted with the German and French knives. Do not attempt to cut through chicken bones or split a lobster as this will chip the steel. I prefer the heavier feel of a European knife, with my Sabatier au carbonne I could quite capably fend off an onrushing boar, or more likely. Though I've had fun with this particularly sharp and happily cheap santoku
                          http://www.japanwoodworker.com/produc...

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: rockfish42

                            Very true rockfish. BTW I have a near identical knife in both the 165mm and 210mm sizes from Hida Tools but they labeled it as a Ittosai kiritsuki and not a santoku. Now I see they have it listed as a santoku. Good steel, very hard but easy to sharpen and take a very low angle well. Cheap to boot.

                            http://www.hidatool.com/shop/shop.html

                            I have not pulled out my German chef knife in a while and use a honesuki knife for taking apart chickens and cleaning large pieces of meat. But if I was going to hack through a chicken leg bone and not a joint, I would most likely reach for my German chef knife or a cleaver

                            1. re: scubadoo97

                              For tasks like hacking a chicken leg bone, I'd dig out my Cold Steel Bushman survival knife, not my Sabatier. But that's not something I do very often. About the heaviest kitchen task is splitting a winter squash. My 7" santoku handles a kabocha squash just fine.

                          2. Nothing. I believe these knifes have no heel to speak of, rather just a uniformly thick blade. A heel on a chef's knife is useful for chopping the occasional bone (a meat cleaver is ideal) or venting an olive oil can (both things you wouldn't want to do with your santoku). There's another type of Japanese knife which is a vegetable cleaver with a rounded front edge. This enables you to perform roll cuts, and also aids in the rocking motion of the blade if your doing a fine mince. The short coming of this type of blade vs. santoku is that it does not have a point.

                            If the santoku you're talking about is a vented knife, it can be speedier than non vented (the vents break the adhesion of certain vegetables so they fall off the blade, enabling you to keep slicing without clearing the blade with your holding hand). There are ways to compensate with a standard old chef's knife, such as using more of a rolling motion, or more of a through cut motion.

                            All in all, a good forged french knife of German, American, or other manufacture is the most versatile knife in the drawer. Add a boning knife and a pairing knife and you're ready to go iron chef on just about anyone's yuppy knife collection.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: keg

                              That 'venting' is usually referred to as a 'Granton edge'.

                            2. Like others have said, I think they're a little better for the up-down chopping style vs. a rocking motion.

                              If you're in NYC as your username implies, and haven't gotten the knife yet, I'd highly, highly suggest going to Korin, and picking out your knives in person. They have a great selection of knives in different price ranges, are said to have great service, and should let you try some knives out to get an idea of what feels good for you. I highly suggest spending the money on one good knife rather than a large set.

                              BTW, giving a knife as a gift is considered a bad idea in many cultures. If you're superstitious, you should consider having your MIL sell you the knive for $1 or something.

                              1. I love my santoku knife! It was bought at a Target store nearly 4 years ago and has kept a wonderfully sharp edge. It's a Cuisinart and cost all of $10.00
                                I use it for dicing, slicing and mincing carrots, celery, onions, greens.... smashing and slicing garlic. It's a very handy addition to my Wustoff and Gerber blade collection.

                                1. IMO, a santoku has a number of advantages over a chef's knife, mostly related to chopping and slicing vegetables.

                                  1) It's usually a bit shorter and more compact, which is nice if you're working in a cramped kitchen or on a smaller cutting board.
                                  2) It has a flatter edge profile, which works better if you like to chop with vertical strokes rather than rocking the blade.
                                  3) It has a taller and less tapered blade, which is handy for scooping up the chopped vegetables from the board.
                                  4) It has a thinner blade, which helps to prevent wedging and cracking when chopping brittle vegetables like carrots.
                                  5) It doesn't have a bolster, which makes it easier to sharpen.
                                  6) Many have grantons or dimples, which can help prevent slices from sticking to the blade (especially things like potatoes or eggplant).

                                  This is my go-to knife, a Glestain santoku:

                                   
                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: tanuki soup

                                    except for item #1, you just described a lot of Japanese knives '-) And for all those reasons I find J-knives to be better suited for my needs. What I miss on some santokus is the pointed tip

                                    1. re: scubadoo97

                                      Agreed. A nice Japanese gyuto has many of the same advantages as a santoku when compared against a typical Western-style chef's knife.

                                  2. ejpnyc, in commercial kitchens you will rarely see Santokus. 95% of the knife useage in commercial kitchen are Chef's knives. With a Chef's knife you can rock more effectively, chop, and use the pointy end for small jobs while Santokus are more of a chopping knife so in general they are less functional.

                                    I have a Santoku along with a host of other knives, but I use a Chef's knife 95% of the time (at work as well), followed by a peeler, bread knife, and a pocket knife.

                                    21 Replies
                                    1. re: bbqJohn

                                      Bbq john, i'm no pro, but i like the santoku because the belly is flatter, and easier for me to use a push motion for slicing.
                                      I dont do as much up and down chopping as a kitchen pro, and certainly not at the speed required in a commercial kitchen.

                                      1. re: chuckl

                                        Chuck, whatever works for you stick with it.. all I can say is that the most efficient knife for prepping large quantities of food in the shortest amount of time is a Chef's/Gyuto style of knife.

                                        In a home kitchen it doesn't matter much what is used but when one needs to complete 12-16 quarts of diced onions followed by 8-12 quarts of juliened peppers, followed by a couple dozen butter nut squashes, followed by dicing up a shoulder clod, etc. all day long, a Santoku would not be the knife of choice.

                                        Here's an example below of just salsa prep. One can just do a lot more with a 10 in Chefs/Gyuto style of knife than a Santoku.. but again for the home kitchen it doesn't matter much.

                                        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7LtTb...

                                        1. re: bbqJohn

                                          bbqJohn,

                                          Your video is good, but I think a santoku may be pretty useful especially for vegetables. My Santoku for example has just as much cutting board contact space as my gyuto. In other words, the straight part of the blades are about the same length, possibly even more for the santoku.

                                          The santoku is shorter, so it has less slicing length. So a gyuto is likely to be better for slicing large size meat. I certainly enjoyed using my gyuto for slicing my turkey as opposed to the smaller santoku. For cutting tomatoes or potatoes, I rarely use the entire knife blade regardless if it was a gyuto or a santoku. So I don't think it will matter much.

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            Chemical, the link I posted is not mine but one that I thought could express the veratility of a Chef's knife in preping larger amount of items. The pointy end of a Chef's can be very useful and a larger knife can be useful to process multiple items at the same time;for example dicing 2 bunches of celery, etc.

                                            It likely comes down to personal preference and maybe how one was trained. Most schools teach European-Western knife skills with a Chef's style knife of course.

                                            I work for a culinary temp agency and my cook assignments last from 1 day to a month, so I have had my share of kitchens that I have worked in (mostly corporate dining by choice). One had a team of in-house Sushi chefs and others get Sushi chefs maybe every week or two. I will make it a point next time to ask them about their knife usage/preferences next time I see one.

                                            1. re: bbqJohn

                                              :)

                                              I have guessed that video is NOT yours. You made some very good points. What do you think of the Chinese chef's knives? Better known as Chinese cleavers. I have been to Chinese restaurant kitchens a few times. A Chinese cleaver is the tool of choice for these chefs and they seem to able to go through vegetables (dicing, chopping..etc) fairly efficient with those -- especially considering how much chopping and dicing in Chinese cuisine.

                                              BBQ. You may able to help me out regarding this question: for all the dicing and chopping and stuffs in restaurants (Western to Eastern restaurants), how often do you see electric food processors being used? I don't see it very often in the small numbers of kitchens have peeked into. Why is that?

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                We only use our food processor for making caesar salad dressing, making tartar sauce and for some reason for making pasta dough. Vegetables we cut by hand because we want nice even shape for presentation. Past restaurants we've used them to puree vegetables for soup bases where the puree would dissolve and add body to a soup or a sauce. They also can be used for breadcrumbs.

                                                1. re: TeRReT

                                                  @TeRReT - your restaurant doesn't dice by machine? Ouch man.

                                                  *slow prepping chef in training*

                                                  1. re: shezmu

                                                    hmm i don't really feel ouch at all, I have worked in many restaurants and have many friends in the industry, and all do the mise en place for their line by hand. I work in restaurants that on average do 30-70 covers a night depending on the night, not places that do 200-500 so maybe that the difference, but I can't see using a machine to replace hand cut prep, ever.

                                                    I'm not really sure if you were being serious or joking, but i am not too concerned about taking a few extra minutes to use my knife to cut things rather then use a machine, I didn't go to school to learn to cook and take a job I am passionate about or buy decent knives and take care of them to use a machine to cut my prep. If I used a machine to cut everything how would I develop any sort of knife skills?

                                                    1. re: TeRReT

                                                      Sorry for not getting to you sooner, I should check my email more.

                                                      Getting to the response, obviously, machines cannot do all prep... except androids (I'm such a geek). Seriously though, your proteins and the like are not going to be done by machine... on site anyway (check the link below for something awesome). For those tasks, the knife is necessary. But for the prep that can be done by machine, with the price of a decent veg prep machine relative to other commercial grade equipment, I can't grasp the logic of assigning someone to such tasks by hand and eat up time when there is so much else to do in the kitchen.

                                                      For instance, while I'm sure you're a bad enough dude to julienne by hand five pounds of carrots to 1/8cm pieces in under five minutes while making several sauces and wrestling a bear, is this something pleasant enough for you to do everyday? Probably not. I find that a kitchen with a veg prep machine to be more efficient and pleasant than one without.

                                                      Also, I was half-serious about the slow prep comment. It's something I'm working on. A better set of knives and sharpening equipment wouldn't hurt though. ;)

                                                      link:
                                                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrjFWr...

                                                2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  I have a Chinese Cleaver.. and may use it for work on larger quantities of harder items like when I need to prep a box of sweet potatos into wedges (especially hard foods with angle cuts-where there is the potential to damage a thinner blade) and other similar hard foods otherwise it's not used. Among the other cooks I rarely see a CC used but most use the house knives which are sturdy enough for the harder foods.

                                                  One kitchen I regularly work in has an Asian Pacific station and as far as I know those Cooks use the same knifes as the non-Asian stations.

                                                  Regarding machines, Robot Coupes like these

                                                  http://www.robotcoupeusa.com/products...

                                                  http://www.robotcoupeusa.com/products...

                                                  are usually in the larger kitchens that I have worked in and are used depending on the quantity and use of the food being processed. For example one kitchen normaly dices up around 50+ quarts of onions every morning which are shared by the various stations but if they just need to dice up a few onions for a recipe ingredients it's not worth the time to use a machine.

                                                  The same kitchen gets their onions and potatos pre-peeled to facilitate prepping.

                                                  1. re: bbqJohn

                                                    TeRReT and bbqJohn,

                                                    Thanks for the information, especially on the machine/food processor.

                                        2. re: bbqJohn

                                          the last 3 restaurants i've worked in have primarily been santokus, where I am now is 100% santoku except for cutting lobsters where a crap nella chef knife is used

                                          and i'd have no problem doing that salsa with my santoku :P

                                          1. re: TeRReT

                                            TeRReT,

                                            Just curious. In the last three restaurants you have worked for, are they Japanese restaurants? In the above statements, do you mean you have used santokus there, or do you mean others did as well? Thanks

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              at the first restaurant i used chef knife while 2 others owned santoku but 4 in total used those 2 santoku primarily, and it was italian, the second was also italian and everybody had their own santoku including myself, and this restaurant now is italianish/canadianish and there were 2 restaurant santoku's that people used plus now my two

                                              i have never worked in a japanese restaurant, mostly italian is what i've done, and i have only had a santoku the last 3 years, i got my santoku because the one restaurant had a couple mac santoku's that everyone used

                                              1. re: TeRReT

                                                This is not of my expectation. I won't expect Italian chefs use a santoku. Sure, one or two chefs, but you made it sounds like many did.

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  italian chefs, no, and when i worked in italy, certainly not. But I am in Toronto which is very multi-cultural and has many Japanese knife specific stores. I am not so old, and most of my peers are much younger than me, so perhaps its just the next generation branching out and trying different knives. In school we all were forced to learn with a 10" chef knife, and I think most people just found it overkill for the small restaurants we're working in. Maybe in a high volume hotel or something, but for smaller scale the santoku just feels good.

                                                  In our stores here we have more Japanese knife brands then german, in department stores or whatever there is wustof and henckel, then there is global, one or two shun lines, mac and maybe a couple others i am forgetting, so it just came natural to slowly try japanese design and then slowly get more interested in japanese shapes and companies.

                                                  1. re: TeRReT

                                                    Yeah, I don't mean Italian chefs in Italy with Italian ancestors. I meant chefs worked in an Italian restaurants. The person could be Italian, non-Italian, black, white....

                                                    I don't think that would be true in the US. I am guessing most of our Italian restaurants use European Chef knives.... but I could be wrong.

                                                    1. re: TeRReT

                                                      TeRReT, TeRReT,

                                                      I was watching a CHOW video on onion, and saw this chef also "appear" to use a Santoku as his main knife. I wonder if it is a Shun Premier or something. Anyway, he ended up using rock chopping at the end of the video.

                                                      http://www.chow.com/food-news/102274/...

                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                        i used my miyabi for cutting bread at the restaurant in sydney since i only took 2 knives with me, it actually worked better then a bread knife, but i no longer cut bread since i am no longer at that restaurant :P

                                                        He kind of went a little crazy at the end, but thats cool he uses santoku anyways

                                                        1. re: TeRReT

                                                          @Question: aren't breads bad for non serrated-knives? Something about the crust and cell-structure of the bread or something.

                                                          1. re: shezmu

                                                            Oh that's silly. What is true is that serrated knives can be easier for certain crusty breads. A lot of people don't have particularly sharp knives so bread can be "more challenging" for the standard non-serrated edge - IF it's not sharp. Any really sharp knife will make fast work of bread or whatever.

                                          2. For those still intereted in learnng more about J knives or the Santoku in general, there's more discussion at CT

                                            http://www.cheftalk.com/a/japanese-kn...
                                            http://www.cheftalk.com/t/61754/chef-...

                                            2 Replies
                                              1. re: jkling17

                                                Gater run a great web site, tons of information