Santoku vs Chef Knife: Which is The Better Knife For You?

They say that a poor workman blames his tools, and when it comes to the kitchen, one of the most important tools you’ll ever buy is a good quality knife. Whether you’re a budding Gordon Ramsay or you just want to improve on your home cooking skills, your choice of a knife can mean the difference between success and failure.

Santoku vs Chef Knife: What Are Their Major Differences?

There are, of course, lots of different options out there when it comes to choosing a kitchen knife. And today, we’re taking a look at Santoku vs Chef Knife for the kitchen enthusiast.

What is the Santoku knife used for?

What is the Santoku knife used for?

First popular in the mid-20th century, the Santoku originated in Asia and was created as an alternative to the traditional Japanese vegetable cleaver, the Nakiri. The Santoku blade is around the length of an adult’s hand (between five and eight inches) and is straight along both edges before curving down to a ‘sheep’s foot’ tip.

The Santoku is held and used in a back-up to down-front movement and is designed to minimize ‘rocking’ during use. Santoku knives are usually used for three purposes; mincing, dicing, and slicing of vegetables (the full name of these knives is in fact Santoku Bocho which translates to ‘three uses’.  Santoku knives have a ‘boxy’ build and resemble a small cleaver.

My Top 3 Santoku Knives

How to Sharpen a Santoku Knife?

The most effective way to sharpen your Santoku knife is to use a whetstone as this gives a sharper edge than other methods. This is done by:

  1. Soak your whetstone in water.
  2. Run your knife up and down the stone in a smooth motion.
  3. Make sure that you run the entire blade from the edge to the start of the handle.
  4. Repeat the process on the other side.
  5. Wash and dry the knife completely.

How to Choose the Right Santoku Knife?

There are a few things to look out for when purchasing a Santoku knife and these are:

  • Blade thickness – A thin blade is essential for a Santoku knife, so you should be looking for a very sharp cutting angle – between 15 and 20 degrees (anything in excess of 20 degrees will be too thick for precision cutting).
  • Blade height – A tall blade is a must for a Santoku knife and so you should avoid any knife with a blade of less than two inches in height as these will tend to create uneven slices.
  • No bolster – A proper Santoku knife doesn’t feature a bolster (the metal connection between handle and blade) so you should consider this a red flag when shopping.

What is the Chef’s Knife used for?

What is the Chef's Knife used for?

As a rule of thumb, a chef’s knife will have a blade of approximately 20 centimeters in length and a height of around four to five centimeters. Chef’s knives are generally designed with a slight curve to allow for the easy holding of the ingredient against the blade when working.

A chef’s knife is usually used in a rocking motion. Overall, they’re a good quality product suitable for cutting vegetables, meat, fish and herbs

My Top 3 Chef Knives

How to Sharpen a Chef’s Knife?

The best way to sharpen a Chef’s knife is by using a whetstone or honing steel, and the latter is generally considered the more effective. Sharpen your knife by doing the following:

  1. Hold the handle of the knife in your dominant hand and the honing steel in the other; both pointing upright to form a ‘V’ shape.
  2. Position the heel of the blade against the steel about two centimeters from the top of the steel, at an angle of 15 to 20 degrees.
  3. Move the knife down the steel toward the tip of the blade ensuring that only the edge, not the side, is touching the steel.
  4. Repeat 5 to 10 times as necessary.

How to Choose the Right Chef’s Knife?

Although we live in the age of the internet when shopping for a Chef’s knife, it’s best to visit an actual, honest to goodness, store. This is important as the key to finding the right Chef’s knife is all about how it feels in your hand. When trying on Chef’s knives for size, you should be looking for:

  • Comfort – the knife should feel comfortable and secure in your hand.
  • Weight – While you need a certain amount of heft in a knife, you need to find one that isn’t so heavy that it feels unwieldy.
  • Size – Chef’s knives come in a variety of sizes but, the sweet spot will be a knife of around six inches for the perfect balance of agility and length.
  • Sharpness – A good Chef’s knife should be super-sharp straight out of the box – to test this, try slicing through a sheet of paper; if you meet stickiness or resistance, the blade isn’t sharp enough.

What’s the difference between a Santoku knife and a Chef’s knife?

While both knives are versatile enough for multiple uses within a professional or home kitchen, they differ in design as the Santoku’s blade is largely flat and straight compared to the curved shape of the Chef’s knife. These knives also differ in technique as a Santoku knife involves slicing through food in a forward and backward motion whereas a Chef’s knife is usually used in a rocking motion.

Both the Santoku and the Chef’s knife can be used for chopping and slicing vegetables, the Santoku is best suited to precision work where thin cuts are required. Chef’s knives, on the other hand, are designed more for universal use.

When to use a Santoku vs a Chef’s knife

Use a Santoku knife for:

  • Cutting and chopping meat
  • Slicing cheese
  • Slicing, chopping and dicing fruit, vegetables, and pulses
  • Mincing meat and herbs
  • Creating fine slices of vegetables and seafood

Use a Chef’s knife for:

  • Complex cutting
  • Slicing, cutting and disjoining meat
  • Separating chicken parts
  • Slicing cheese
  • Slicing and chopping fruit, vegetables and pulses

Santoku vs Chef Knife: Which is better?

This is all down to what you’re planning to use your knife for – as a rule, the Santoku is a great choice if you’re looking to make precision cuts such as salad garnishes and you can expect to pay around $75 for a good quality knife.

A Chef’s knife, on the other hand, is suited to more general cutting and slicing and tends to be a little less expensive at around $40 for a decent quality product.


Whether you’re going for the Santoku or a Chef’s knife, a good quality product should last for years. As such, these knives should be considered an investment. Therefore, it’s always worth paying as much as you can afford. And as mentioned in this article, how the knife feels in your hand is incredibly important and so it really is worth testing a few knives in a store before making a final decision.

Last update on 2021-10-14 at 08:50 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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