There’s a good chance you’ve seen one and perhaps even used one. Learn about the most popular kitchen knife in Japan and why every household needs it. Here are the Santoku Knife Facts you need to know. Looking for best Japanese Knives? We have a list of review you can check.
Santoku Knife Facts: The History
Japan is where the santoku knife originated. Santoku knives first appeared post World War II as a domestic substitute for the traditional Japanese vegetable cleaver, called a ” nakiri “. While retaining their height and straight edge, santoku knives add a friendly ” sheep’s foot” tip.
The Japanese santoku knife is shorter than its Western counterparts, varying from 5 to 8 inches in length, and has a more balanced weight distribution. Santoku translates to “three virtues.” Some interpret this to mean meat, fish, and vegetables, while others believe it refers to chopping, slicing, and dicing.
No matter what trio you prefer, the santoku knife quickly became the most popular kitchen knife in Japan, and very soon after, it found its way into the hands of both home and professional chefs around the world.
Santoku Knife Facts: Santoku Knives vs. Chef’s Knives
We make both our traditional chef’s knife and our santoku knife from high-carbon steel at Misen.
Santoku knives and chef’s knives are so similar that most people assume they are the same. Both knives are your essential kitchen workhorse, useful for slicing, dicing, mincing, and chopping.
Santoku Knife Facts: Size
Detail makes a difference. The chef’s knife is slightly longer (at approximately 8–10 inches) than the standard santoku (at about 5–8 inches). Putting it into perspective, a santoku knife blade is around the length of the average hand. Thus, it is lighter than a chef’s knife, making it less intimidating and easier to handle, especially for chefs with small hands.
Santoku Knife Facts: Shape and Weight
Santoku knives have a boxier build (remember, they were modeled after the chunky cleaver), which adds the extra weight that a shorter knife would otherwise lack. Furthermore, Japanese steel is heavier than Western steel, which contributes to the knife’s nice, hefty feel in the hand.
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An almost completely straight cutting edge with a less pronounced point makes up the santoku knife. It allows for a clean cut without a pointy tip getting in the way, and minimizes the risk of accidentally piercing something. Its shape makes it ideal for swift downward chops and most other cutting tasks. A fluid rocking motion is needed for repetitive slicing, but it is not very good for it.
Chef’s knives, with their curved lower blades, are much more suitable for this type of back and forth cutting. It also has a sharp, sword-like tip that works well for puncturing food or breaking open stubborn packages.
Single or Double Bevel
The bevel is another key difference between these knives. The blade of the knife is formed by the bevel at the bottom, which forms its cutting edge. The more acute the angle, the easier it is to slice.
Japanese knives, such as santokus, have a sharper 12–15 degree angle and a single bevel (meaning, the blade has a taper only on one side). Western kitchen knives, including chef’s knives, have a double bevel and are usually cut at 20 to 30 degrees.
At the end of the day, it’s all about cutting your ingredients into the appropriate sizes for cooking. Santoku knives are naturally made for cutting thin slices of meat, seafood, cheese, fruit, and vegetables. Japanese dishes often contain finer cuts of meat. Furthermore, the wide blade makes it easy to scoop food off the cutting board and into a bowl or pan.
The range of chef’s knives is more extensive, by comparison. Due to their curved blade, the blade can be rocked back and forth easily to cut a variety of vegetables. In addition, the longer blade and sharp pointed tip can also be used to separate chicken parts.
When it comes down to it, you can usually accomplish most kitchen tasks with either of these two amazing knives, with the exception of peeling and slicing bread or dealing with large meat bones.
What to Look for When Buying a Santoku Knife
- Chopping will be easier with the right santoku knife.
- Santoku knives are usually made from stainless steel, but they can also be made from ceramic or high carbon steel. Misen uses high-carbon steel since it offers a number of long-term advantages: it is stronger, more durable, and stays sharper longer than other materials.
- You’ll have to sharpen the knife eventually, unless your knife comes with a lifetime sharpening guarantee, as Misen’s do, but out of the box you’re looking for a properly-sharpened knife that’s already in excellent cutting shape.
- Any good kitchen knife must have a sharp blade. Steel knives already have sharper blades, which is a big advantage for a kitchen tool as frequently used as a santoku.
- Finally, we come to the final factor: price. Since Santoku knives can be used for so many things, they shouldn’t be too expensive. Many new companies are developing amazing, high-quality kitchen tools at reasonable prices, and you can easily get a great Santoku knife for under $150 that will serve its purpose and last for many years.
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