To the untrained eye, the Santoku knife vs. Chef knife debate may not seem like there are any differences. However, there are some distinctions between the two products. It's essential to know what they are when you go to buy a new knife. Let's learn more about the chef's knife and the Santoku knife!
The Key Differences
Before we talk about the differences here, let's start with the similarities between the chef's knife vs. Santoku knives. Both of them are considered general-purpose knives and can be used for many cutting tasks, such as mincing, dicing, slicing, and chopping. That means they're the most common knives out there for homes and chefs.
Both knives are made using various materials, such as metal or ceramic. Professional chefs often choose stainless steel models because they're resistant to corrosion and highly durable. An important difference here is that the Japanese blades (including the Santoku knives) are often made of harder steel, but it's thinner. That way, anyone can perform their precision tasks effortlessly. For example, Japanese Honshu is a perfect example.
Primarily, the differences appear when cutting. These cutting tasks require the knife to have the right shape, but it also focuses on the origin of the knives. The blade style is also a reason to consider one over the other.
The main features of the Santoku and Chef's Knife
When it comes to the features you want in your chef knife vs. Santoku knife, it boils down to a few things. The style of the knife is important. Here are a few other things to watch out for when choosing between a Santoku knife and a chef's knife.
Santoku Knife Features
- Originated in Japan
- Offers wide sheeps-foot blade without a tip (the dull back spine of the blade curves to meet the front blade, which has a straight cutting edge)
- Thinner blade than the chef knives, which allows for more refined cutting
- Can be single or double bevel - the bevel refers to the surface, which has been ground to form the knife's edge
- Usually doesn't contain a bolster (a piece of metal between the handle and blade)
- Balanced weight
- Light to hold
- Could feature a Granton cutting edge (small scallops or divots on the blade to prevent any food from sticking)
- Varies in size from 5 to 7 inches
- The most common is 7 inches
- Blades are durable with a double bevel
Chef's Knife Features
- Considered a western-style chef's knife, but many originate in France and Germany
- Broad blades, which curve upward to form the tip (thicker spine for more weight)
- Comes in serrated style
- Can only be found as a double bevel edge in most cases
- Varies in size from 6, 8, and 12 inches
- 10 or 12 inches is the most popular for most professionals
- Home cooks generally prefer 8 inches in length
- Heavier weight
- The blade has a bolster
- Could feature the Granton cutting edge
How does the Shape of the Blade differ
Chef knives often have a blade tip that naturally causes the chef to use a rocking motion to push the blade forward while they complete the cut. Since the Santoku knife doesn't have a tip, it can only slice in a downward cut.
Our Santoku knife vs. chef knife discussion is important for everyone to learn what might happen while they are rocking the knife. It's hard to use this technique, and most people find that the Santoku way is more efficient and easier.
The bevel is another difference between the Chef's knife and the Santoku knife. Most Santoku versions are used by professional chefs, and they're single bevel. When you sharpen them, you can use a smaller angle to have a sharper blade. Its shape makes it easier to keep the cutting edge sharp.
For example, a chef knife might have a bevel of 30 degrees on both sides, but the Santoku can be sharpened to 15 degrees on only one side. This gives a sharper cut than the western styling. If you're hoping to create thin slices that come with most Japanese dishes, this is ideal!
Uses for Both Knives
Santoku's meaning explains why it's used. The three virtues are the three uses for mincing, chopping, and dicing. It can handle every job perfectly, but it can't be used for chopping meat bones, precision tasks (peeling), or slicing bread. However, the Santoku knife is perfect for creating thin slices, improving the aesthetics of your finished dish.
The knife is best used for:
- Cutting meat
- Slicing, dicing, and chopping vegetables, fruits, and nuts
- Slicing cheese
- Mincing herbs or meat
- Creating fine slices, such as with seafood and vegetables
- Scooping food from the cutting board (wider blade length)
The Santoku is somewhat shorter in length when compared to the chef knife and uses a seamless handle-and-blade design, so they work well for smaller hands.
The western-style chef's knife is also highly versatile and is very popular in professional kitchens with chefs. It handles many jobs, but you shouldn't use it to chop large meat bones or frozen items. On top of that, it isn't ideal for julienning and intricate peeling. Choose a serrated blade when slicing up bread.
It is best used for:
- Complex and versatile slicing
- Slicing and disjointing meat (its tip is suited for separating chicken)
- Slicing, dicing, and chopping vegetables, nuts, and fruits
- Slicing cheese
- A curved blade is ideal for various cutting tasks
Chef's knives of the western style aren't ideal for creating fine slices like the Santoku.
Care and Maintenance of your Knives
When choosing between the different kitchen knives out there, it is important to focus on how to care for them. Knives should work for you for many years if you clean them correctly, store them safely, and sharpen them efficiently.
Sharpening relates to how you restore the knife blade's angle. Before we talk about the differences for sharpening the Santoku and chef knives, here are the reasons why cooks should always sharpen their kitchen knives:
- Safety - Whether you're using knives occasionally or all the time, they are going to dull. Dull knives pose a risk because you have to use more force to cut, which means it's easier to slip and injure yourself.
- Finish - Sharper knives preserve the food's integrity when it cooks. If you cut with a dull kitchen knife, the food cells are damaged and that can affect the overall aesthetics and taste.
- Pleasure - It's usually more enjoyable to use a sharp kitchen knife. You have a better cooking experience and want to make homemade meals more often.
Sharpening the Santoku Knife
The Japanese version of the Santoku is made of hard stainless steel with a single bevel. Therefore, you can get a finer angle on the cutting edge for a sharper knife. Generally, these knives can be sharpened up to 15 degrees. It's also often easier to sharpen them because of the single bevel and the fact that they don't have a bolster. There's often a pointed tip, and you don't have to sharpen them as often.
It's best to use a sharpening whetstone to sharpen the knife. Put it on a cutting board to make it easier for you.
Sharpening the Chef's Knife
A whetstone is the best method to create a more defined and sharpened edge. It's best to go to about 20 degrees on both sides of your western-style chef's knife.
You can choose to use steel to hone the chef knife, too.
Obviously, the highest standard knives are made from the highest quality elements which ensures that they are less prone to rust than lower quality products. With that said, if any kitchen utensil is left for a lengthy period after use, it becomes prone to acid, water and other kitchen chemicals that can have harmful effects on the blade.
This is why a simple wash of the knife after use is crucial to keeping both your santoku and chef knife in the best of conditions.
Cloth dry where possible
While it is normally not a problem to let your knives drip dry in a dish rack, it is much more practicable to wipe them with a cloth right away. Doing so, minimizes the small chance of the blade developing rust, while also allowing you to place them in a safe place straight away.
Place them on a magnetic stand
Placing your santoku, chef, and other knives on a magnetic knife stand is extremely convenient. It not only displays each knife allowing you to instantly select that one you need, but also prevents the knives from scraping against each other, which would be more likely to occur if placed in a kitchen drawer.
You don't have to be a chef to enjoy cooking. However, you do want to figure out which knife is best for cutting. The Japanese-style Santoku is often made of carbon steel, while the chef knife is typically a western style. Both of them have great cutting skills.
Home cooks are bound to like both options, so it really comes down to personal preference.