The Santoku vs. Gyuto knife debate is an ongoing topic in the world of Japanese kitchen knives and a rather interesting one. This review will inform you about the best kitchen knife purchase for yourself and your family. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to explain to anybody on the street what the difference between Santoku and Gyuto knives is.
What is a Santoku knife?
The Santoku knife is a multi-purpose knife with origins steeped in Japanese knife-making traditions of the World War II era. Translated as the “three virtues” or “three uses” knife, they make the Santoku to perform three primary tasks. These are cutting meat, chopping vegetables, and slicing fish.
In essence, the Santoku was made as a hybrid to encompass the characteristics of three specialist Japanese knives. These are the Gyuto, Nakiri, and Deba, making the Santoku the ideal knife for all your essential kitchen tasks.
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What is a Gyuto knife?
What is a Gyuto knife? The Gyuto knife is the original meat-cutting knife of the Japanese kitchen, incorporating a longer blade shape that resembles a butcher’s knife. The spine is straight, and the edge slightly curved, with a pointed tip designed to pierce through thick meat.
Influenced by the Western chef’s knife, the design of the Gyuto knife was originally an all-purpose knife. However, it turned out to be more suited for beef-slicing tasks. This acts as a catalyst for the emergence of the lighter, more versatile Santoku knife soon after.
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How are Gyuto and Santoku knives different?
While you can use the Gyuto for chopping vegetables and cutting meat, its longer blade and sharp point give it a special advantage for piercing thick meats. However, the blade is long and thin, so it is more difficult to achieve a rocking motion when cutting vegetables. For this, the Santoku becomes the preferred choice.
The shorter blade of the Santoku knife and the straight-edge design make it the ideal knife for cutting both meats and vegetables of all sorts.
In terms of design and appearance, there are some immediate differences to note between the Gyuto and Santoku knife. For once, the Gyuto has a thinner and longer blade that reaches anywhere between 6-inches and 12-inches in length. The Santoku, on the other hand, comprises a shorter length with a wide blade shape, reaching between 5 and 8-inches in blade length.
The Gyuto blade comes with a flat spine design and a curved blade edge that finishes with a sharp pointed tip at the end. This makes it ideal for piercing through thick meats. Contrastingly, the Santoku knife comes with a curved spine and a relatively straight edge, almost giving it a reverse appearance of the Gyuto knife.
Ultimately, the Gyuto knife is made for rocking-chopping motions, while the Santoku is better for push-cutting. Another difference is that the Gyuto knife comes only in double-bevel design options. In contrast, Santoku knives feature models in double-bevel and single-bevel knife designs.
This means the Santoku has more potential to be used by professional chefs who can leverage the skill requirements of single-bevel knives. Contrastingly, the Gyuto double bevel design provides more predictability with your cutting. This makes it a great tool for the everyday home cook.
How are they similar?
In truth, there are more similarities between the Gyuto and Santoku than differences. However, this does not make them identical. Both the Gyuto knife and Santoku knife manufacturers originated in Japan. They were influenced by the Western-style chef’s knives which grew in popularity.
Traditional Japanese cuisine consists of vegetables, meat, and fish. They made these knives to deliver precision cuts for all types of ingredients for Japanese home recipes.
Like Gyuto blades, they typically make Santoku blades out of high-carbon stainless steel materials. These are sourced by reputable knife manufacturers in Japan, usually in Seki City, Japan’s bladesmith capital.
Both knives are sharpened to similar angles of about 10-15 degrees per side. In addition, they typically harden both to the Japanese kitchen knife standard of 60 HRC on the Hardness Rockwell Scale. This makes Santoku and Gyuto knives quite durable and sharp, promoting aspects like edge retention that enable a longer shelf-life and minimal maintenance requirements.
Another similarity between the Santoku and Gyuto knife is that they are both available with a variety of handle designs and material options to choose from. Traditional Japanese knife brands such as Shun knives or Miyabi typically use D-shaped handle designs. These are made of Pakkawood or Tagayasan wooden materials for a unique ergonomic and vintage aesthetic.
Other brands such as Wusthof or Cutco use a traditional chef’s knife handle design with a Western touch. In addition, they incorporate synthetic material with single, double, or triple rivets and a safety finger lock for your thumb and pinky.
In terms of price and warranty, these knives are available in a wide variety of prices is a quite similar in their price points. The cost of a Santoku or Gyuto knife is largely dictated by the reputation of the brand and the quality of the materials and craftsmanship.
Brands like Cutco and Shun knives offer free sharpening services as part of their warranties. When the blade goes dull, customers can have their knives sharpened by experts at no cost (shipping costs may apply).
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What’s better about Santoku knives?
The advantage of Santoku knives is their versatility in making light knife work for various ingredients across meat, vegetable, and fish categories. The up-and-down motion you can achieve with the blade’s design is quite convenient for chopping up vegetables, and the sheep’s foot blade profile is exceptional for slicing up meats and fish.
Most Santoku knives come in at about 7-inches long. This makes them longer than paring knives to take on stricter cutting tasks but smaller than butcher’s knives to enable smaller, intricate cutting tasks.
To achieve the versatility of multi-purpose knives, the Santoku applies a lightweight construction through a thin, flat blade with a shorter stature. The straight edge makes it more suited for chopping up vegetables than the Gyuto knife. The lighter design and smaller blade make it more user-friendly for a wider audience.
Between the two knives, the Santoku is certainly the more popular choice among home cooks, loved for its versatility, strong results, and ease of use.
What’s better about Gyuto knives?
The Gyuto knife is derived from a Japanese term that could be loosely translated to mean “cow sword,” alluding to its intended use of cutting beef (1). Like a mini butcher’s knife, the Gyuto features a long, thin blade that is long enough to tackle large chunks of meat. However, it’s still small enough to be used in the home kitchen by the everyday cook.
Unlike the flat blades of the Santoku knives, the Gyuto has a curved edge profile. This is excellent for effortlessly slicing through thick pieces of meat, chicken, or fish.
One of the key advantages of the Gyuto knife is that it can tackle larger pieces of meat better than a Santoku knife. This makes it especially useful for restaurant chefs or even butchers. It also works fairly well as a vegetable slicer, allowing you to apply a rock-cutting motion to leverage the curved blade for mincing and dicing ingredients.
The true specialty of the Gyuto knife reveals itself through the long, thin, and sharp tip. It sacrifices some of its vegetable-chopping ability for enhanced meat penetration.
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Who should get Santoku and why?
The Santoku knife is usually a better choice for the everyday home cook who typically does not need to go beyond standard chopping board tasks. Like Western chef’s knives, the Santoku is designed to be an all-purpose tool for slicing, chopping, and dicing meat, vegetables, and fish.
The large blade is great for tap chopping and cutting motions. The hollow grind makes it better than other all-purpose knives by giving you an added advantage for cutting meats.
Who should get Gyuto and why?
The Gyuto knife suits anyone who works with thick meats frequently, and this type of person could be an everyday home cook or a restaurant chef. When it comes to chopping meat and vegetables, you can’t go wrong with the Gyuto or Santoku knife. However, keep in mind the subtle differences between them.
For slicing thick meats frequently and occasionally chopping vegetables, the Gyuto knife is a perfect choice!
Features of the Santoku and Gyuto
Both Santoku and Gyuto knives typically use high-carbon stainless steel in their construction. This is usually a Japanese super steel such as VG-MAX or AUS-10. As such, you can dictate the amount of emphasis on features if you know your materials well. For example, you can choose a knife with greater rust resistance or go for excellence in durability.
On average, the Gyuto and Santoku knives are hardened to about 60 HRC on the Hardness Rockwell Scale. They are sharpened between 10-15 degrees per side (2).
While the construction of the Gyuto vs Santoku remains fairly similar, one of the key differences is the bevel options. The Santoku offers single and double bevel edges, while the Gyuto only offers double.
In that regard, the Santoku is becoming increasingly popular among restaurant chefs. It can do more complex cutting tasks, making it more versatile across a wider customer base.
Regarding ergonomics, there is a huge range of choices to choose from in terms of design and materials for both Santoku and Gyuto knives. Traditionally, both these knives originated from Japan. You’ll find wooden D-shaped handle designs with Japanese brands such as Shun and Miyabi.
Western brands like Cutco and Wusthof offer Santoku and Gyuto knives in synthetic, riveted options as preferred.
Both knives perform exceptionally well in their specialized areas. They have similar sharpness and hardness levels and high edge retention. However, when it comes to doing one thing well, the Gyuto can specifically deliver excellence in cutting meat.
While the Santoku is great for various tasks and performs each satisfactorily, the Gyuto delivers greater cutting performance, albeit in a single area.
Santoku vs Gyuto FAQ
Do you need a Gyuto and a santoku?
Depending on your needs, you may benefit from a Gyuto and a Santoku knife, though this would be rare. In truth, customers find themselves in one category or the other. It depends on how often you deal with thick meats and how infrequently you deal with vegetables, and vice-versa.
What is the difference between Santoku and Gyuto?
The main difference between Santoku and Gyuto is in their blade shape, with the Santoku being a smaller but wider blade with a straight edge. Contrastingly, the Gyuto is a longer blade with a slightly curved edge and a thinner design.
What is a Santoku knife best for?
The Santoku knife is equally as good for cutting meat and fish as it is for chopping up vegetables, making it ideal for preparing a wider variety of recipes. Unlike a Gyuto knife, the Santoku is made to be versatile and easy to use. You can opt for single-bevel options that promote finer slicing, as professional chefs prefer.
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What do you use a Gyuto knife for?
The Gyuto knife is primarily used for cutting thick meats, particularly beef. The long blade and sharp pointed tip are ideal for piercing through tough textures. You can also use the Gyuto knife for chopping up vegetables. Although its curved edge and longer stature make it a little more difficult to do so than with a Santoku knife.