Skip to Content

What is a Santoku Knife?

Sharing is caring!

A common question for those starting out on their home cooking ventures is, “What is a santoku knife?” In this article, I’ll be giving you an explanation of how this knife is designed and the key features that separate it from other knives.

My mission is to stop you from scratching your head whenever you see the words “santoku knife” pop up during your culinary shopping sprees. so, get ready to pay attention!


What is a santoku knife?

Santoku Knife - 7 Inch 67 Layer VG10 Damascus Steel Japanese Chef Knife, Sushi, Kitchen Knife, Japanese Kitchen Knives - Damascus Knife, Chopping Knife, Sushi Knife, Sharp Knife, Full Tang Knife

As you may have guessed, “santoku” is a Japanese term. It derives from “santoku bocho” which translates to “three virtues” or “three uses.” From that, it makes sense that the santoku blade is a multi-purpose knife designed to handle ingredients through three methods: slicing, dicing, and chopping.

Santoku knives typically feature a flat edge blade around 8-inches long. They have a “sheep’s foot” design that slants down at about 60 degrees from the tip.



Santoku Knife - imarku 7 inch Kitchen Knife Ultra Sharp Asian Knife Japanese Chef Knife - German HC Stainless Steel 7Cr17Mov - Ergonomic Pakkawood Handle, Best Choice for Home Kitchen, Brown

Originating in Japan, the santoku knife was designed to become the all-purpose knife of the Japanese kitchen. Traditionally, home cooks would use the nakiri knife for cutting vegetables, the gyuto knife for cutting meat, and the deba knife for cutting fish.

That was until the 1940s, when someone created the santoku knife to accomplish these tasks. This makes it the ultimate Japanese kitchen knife.

Nowadays, there are many variations of the santoku knife. This includes different feels, balances, and edges with more specialization than the otherwise generic knife. In addition, some of these knives use San Mai steel (1). This triple-layered laminated steel provides multi-layered steel alloys in a forged construction.

As such, the santoku blade had come a long way from when it was first created almost a century ago. It now incorporates greater durability and edge retention than ever before.



Babish High-Carbon 1.4116 German Steel Cutlery, 6.5

The most notable design aspect of the santoku blade is the sheep’s foot pointed tip that creates an angle slanting to about 60 degrees. Most chef’s knives feature a broad blade with a curved edge and a thicker spine that adds weight to the chopping down motion. Instead, the santoku knife features a thinner blade that provides a lighter weight and a more refined slicing motion.

They make the santoku blade of strong Japanese steel materials traditionally used to make samurai swords in ancient Japan. The blade sharpness comes in at about 10-degree blade angles per side, an extremely sharp edge that is steeper than most other chef knives.

The thinner steel makes the santoku knife a great tool for fine slices, allowing you to cut vegetables and meats into very thin slices.

These general-purpose knives often feature a blade length between 5 to 8 inches. This makes for a great knife long enough to take on large pieces of food at once. While the santoku knife is not designed to replace all your kitchen knives. It allows you to save on specialized knives like boning, butcher knives, and cleavers.

Santoku blades are primarily designed for the three major tasks of home cooking: mincing meat, chopping vegetables and slicing fish.

Santoku knives can either come in a single or double-bevel design, giving the user more options based on personal preference. The single-bevel santoku knife provides a sharper edge. In addition, they only need to be sharpened on one side, making them suitable for more delicate cooking.

The double-bevel santoku knife is the more versatile option. It allows you to accomplish a fair range of tough and delicate cutting tasks without compromising the blade shape and edge.



Santoku Knife - imarku 7 inch Kitchen Knife Ultra Sharp Asian Knife Japanese Chef Knife - German HC Stainless Steel 7Cr17Mov - Ergonomic Pakkawood Handle, Best Choice for Home Kitchen, Brown

One of the most important things about the santoku knife’s construction is the hardness of the steel blade as well as the blade shape. The extra thin blades are more susceptible to chipping and cracking under pressure. They are more likely to fall apart if exposed to rust and corrosion.

Japanese knives such as the santoku require only the best steel materials to ensure that they are just as durable as they are sharp.

Some common steels in Japanese santoku knives typically include AUS-10, VG10, VG-MAX, and SG2 Japanese steel. These materials are often referred to as “super steels” as they provide exaggerated advantages not found in common metals.

The santoku knife is made with high-carbon Japanese steel that is high in chromium content. This delivers superior edge retention and high resistance to rust and corrosion.



Santoku Knife - imarku 7 inch Kitchen Knife Ultra Sharp Asian Knife Japanese Chef Knife - German HC Stainless Steel 7Cr17Mov - Ergonomic Pakkawood Handle, Best Choice for Home Kitchen, Brown

Santoku knives are typically made in a full tang construction. This means there is no separation between the blade and the handle.

The handle itself may feature a range of materials depending on the brand and type you go for. These materials usually feature synthetic materials such as polyoxymethylene or wooden materials such as Pakkawood for a more aesthetic choice.

Traditional santoku knives are made with a rounded handle design, a trademark of Japanese kitchen knives. Therefore, you’ll often find them featured in Japanese knife brands such as Shun. However, many santoku knives are manufactured by non-Japanese brands and take on some of the design aspects of the Western chef knife.

These types of santoku knives feature the same santoku blade but typically come with a riveted handle and safety finger-lock for added ergonomics.


Cleaning and maintenance

HENCKELS Classic Razor-Sharp 7-inch Hollow Edge Santoku Knife, German Engineered Informed by 100+ Years of Mastery

The general rule of thumb regarding kitchen knives is that handwashing them is always safer than using a dishwasher. Santoku knives are no exception to this rule, though many brands will claim to be dishwasher-friendly.

Suppose you do choose to use the dishwasher option. In that case, you should avoid doing this with the traditional Pakkawood handle santoku knives. This material will be compromised by too much exposure to moisture.

To maintain the performance of your santoku knives, you must invest in a good knife sharpener to keep the edge on point. These often come in the form of sharpening blocks and can usually be purchased in a bundle with your knife set.

You may want to invest in other maintenance tools, including a honing steel rod (2). This is vital for maintaining the blade’s shape.

Caring for your santoku knife is a daily effort. There are a few things to remember to get the best out of these Japanese-style blades. When in use, always use a cutting board to avoid damage to your kitchen table. This will also help to maintain the edge of your santoku blade.

After each use, you should clean the blade by running it under some warm water and using a cleaning cloth to wipe down the blade and handle. Again, keep your bare hand away from the sharp parts of the knife.

Both the santoku knife and the Western-style chef’s knife require consistent knife sharpening sessions to ensure the blade retains its edge. Fortunately, Japanese and Western brands of knives offer free sharpening services upon purchase of their products.

Some common examples include Cutco knives and Shun knives. Both brands cover their customers with lifetime free sharpening guarantees. This allows you to ship your knives back to the seller and have them expertly sharpened and returned back to you.



MITSUMOTO SAKARI 7 inch Japanese Santoku Chef Knife, High Carbon Stainless Steel Kitchen Cooking Knife, Professional Hand Forged Chef's Knives (Rosewood Handle & Gift Box)

It is essential to be aware that the santoku knife is a “jack of all trades” with no specific specialization. As such, you should be aware of some downsides to the santoku. Firstly, due to the slanted sheep’s foot edge, you cannot achieve a strong rocking motion like you can with the Western-style chef’s knife.

Another downside of santoku knives is their razor-sharp blades which, while great for slicing vegetables and meats, don’t do so well in the durability sector. Of course, many companies make santoku knives with super steels that counteract this weakness, but this is not always the case.

In particular, Western knife manufacturers often just throw a santoku knife in their collections. They do this without using the specialized Japanese steels essential for their optimal construction and performance.


What is a santoku knife FAQ

TUO Santoku Knife-7 inch Santoku Chef Knife Kitchen Knives Ultra Sharp Asian Knife Japanese Chefs Knives - German HC Steel - Full Tang Pakkawood Handle - BLACK HAWK SERIES with Gift Box

What is a Santoku Knife best used for?

The best way to use a santoku knife is by adhering to the three virtues of the blade. These are slicing meats, dicing fruits and vegetables, and cutting fish. You may also use the thin blade of the santoku knife for delicate tasks such as mincing garlic and boning meats.


When do you use a paring knife?

You can use paring knives for smaller tasks, such as peeling fruits and vegetables and mincing meat into fine slices. Some common examples include peeling a potato, cutting up an orange, or removing bones.


Do chefs use santoku knives?

Many professional chefs use the santoku knife because it allows them to multi-task and accomplish more things in a smaller time frame. The santoku knife is most useful in busy restaurant environments. Here, chefs don’t have time to cherry-pick their knives for every individual task.


What foods is a Santoku knife used for?

As outlined by the three virtues of its intended purpose, you can use the santoku knife for cutting meat, chopping vegetables, and slicing fish. They are general-purpose knives for slicing, dicing, and chopping all kinds of ingredients. This includes thick and bony meats to small and delicate shrimp.

TUO Santoku Knife-7 inch Santoku Chef Knife Kitchen Knives Ultra Sharp Asian Knife Japanese Chefs Knives - German HC Steel - Full Tang Pakkawood Handle - BLACK HAWK SERIES with Gift Box


Which is better chef knife or Santoku?

The chef’s knife is a multi-purpose knife, just like the santoku. However, it comes with a straight-edge design and a heavier spine, making it more tilted towards heavy-duty cutting. In contrast, santoku knives come with extra sharp blades of around 10 degrees per side. A slanted edge encourages delicate slicing, whereas the pointed tip is more involved in the process.


Is a Santoku knife all purpose?

Like any single-bevel or double-bevel chef’s knife, the santoku knife is designed to be an all-purpose knife that tackles big and small cutting, slicing, and chopping tasks. Some common examples include chopping a thick piece of chicken, cutting thin slices of tender meat, or removing the bone from a piece of salmon.


Can a Santoku knife replace a chef’s knife?

Most santoku knives can perform the same tasks as a chef’s knife. In addition, you can achieve many overlapping tasks successfully by either blade. However, when it comes to predominantly delicate cutting tasks, you’ll find better results with the santoku knife vs the chef’s knife.


Why do santoku knives have dimples?

While not a feature of traditional Japanese knives, many Western-style santoku knives come with hammered dimples along the edge, as seen in Granton edge products. The purpose of these dimples is to create a more seamless cutting experience. It does this by reducing friction between the blade and the ingredient, preventing food from sticking to it.


How do you chop with a Santoku knife?

You can employ many cutting techniques when using a santoku knife. However, it largely depends on the ingredient you handle. For instance, a thick piece of meat would require a complete grasp on the handle and a pointed approach that dives the tip first. On the other hand, cutting vegetables would take on a more relaxed handle grip with a light rocking motion.

Mercer Culinary M20707 Genesis 7-Inch Santoku Knife

Related: Nakiri vs. Santoku Knives

(1) –
(2) –
This post may contain affiliate links which go towards keeping this site running. Please see our Disclaimer and Privacy Policy for more. We are a member in the Amazon Affiliate Program. Thank you for your support!