Santoku is Japanese for “three virtues”. This is where handmade japanese knives are made. These three virtues are the three tasks that the Santoku knives were meant to perform: slicing/dicing and mincing.
Santoku knives can be most closely compared to western Chefs knives, and they are used in the same situations. While the Santoku is typically shorter and lighter that the Chef’s knives, they are available in many sizes. The Western Chef’s knife’s blades are shorter and more pointed at the tip. Many people like the narrow cleaver-like design and use it for all their blade needs.
Santoku knives are available in a variety of sizes, with the most common being between five and eight inches. The non-cutting edges are flat. The cutting edge, which is also called a Sheep’s foot blade, curves in creating a nearly 60-degree tip. The handle’s top is aligned with the blade’s flat edge.
The tip of the “Sheep’s feet” provides a more straight cutting edge than a Chef’s knife, which restricts rocking motion. Santoku knives are more effective at “chopping”. The knife must be cut from the heel to the tip. This is not the usual practice for Chef’s knives.
The Santoku is a well-balanced Japanese knife. The handle and the tang have been designed to match the blade in both width and weight. This allows them to work together in perfect harmony.
Western kitchen knives are sharpened to a 40-45 degree angle. Japanese knives sharpen to a point like a chisel. This means that they can be sharpened to a chisel tip on one side while Western knives have two cutting edges. Santoku knives are a hybrid. They have the Western bi-lateral edge, but the Japanese traditional 12-15 degree blade angle.
All Japanese knives, including the Santoku are made from hardened steel to keep their sharp edges. It helps keep the blade sharp and prevents it from rolling. The risk of chipping is higher for hardened and thin steels, so care and storage are essential with fine knives.
Santoku knives require less maintenance and last longer than Western knives. The average user will find it easier to sharpen Western knives, but they will require more frequent sharpening.