Loosely translating as “three virtues” or “three uses,” the word “Santoku” refers to the knife’s three specialties: slicing, mincing and dicing. The Santoku Knife is a modern twist on the traditional Western chef’s knife.
Elegantly styled, the Santoku is a chef’s knife reimagined for use in Japanese cooking. In the mid-1940s, the Japanese began to discover new styles of cooking popular in the West. As a result, they developed the Santoku knife, which was their own version of the Western chef knife.
The Santoku design is shorter, lighter and thinner than a traditional Western chef’s knife, and it is more hardened to compensate for its thinness. Check out these five fast facts to dive deeper into this essential knife’s history and qualities.
The Santoku has a short history thus far
The traditional vegetable cleaver was called a Nakiri, which has a tall blade with a rounded front edge. Up until the years after WWII, Japanese home cooks had traditionally used either Nakiri or Usuba knives.
After the war, as Western and Eastern cultures began to intermingle, the modern Santoku, a hybrid of traditional Western and Eastern cultures, was born. It has a flat edge and a sheepsfoot blade that curves in an angle approaching 60 degrees at the point. The top of its handle is designed in line with the top of the blade, allowing the blade and handle work together in harmony.
The Santoku design veered away from that of a formal meat cleaver, which allowed it to be more compatible in a home kitchen. Its thin blade makes it ideal for preparing finely sliced vegetables and fish, staples in Asian cuisine.
Santoku knives are lightweight
What may have made the Santoku one of the most popular Asian blades is its thin and lightweight design. The knife is double faceted, which means it is sharpened on both faces of the blade. It is a well-balanced knife, sharpened to a bevel angle between 10–15 degrees.
Santoku knives offer comfortable cutting for smaller hands
The small, lightweight style of the Santoku provides the user with a comfortable, well-balanced grip. The handle and weight distribution make it a popular choice for female chefs. Celebrity Chef Giada De Laurentiis describes the best knife as a sharp one that fits and feels good in your hand.
Quality in crafting technique makes the Santoku different
Some of the knives use San Mai laminated steels. Forged laminated stainless steel cladding is employed on Japanese Santoku knives to improve strength and rust resistance while maintaining a hard edge. Knives with these laminated blades are generally more expensive due to their higher quality. I.O. Shen handcrafted laminated blades, balance and design.