Santoku in Japan, where Japanese Knife Set were created, refers to “three virtues.” In this example, the three virtues refers to the three tasks Santoku knives were designed for: slicing; dicing; and mincing.
Santoku knives can best be compared with western Chefs knives. They are often used in similar situations. The Santoku is usually shorter and lighter in weight than the Chef’s knife. However, both are available in various sizes. The Western chef’s knife is more pointed at its tip, but the blades are smaller and lighter than the Santoku. It has been compared to a narrow cleaver by some who like it for full blade use.
Santoku knives can be found in many sizes, usually between 5 and 8 inches. The non-cutting edge has a flat edge. However, the cutting edge (also known as a Sheep’s feet blade) curves in to give a sharp tip at 60 degrees. The handle’s tip aligns with either the flat or top edge of the blade.
The “Sheep’s Foot” tip has a straighter cutting edge that a Chef’s knife. This limits rocking motion. Santoku knives make “chopping” motions easier. This knife relies on a straight downward cut.
The Santoku Japanese knife is well balanced. The handle is made to match the tang and blade, so that they work in perfect harmony.
Western kitchen knives have a blade angle of 40 to 45 degree. Japanese knives have a different sharpening process. The Japanese knives are sharpened at a sharper level on one side than Western knives, which have bilateral cutting edges. Santoku knives have a hybrid design. They include the Western-biased edge, but keep the Japanese traditional 12- to 15 degree blade angle.
The Santoku and all Japanese knives must have hardened steel in order to maintain their razor-sharp edges. This will help maintain the edge and minimize blade rolling. However, very thin or hardened steel is more susceptible to chipping so careful storage and care are crucial for these knives.
Santoku knife sharpens more quickly than Western knives. Western knives are much easier to sharpen than Western knives.