What is a Santoku?

The Santoku knife is a legendary Japanese kitchen knife that is often compared to a western chef’s knife in terms of versatility and functionality. It has a sharp blade and exclusive design and is a staple in Japanese cuisine. You’ll find it in both traditional and modern kitchens throughout Asia and beyond.

Modern versions of Santoku knives are made from stamped or forged stainless steel. But most sought are the ones made of Damascus steel – providing extra sharpness, durability, and an aesthetically pleasing appearance.

Santoku Knife Meaning - Why is it called a Santoku?

The Japanese word “santoku”, written as 三徳, is commonly translated as “three virtues.” The name originates from the Japanese words “san,” meaning “three,” “to,” meaning “tool,” and “ku,” meaning “nine.” 
On the one hand, the name describes the versatile functions of the santoku knife, which is commonly used for three main cutting techniques: slicing, dicing, and mincing.
The other explanation for the name is that it originates from the knife’s ability to be used for cutting three different ingredients often found in Japanese cuisine – meat, fish, and vegetables.

Santoku Knife Definition - Characteristics and Features of a Santoku

Santoku is often considered to be the Japanese version of a chef’s knife. However, there are some distinct differences when compared to a western chef’s knife.
Santoku knives are typically shorter and wider than traditional western chef’s knives. The blade lengths are ranging from about 5 to 8 inches, typically being around 7 inches long. They have a more straight edge, and a relatively flat profile, with the spine closing down at the tip. The design makes them well-suited for slicing, dicing, and mincing.
Better quality Santoku knives are nowadays often made from high-quality Damascus steel. The handle of a santoku knife can be made from wood, micarta, G10, or other composite materials designed for a comfortable and secure grip.
In addition to their versatility in the kitchen, santoku knives are known for their attractive design. Especially the Damascus Santoku knives feature intricate patterns on the blade, making them a visually striking addition to any kitchen knife collection.

Design features

  1. Blade length: Santoku knife blades are typically 5 to 8 inches long, most commonly around 7 inches. The blade is shorter and wider when compared to a traditional Western chef’s knife.
  2. Blade shape: Santoku knives have more straight edge, just slightly curved. Because the spine bends downward at the end of the blade the tip is not as prominent as with the chef’s knife. A relatively flat profile makes a Santoku well-suited for slicing, dicing, and mincing.
  3. Blade material: The blades can be made from stainless steel, carbon steel, or Damascus steel, while typically praised types of steel are for example VG-10 or AUS-10.
  4. Handle material: The handle can be made from wood, plastic, Micarta, G10, or other composite materials. The design can vary from western modern to a typical Japanese handle design.
  5. Weight: Santoku knives are generally lightweight, generally quite lighter than chef’s knives. This makes them easy to handle and maneuver in the kitchen.
  6. Balance: The design of Santoku knives allows them to achieve a great balance with the weight of the blade and handle evenly distributed for optimal control and precision and effortless prolonged work.
  7. Design: Santoku knives are known for their attractive design, with many featuring ‘Granton’ indents or intricate Damascus patterns on the blade. Santoku is definitely a type of knife you would want to have in your knife set collection.

Why do Santoku knives have dimples?

Santoku knives have dimples to reduce surface tension and create air pockets, which prevent food from sticking to the blade.

The dimples, also called the Granton edge, allow a smoother cutting experience by reducing the blade drag and increasing the knife’s ability to slice through food with ease.

Is Santoku a 5'' or 7'' knife?

Santoku knives are available in both 5-inch and 7-inch blade lengths. The 5-inch Santoku is handier for precision work and smaller cutting tasks, while the 7-inch Santoku is better suited for larger cuts of bigger chunks of ingredients.

The perfect length of a Santoku knife for general-purpose use is 7 inches.

How much does a Santoku Knife Cost?

The prices of Santoku knives vary widely and are based on a number of factors, such as the type of steel, the quality of the grip materials, the brand, and the design.
Generally speaking, you can expect to pay anywhere from $20 (low-end) to $200 (mid-range) or more for a custom Santoku.
  • Budget-friendly knives often made from stamped steel and lower-quality materials can be found for under $50.
  • Mid-range Santoku knives made from higher-quality materials (such as high-carbon steel or Damascus steel) are usually priced anywhere from $60 to $250.
  • Higher-end Santoku knives hand-made from premium materials by renowned craftsmen can cost much more, reaching prices even up to $2.000 or more. For a custom-made Santoku, featuring intricate design details or custom handle materials the prices can go even higher.
In the first place, you should consider your own needs and budget when shopping for a Santoku knife. Even though you might be tempted to go for the most expensive option, it’s not always necessary to spend a lot of money to get a good-quality knife. You can find some just like these in our store.

What is Santoku Knife Used For?

A Santoku is a type of knife that is easy to handle and can be used to efficiently cut and process a wide variety of ingredients. A specific user-friendly design and rather light weight allow it to perform a range of different cutting tasks.
Common uses for a Santoku knife include chopping and dicing vegetables, as well as cutting and slicing different meats and fish. 
In Japan and Asia, Santoku knives are very common and are often used to prepare traditional dishes, such as for example sashimi and sushi.  As a counterpart to a western chef’s knife, it can easily serve as its replacement as it will handle most types of cutting tasks in your kitchen.

Santoku Knife Purpose - Five Types of Cuts

  1. Chopping: Almost straight edge of a Santoku is perfect for chopping all culinary ingredients, including vegetables, meats, and herbs.
  2. Slicing: You can easily use Santoku for slicing, whether it’s slicing meats, vegetables, or fruits.
  3. Dicing: This smaller and easy-to-handle knife is very effective for dicing ingredients into small and uniform pieces.
  4. Mincing: Mincing herbs, garlic, onions, and other ingredients with a Santoku knife is an easy task. Their sharp and precise blades make mincing almost an effortless job.
  5. Crushing: With a wide blade it is easy to crush juniper berries, black pepper, garlic, or other ingredients.

How to use a Santoku?

A Santoku is a versatile all-purpose knife, which can be used to cut different types of ingredients equally well. Santoku knife uses are not limited only to the preparation of Asian dishes.
When cutting food, the knife is tilted forward with the point slightly below the heel of the blade. This leverage makes it easier to cut through even firmer and more resilient foods.
The specially shaped blade and the perfect weight distribution make it an ideal kitchen tool even for people with rather small hands. Because Santoku is such an adaptable all-around knife, it is a trendy and sought-for item. This type of traditional Japanese knife is indispensable in many kitchens worldwide.

7 Crucial Tips for Proper Santoku Knife Use

  1. Keep your knife sharp: Maintaining the sharpness of your Santoku is essential for safe and effective cutting. Before you use your knife, make sure it is properly sharpened.
  2. Hold the knife correctly: To improve control over your Santoku knife, use a ‘pinch grip’. Hold the handle with your palm, and pinch the blade with your index finger on one side of the blade and your thumb on the other.
  3. Use a cutting board: Make sure to use a cutting board when processing ingredients. The cutting board should be large enough to allow you to comfortably maneuver the knife. The best materials that will protect the blade are wood, plastic, silicone, or other soft board materials. Avoid stone or glass cutting boards as these can dull your edge pretty fast.
  4. Cut with a rocking motion:  Use a back-and-forward rocking motion in order to make precise cuts/slices. This technique allows you to maintain control over the blade and make clean cuts through ingredients.
  5. Use the flat side of the blade to crush ingredients: Santoku has a perfect wide blade that can be used to crush ingredients, such as garlic or nuts. To do so, simply place the ingredient on a cutting board and then crush it with the flat side blade.
  6. Use the heel of the blade for thicker cuts: If you need to make thicker cuts (such as dicing a large onion) use the heel of the blade to make clean, precise cuts. When you are processing harder vegetables you can always use the heel to assert more power to the cut.
  7. Keep the knife clean: Make sure that your knife stays in good condition. Always clean it thoroughly after each use. Wash it by hand with water or mild detergent and wipe it with a dry cloth.

Example of a Santoku Knife Use - How to Slice a Cabbage Like a Pro Chef ( 60 Seconds Video Clip )

The Legendary Santoku: How Japan's Kitchen Tool Conquered America

The Santoku knife was invented in Japan around 100 to 150 years ago and as it happened, it played a significant role in the transformation of Japanese society. Nowadays it is a common kitchen tool in Japan and around the world.
The Santoku knife was originally developed as an all-purpose knife for home cooks in Japan. Before its invention, Japanese home cooks would typically use multiple knives for different tasks. The Santoku knife’s versatility and efficiency quickly made it a favorite among Japanese cooks.
The change in eating habits of the Japanese after the Second World War and the economic boom in the country affected the population in a way that they could afford to buy and consume more meat. Previously, fish was their primary food source.
With the growing economic power in many households, luxurious food became available, and the Santoku knife became very popular because it was created for multiple purposes. The knife’s versatility was one of its main selling points.
As Japanese cuisine gained popularity around the world, so too did the Santoku knife. Its unique design and versatility made it a favored choice for both professional chefs and home cooks.
Over the last few decades, this multi-purpose Japanese knife has rapidly spread across the globe. It is now particularly popular in the United States and Europe, where it competes with the traditional chef’s knife as a favored cutlery item.


A Santoku is a versatile multi-purpose knife that has many different uses. It is used to slice, dice, and mince a great variety of cooking ingredients. It is the most popular knife in Japanese cuisine, although it is also used to prepare other Asian-style and western foods.

Santoku knives have a straight edge and are shorter and wider than chef’s knives. They are perfect for slicing, dicing, and mincing. On the other hand, chef’s knives are better suited for chopping, slicing, and processing food using the tip of the blade because of their curved edge and pointed tip. Although the materials and quality of both knives may differ, the key distinction between a Santoku and a chef’s knife lies in their usage. Therefore, it ultimately comes down to personal preference.

There are different ways and tools you can use to sharpen a Santoku. The most widespread and reliable method is using a whetstone or a honing rod. Some use manual or electric sharpeners which we would advise against because they can easily ruin the cutting edge. Start by wetting the sharpening stone with water and using long, smooth strokes to sharpen the blade. You can also use the honing rod if you have one.

It is important to clean your knife after each use. To clean a Santoku knife, wipe the blade with a damp cloth and only use mild detergent if needed. Do not use abrasive sponges. Also, avoid soaking the handle in water. Dry the knife thoroughly before storing it.

That’s a big NO! Santoku may be able to chop through small bones (fish or soft chicken bones), but it is not designed for heavy-duty tasks like chopping through any larger bones. If you want to keep your knife in good condition, do not chop bones with it. Use a cleaver or a bone saw instead.

Because of the shorter and wider blade and lacking a more prominent pointy tip, Santoku is not typically recommended for filleting fish. For filleting fish, it is recommended that you use a dedicated fillet knife with a long, thin blade. If you lack such a special knife, a slicer, a utility knife, or even a chef’s knife will all perform better than a Santoku.

Santoku and Nakiri knives are somewhat similar in their design and ways of use. Both are popular choices in Japanese cuisine and are often used to perform similar tasks. However, there are some key differences. Santoku knives have a straight edge and a rounded ‘sheep’s foot’ tip, while Nakiri knives have a straight edge and a squared-off tip. Also, Santoku knives are usually shorter and narrower than Nakiri knives.

Yes, you can chop herbs with a Santoku. In fact, it is one of the knives that perform great when such a task is at hand. Its sharp blade and slightly rounded edge make it an excellent choice for finely chopping herbs for cooking.

Yes! You can easily use a Santoku knife to chop nuts or other nutty culinary ingredients. You can easily chop nuts and scoop them with a wide blade to garnish your dishes.

To ensure your knife stays in top condition, there are a few storage options to consider. These include a knife block, a magnetic knife strip, or a knife roll. Try to avoid stacking your knives on top of each other in a kitchen drawer as this can lead to damage. If you have no other storage options available, you can wrap the knife in a soft cloth before placing it in your utility drawer.