The Difference Between a Chefs and Santoku Knife

Knife and cutting board

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For fans of multifunctional, every day knives, two types really stand out: The Chefs and Santoku knife. These two are very similar, and are designed to be the most versatile kitchen knives, able to tackle any task. While they both are excellent additions to any kitchen, it’s important to understand the subtle differences that makes each knife unique.

At a glance, both the chefs and santoku knife are quite similar. A santoku knife is even technically a chefs knife at heart. They’re both designed to mince, chop, slice, & dice. Both the chefs and santoku knife is designed to be used by cooks and chefs every single day.

But there are enough differences in between the two in both the design and specialty of each. In fact, they’re different enough (while still possessing overlapping qualities) that having one of each in the kitchen is a luxury! But still, many cooks find themselves coming to favor one versus the other. When considering whether to make the chefs or santoku knife your go-to kitchen blade, these are the facts to consider, and the differences to know.

Chefs Knife

The quintessential every day blade, the chefs knife was designed to do it all. While they are made all over the world, the most widely seen chefs knives in kitchens today originated from Europe, as a result of French culinary influence. Today Europe (specifically Germany) and the USA are the top producers of chefs knives, although Asian countries like China and Japan make some seriously impressive chefs knives as well.

True chefs knives usually have some heft to them, and a sharp point that makes them good for deboning and disjointing poultry and fish, and generally tackling prep work that is more demanding. The blade of a chefs knife is typically broad, with a straight edge that curves towards the tip of the knife, which adds some weight for extra power when cutting and dicing. The design of the knife favors a cutting motion that “rocks” forward and back, along the curvature of the knife.

  • Blade typically between 6-12 inches long
  • Heavier feel 
  • Back and forth rocking motion used to cut & slice with the knife
  • Tackles tough and demanding tasks & meat/poultry
  • Well-balanced, all-around cooking knife that can also quickly chop and dice

Santoku Knife

The eastern counterpart to the chefs knife, the santoku knife is a multi-functional, every day blade that offers unparalleled precision and control. Originating from Japan, the santoku has become adopted in kitchens all over the world. The santoku knife generally has a smaller blade than chefs knives, although they possess a very fine, razor sharp edge. 

The thin blade of the santoku knife is usually made with a hardened steel, which is ideal for keeping the edge thin and sharp. In fact, some santoku knives (although not all) are only sharpened on one side of the blade. That allows for seamless and easy handling of the knife. Another difference? Some santoku knives have ridges or “scallops” on the side of the blade. This pattern helps remove food from the knife more seamlessly, and in general the santoku is great for quick cutting and chopping.

Santokus are also lighter than their heavier counterpart, and can be ideal for use by people with smaller dispositions. The design of the santoku knife requires a slightly different cutting technique than is typically used with chefs knives. When using a santoku knife, chefs generally cut into the food, and slice forward and backwards to effectively use the blade. 

  • Blade between 5-7 inches long
  • Lightweight and well balanced
  • Ideal for quick and precise chopping
  • Handles vegetables very well
  • Razor thin blade can be delicate for tough tasks
  • Slice forward and back when using the knife



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