Santoku vs. Western Style Chef's Knives

Today we are going to compare two common knife shapes: the Japanese Santoku style, and the Western style chef’s knife. These two styles are both all-purpose knives intended to be used for a wide variety of tasks. There are a few key differences which give one or the other a leg up for certain tasks. Read on to learn a little more about each.

 

The blade of our Santoku is constructed from two types of steel, forged together to create a superior cutting tool. The inner layer–the one from which the edge is formed–is a hard and durable steel known as VG-10. This steel can take an incredibly fine edge, is resistant to wear, and will not deform with use. This means that our knives start sharp and stay sharp. The Santoku’s blade also has a thinner cross section allowing for a smoother, more precise cut, and a lighter knife that is more nimble and comfortable to use. The thinner blade means the knife cuts more like a razor, and less like a hatchet.

The blades of most Western knives are made from a softer variety of steel. This has the benefit of creating a tough blade, but one that deforms and dulls more quickly. This style of blade is generally heavier than a santoku style, and requires more frequent maintenance. Most professional chefs hone and reshape the edge on these types of knives at least once a day.

The handle of our Santoku knife is borrowed from the Western style handles that most chef’s in the US are familiar with. It incorporates a full tang, meaning a single piece of steel extends from the tip of the blade through to the back of the handle. This improves stiffness, durability, and balances the knife. The scales (or handle) are riveted to the tang using 3 stainless steel rivets. The Western style handle on our knife allows cooks in the U.S. to continue using the grip they are familiar and comfortable with, while allowing them to experiment with the Santoku blade profile.

Our Santoku knife has a flatter edge profile than its western counterpart. This allows more of the blade to come in contact with the board when performing push or pull cuts. Have you ever chopped a scallion only to find some of the rounds still connected to one another? This is probably because the rounded edge of your knife did not make consistent contact with the board and left the vegetables only partially separated. The flatter edge profile also makes tip-work easier since you do not have to raise your arm as high to bring the tip in contact with the board.

Western knives, and German knives in particular, often feature a heavily rounded belly which allows for rocking chops, but does not perform as well when slicing, or performing push and pull cuts.

The heel of our Santoku knife is unique because the hard steel used to craft our knives allows the elimination of a stiffening bolster which extends down to the edge of the blade. This allows the sharp edge of the blade to continue all the way through the heel which provides a sharp point which can be treated almost like a second tip. I like to use it for precision work like hulling strawberries. Most chef’s, once they get accustomed to this feature, find it quite useful.

Due to the softer, more malleable steel, Western knives often have a large bolster which extends down the blade to the heel. This adds rigidity to the balde, but it also adds significant weight. It means the sharp edge of the blade does not extend back to the heel, and it makes care and maintenance more difficult. Do you have an old knife which has been sharpened many times? If you place this knife edge down on the cutting board edge-down is there a gap between the heel of the blade and the board? If so, you probably need to grind down the bolster to get the knife back in good working order.

 

Check out our knives to see what you think.

 

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