Santoku vs Chef Knife: What's the Difference?

A chef’s knife and a Santoku knife look similar, so it’s easy to assume that they cut in the same way. However, there are some distinct differences, and it’s important to know what these differences are in order to choose the right knife for your cutting needs.


The Santoku knife, or Santoku bocho, originated in Japan.“Santoku” roughly translates to “three virtues” or “three uses,” and these uses are mincing, dicing, and slicing. Santoku knives have a straight edge and are rather light to hold. Although some Santoku knives have a double-sided blade, the original Japanese Santoku knives have a single-sided blade. This allows chefs to have more control when they’re cutting. The Granton edge is another significant feature of Santoku knives. It has a “scalloped” edge that prevents ingredients like fish from sticking to the knife. Most Santoku knives have blades of around 6 inches and don’t have a bolster.

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What is the Santoku knife used for? Santoku knives are designed primarily for precision work: cutting thin slices. You can use them for chopping cheese, herbs, fish, and various vegetables. They are particularly suited for preparing sashimi and sushi plates.

To use a Santoku knife effectively, select the appropriate cutting board. You want a cutting board that is made either of wood or soft plastic. Anything harder can quickly dull the blade

Santoku knives have a seamless blade-to-handle design. This means you must grip the knife correctly to ensure your position is balanced while you’re cutting.

When using the knife, slice, mince, or dice in a forward-to-backward motion (as opposed to the standard rocking motion of chef’s knife). This forward-to-backward motion creates thin slices.

As Santoku knives have shorter blades than chef’s knives, you can use the entire blade to make smooth, uniform cuts.


Because Santoku knives are used for precision work, caring for them correctly is important. Always hand-wash your knife, and then wipe it dry with a soft towel. Make sure there is no moisture on the surface as this can lead to rust forming on the blade. Try to avoid having food residue dry on the surface as this makes it difficult to clean. Also, remember not to put your Santoku knife in a dishwasher as the heat and water jets may damage your blade.

Store your Santoku knife on a magnetic bar, a knife block, or a knife sheath, and make sure the blade doesn’t touch other utensils or other hard surfaces. Finally, sharpen your knife whenever you need to, and sharpen it on a whetstone. Sharpen the blade to an angle of roughly 10-15 degrees.

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While the Santoku knife originated in Japan, the chef’s knife originated in Germany and France. It has a broad blade that is double-sided, and it is usually available at a length of 8 inches, which is longer than the standard Santoku knife. The chef’s knife blade has a slight curve to it, too, which is different from the straight edge of the Santoku knife. Chef’s knives also have a bolster between the blade and a handle, like our Hanikamu VG10 Damascus Chef Knife Set, which allows you to get a firm grip while chopping. In addition, many chef’s knives come with a full tang, meaning the blade extends right through the handle. This gives the knife added stability.

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Chef’s knives are designed to be versatile, and they can slice or chop meat, vegetables, cheese, or bread. As the blades of chef’s knives are rather broad compared to the thin blades of the Santoku knife, the cuts chef’s knives make are typically larger.

When using a chef’s knife, it’s important that you first select the right size of knife. Chef’s knives range from 6 to 12 inches. Although 8 inches is a popular choice, some professional chefs use 10- or 12-inch blades. Our Meisai Damascus Chef’s Knife Set offers an 8.5-inch chef’s knife with a 12-degree angled blade.

The bolster on the chef’s knife is designed to give you a firm grip. When you cut, chop, or slice, do so with a rocking motion, and use the entire length of the blade when cutting. If you plan to use your chef’s knife for cutting bread, choose a blade with a serrated edge.


Caring for a chef’s knife is pretty similar to caring for a Santoku knife. Wash the knife by hand, and dry it gently with a towel. Never put your chef’s knife in a dishwasher as the strong jets and high heat may destroy the blade. As with the Santoku knife, store your knife in a knife board, a magnetic bar, or a sheath.

The main difference between caring for a Santoku knife and a chef’s knife pertains to sharpening. Use a whetstone to sharpen your chef’s knife, and sharpen it to 15 to 20 degrees on both sides.

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The choice between a chef’s knife and a Santoku knife will largely depend on the type of cutting you’re doing when you cook and your own preferences. If versatility is what you’re looking for, a chef’s knife should do the job. However, if you need to do precision work, such as cutting very thin slices or mincing herbs, then choose a Santoku knife.

If you have small hands, a Santoku knife’s 6-inch blade may be a better choice compared to the standard 8-inch chef’s knife. Santoku knives are also lighter than chef’s knives. This can make a difference if you are chopping and dicing for long periods. On the other hand, if you need to cut large amounts of meat or vegetables, the curved (and wide) blade of the chef’s knife will make your job easier.


Both Santoku and chef’s knives are wonderful for cutting food. However, each one is designed for slightly different purposes. The knife you choose will ultimately depend on your culinary needs

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