What Is A Santoku Knife Used For In The Kitchen?

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The Santoku, roughly translated as ‘three virtues’, is an all-rounder kitchen knife used for chopping, slicing, and dicing. With its straight spine, very slightly curved belly, and a sheep’s foot tip that is rounded off, this is considered by many as a friendlier option compared to the western chef’s knife and many other traditional Japanese blades.

When cooking shows became huge hits on cable TV in the early 90s, one famous TV chef – Rachel Ray – introduced a knife that would awe viewers all over the world: the Santoku.

Unknown to a lot of people, this is a modern knife, patterned after the vegetable cleaver called the Nakiri and introduced to Japan only after the Second World War.

At the time, the locals wanted a more versatile kitchen tool that can be used for various ingredients, since their cuisine has become more varied.

Do you want to know more about this wonderful piece? Read on…

What is a Santoku knife?

Before we proceed on how it is used, let us first see what does it look like.

A Santoku knife is considered to be the Land of the Rising Sun’s version of the Chef’s knife.

It is an all-rounder type of cutlery with a blade that is usually 13 to 20 centimeters long (approximately 5 to 8 inches).

Its most well-known distinction is its long and flat-edged blade that has a curve angle at the point.

It is commonly lightweight, making it the best choice for comfortable use for longer periods of time.

Compared to a Chef’s knife, it is traditionally smaller and provides a better grip for those with smaller hands.

It has a straighter edge, which will require an up-down motion in slicing.

It has a slight edge to the tip which could be helpful to easily lift it in continuous chopping.

Modern versions of the Santoku Knife have oval-shaped indentations known as ‘grantons’, which assist in having a smoother slice.

The little indents allow it to resist sticking to the surface, as it allows air to come in and get the fat or juices on the indentions while slicing.

If an item sticks to it, it would more likely tear the item with uneven pieces.

Related: best santoku knives

The history

Knowing its history will make us more familiar with what it is really used for.

The word ‘Santoku’ in Japanese refers to “three uses”.

It is interpreted to being a multi-use, general-purpose knife that can deal with a lot of different items.

Its distinguishing characteristic is having the same shape of a Sheepsfoot blade, that is used to trim the hooves of the sheep.

Though there is no exact year, it is believed to be a popular knife in the mid-1940s, after World War II.

The Japanese saw different cooking styles from the West, gaining inspiration from their well-known Chef’s knife.

Thus, this cutter is considered to be a mix of eastern and western influences.

If you know Japanese knives well, they have a dedicated cutter for each task.

Compared to the West, they have more knives in one set, having a wide variety of dishes that requires different slices.

Though it is still used by experts and professional chefs, the normal household would still prefer an all-purpose knife.

Perhaps the Japanese way of life known all over the world – minimalistic – makes this cutter famous too.

Due to this, it grew its popularity and some even say that it is better than the Chef’s knife.

What is it used for?

Referring to the indirect translation of the word ‘Santoku’, it is believed that the ‘three uses’ refers to its flexibility of use for mincing, dicing, and slicing.

However, the word could also mean ‘three virtues’ that also refer to different meanings.

Some say it is the three sections of it –  the heel, the edge, and the tip.

Some could also refer to the three items that it could be best used for – fishes, meats, and vegetables.

While all of them can be considered correct, the most practical use is for dicing and chopping.

The typical blade is usually thinner than any other knives, making precision cuts possible.

Its characteristics make it also perfect for slicing semi-soft items such as cheese or creating fine slices of meat and seafood.

This one is a very versatile tool for professional chefs.

A Santoku has a wider blade surface, that can be used in transferring food right after it is sliced, chopped, or minced.

Where to buy one?

As mentioned earlier, you probably have seen one from different TV shopping channels.

Due to its functionality, they have made variations in it to make it more appealing to regular household cooks.

Some of them are not made from pure steel and claims to be sharper and safer to use.

Instead of putting grantons, they use non-stick coatings to avoid the item sticking to the blade surface.

However, beware of some items advertised with the ‘As Seen on TV’ logo.

Their popularity leads to counterfeits that are made from cheap and substandard materials that can cause harm or serious injury.

Buying one is not that hard as some kitchen retailers would be carrying one due to its popularity.

They may also have different models, blade steel materials, and even a variety of handles.

Though it sounds professional and hard to find, most salesmen are familiar with this cutter.

The same way goes with online shopping.

You can get the best prices and sometimes with an additional gift or discount with every purchase.

Still, be mindful about buying online as some may be claiming an authentic item that is not.

Carefully read the reviews or watch video reviews of the Santoku you would like to purchase.

Conclusion

Whether you are a home cook or an expert, consider owning a Santoku for your kitchen.

Its lightweight body makes it easier to control, allowing you to make delightful meals for your family or customers.

This one is considered one of the best multipurpose knives in the market, as it is relatively easy to use.

Last Updated on August 19, 2021

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My name is Andy Wang, and I'm a retired chef. I used to work at the City Vineyard restaurant in NYC. I also had a culinary degree from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. And this blog is where I share my love for knives and cooking with people like you.