There are few things in a well-stocked kitchen more intimidating or exciting than a set of Japanese kitchen knives. Japanese cuisine has long put a focus on high-quality culinary knives when working in the kitchen. When it comes to purchasing the best set of Japanese kitchen knives, it can feel like a complicated decision considering all of the different types available.
Whether we are talking about the dynamic Gyuto Chef's Knife or the Nakiri all-purpose vegetable knife, each blade features its own special uses and applied techniques.
Today, we are going to direct our attention toward the wonderful Santoku knife.
Introducing the Santoku Knife (aka Bunka Bōchō)
When properly translated, Santoku means 'three virtues' or ‘three uses’ in English. This knife has quickly become a favorite of chefs and home cooks around the world. Ideal not just for cutting but also chopping, mincing, and dicing. The Santoku knife offers all-in-one versatility in a long-lasting package.
As you search you may see the term Bunka, this style of knife is typically the same as a Santoku however some knife makers such as Global have started making both, with slightly different edge profiles. In the U.S. Bunka is often used to refer to Kengata Santoku specifically, which is a standard Santoku with a downturned tip. The Kengata Santoku is useful for more detail slicing and, let's be honest, looks pretty awesome. The term Kengata translates to "sword-like" so it's no wonder they look cool.
Similar to a chef's knife, the Santoku knife tends to be a little shorter than the standard Gyuto and is focused on smaller and more specific tasks, such as thinly slicing vegetables for a fancy garnish or dicing smaller portions for a dish. Many Santoku have a dimpled surface to prevent small foodstuff from sticking to the knife. The Santoku blade is exceptional for a variety of different purposes as well as its ease-of-use.
Steel Types — Santoku knives are made of either stainless steel or high carbon steel. Japanese steel is known for having a higher carbon content which allows for a sharper edge and a thinner blade. Their sleek design allows them to slice through food with ease, utilizing the sharpness rather than sheer force.
Stronger Metal — The Japanese Santoku knife is a multi-purpose cutting instrument that takes advantage of high-quality Japanese steel and its advanced material strength. The team at Hasu-Seizo provides an array of authentic metal choices to create long-lasting blades. The Sakai Takayuki Damascus 33 features 33-layer Damascus with a VG10 steel core to provide a sharp edge that lasts a long time. With that being said, proper maintenance techniques should be employed from the beginning to ensure the longevity of the blade.
Dimpled Edges — The vast majority of Santoku knives will feature dimples along the Tsura (flat part of the blade). These indentations are engineered to provide a hollow or Granton edge, ensuring an anti-suction experience and reduced friction that prevents food from adhering to the blade. As Santoku knives are used extensively with vegetables and fruits, preventing juices from adhering food to the blade is beneficial.
Tall Blade — As the Santoku knife is a multi-purpose tool, it is important for the blade to possess a tall and clear edge. The taller edge allows more room to be created between food and blade, providing clearance to ensure cleaner and more defined cuts. This design gives more clearance for the knuckles of your hand to cut directly above the cutting board. It also provides a good surface for the knuckles of your free hand to guide the blade during cutting and chopping.
Often described by its translation, the Santoku knife has three virtues or three uses. These virtues are chopping, dicing, and mincing. Let's explore these traits in more detail while also underscoring some other beneficial Santoku knife uses.
Slicing — Santoku knives are similar to chef knives in that they are great for slicing, though this will depend on the material being cut. Santoku blades are much flatter than conventional chef's knives, though their upward curved edge continues to allow for easy slicing motion. To best practice slicing with a santoku knife, make sure to completely clear the blade from the board and focus on the pulling or pushing motion more than the downward force.. This uses the design of the blade to do the hard work and allows you to create thin, crisp slices.
Dicing — Precision cuts are the calling card of the traditional Santoku knife. Santoku knives make fantastic dicing and mincing tools thanks to how precise they operate. However, there are some negative tradeoffs. Santoku knives are slightly less efficient at quickly dicing when compared to traditional Western style chef’s knife. However, their slightly shorter blades make them more dexterous.
Chopping — Built to chop, Santoku blades are revered for their exceptional sharpness. They cut quickly through foods such as cheese, fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, or meats. Unsurpassed maneuverability allows for an experienced santoku knife wielder to breeze through their chopping duties. This is one of the traits where the Santoku knife outperforms the best Western chef's knives.
Experience the Distinguished Artisan Kitchen Knives of Hasu-Seizo
Hasu-Seizo is a family-owned and operated business based out of the greater Seattle region. Founded on the idea that every kitchen deserves a better set of blades, Hasu-Seizo has continued the family tradition of providing authentic Japanese blades through the manufacturing of the Sakai Takayuki brand in Osaka.
With a reverence for the ancient history of Japan's finest blade-making tradition, Sakai Takayuki imbues each and every knife with not just history, but tradition, quality, and longevity. Shop our collection of multipurpose Santoku kitchen knives today!
Look for a unique gift for the chef in your life? We have gifts for all levels, from small kitchen accessories that you won't find at the local mall, to high quality sushi knives. We list out some extremely popular items such as our Japanese graters to our Damascus Nakiri knives.
With their beauty, expert craftsmanship, and durability, these Japanese kitchen knives are essential for anyone passionate about food preparation. However, before you purchase a Japanese knife, it's important to know what knife is used for what task. This will extend the longevity of your knives and simplify everything from chopping meat to mincing herbs.
So, you might be wondering what makes a Japanese knife the preferred tool of choice by some of the world’s top chefs. A good knife can make all the difference in the quality of your prep work. Japanese knives are lighter, thinner, harder and overall more balanced than other knives.
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