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What is a Santoku Knife?

Oct 23,2022 | Fzkaly

Many people don't know much about the santoku knife, and more people call it "fruit knife" or "multifunctional knife". Even many people can't tell the difference between a chef's knife and a santoku knife. Santoku knife is not chef's knife, but has a close relationship with chef's knife.

Santoku Knife VS Chefs Knife

History of Santoku Knife

The santoku knife was invented in Japan, the Japanese name is santoku bouchou, which literally means three advantages, the santoku knife can cut meat, fish, and vegetables easily.

But when buying a santoku knife, you must not confuse it with a chef's knife or a kiritsuke knife. From the appearance, they are really super similar, but if you look closely, there is still a big difference between them.

The arc of the blade from small to large is santoku knife < kiritsuke knife < chef's knife. The chef's knife is the top of Western cuisine. The kiritsuke knife is mainly designed for cutting meat, especially red meat, while the Santoku knife is more versatile. They look so similar but function differently, and the reason for this is that there is a history of inheritance and evolution in them.

The chef's knife was only introduced to Japan during the Meiji Restoration. Before that, due to the restrictions of the natural environment (that is, limited wild livestock) and political regulations (after the spread of Buddhism, the emperor was not allowed to eat meat), there have been many repetitions in Japanese history from "banning red meat" to "total ban on meat". Therefore, in Japan, there are sharp knives for handling various kinds of fish and thin knives for cutting vegetables, but there are no kitchen knives specifically for red meat.

However, during the Meiji Restoration, the government began to vigorously advocate eating meat, and meat such as beef was on the table, so naturally, a suitable kitchen knife was needed for cooking. However, due to the difference in focus, the Japanese improved the kiritsuke knife based on the French chef's knife, so the kiritsuke knife is also known as the Japanese chef's knife.

The arc of the back of the kiritsuke knife is slightly flattened downward, and the tip of the chef's knife is narrowed upwards, which is the biggest difference between them.

However, in addition to red meat, vegetables and fish must be taken into account in kitchen dishes. For convenience, the Japanese improved the santoku knife on the basis of kiritsuke knife and local thin blades. It absorbs the tip design of the kiritsuke knife, and the overall blade curvature has been adjusted, making it more convenient to use the blade for broaching and guillotine cutting. So in the face of meat, fish, and vegetables, the santoku knife is fearless, and the overall design of the blade can adapt to various methods of knife use. It is favored by Japanese housewives. If you only have one knife in the kitchen, santoku knife can be a good choice.

What is a santoku knife

3 Main Materials of Santoku Knife

Like other knives, Santoku knives are made of ceramic and steel. The former is represented by Kyocera, and the latter is divided into carbon steel and alloy steel.

1. Ceramics

The hardness of ceramics is very high and can reach 90HRC, second only to diamond. The extremely high hardness allows manufacturing with a smaller cutting angle and increased sharpness. Ceramic knives have high hardness, so they are also excellent in retention, and they can be sharpened for a long time. Because of the particularity of the materials, there is no rust smell after cutting foods, which is especially suitable for cutting fruits.

However, it also has drawbacks. First, sharpening the knife is troublesome. Neither the sharpening stone nor the sharpening steel can handle high-hardness ceramic knives well. It is easy to break the blade if you are not careful. It is also easy to break when it touches hard ingredients.

2. Carbon Steel

Carbon steel, as its name implies, is stainless steel with relatively high carbon content. Due to its high carbon content, its hardness is greater than that of pure iron, and it is very sharp. However, the anti-rust ability is poor, so after the kitchen knife is made, it needs to be treated carefully, and it should be dried in time after use. When the weather is humid, it needs to be oiled to prevent rust, and in order to keep its sharpness, the knife should be sharpened frequently.

After years of development of knives, carbon steel knives are currently mainly produced in Japan. They are not as famous as German alloy steels on the market, but their sharpness is better.

3. Alloy Steel

Alloy steel is added with other alloying elements during smelting to achieve the purpose of wear resistance, high strength, and corrosion resistance.

VG10, Damascus steel, and powder steel are all well-known alloy steels. The carbon content of VG10 is about 0.95%-1.05%, and the chromium content is between 14.5%-15.5%, it can be said to be high carbon stainless steel. Damascus steel is folded and forged from two different soft and hard steels, with both sharpness and toughness. As a material for the highest end line of many products, powder steel can have a carbon content of up to 1.5%, which is sharper than carbon steel.

A Comparison of Steel Materials

1. Sharpness

Ceramic knives > carbon steel knives > alloy steel knives, which are compared under the premise of the same blade angle.

2. Rust Resistance

Ceramic knives > alloy steel knives > carbon steel knives. Ceramics will undoubtedly not rust. The surface of the alloy is generally treated with anti-rust treatment, or the blade core is protected by steel with good anti-rust performance, and it will not rust after cleaning and use. Carbon steel knives need careful care, they must be wiped dry after use and oiled in wet weather.

3. Retention

Ceramic knives > carbon steel knives > alloy steel knives, the retention is determined by the hardness of the knife, the higher the hardness, the less likely it will become dull.

4. Sharpen

Alloy steel knives> carbon steel knives > ceramic knives. Alloy steel, such as German steel, can be quickly ground with a sharpening rod, about once every two or three months. Knives with a hardness of HRC 60+ need to use a whetstone, such as VG10. Carbon steel knives must be sharpened with whetstones, and the sharpening technique is highly demanding. Ceramic knives generally do not require sharpening.

In short, ceramic knives are suitable for cutting fruits, carbon steel knives are suitable for professional chefs, and alloy steel knives are suitable for home use.