Top Uses for a Santoku Knife and Why Every Kitchen Should Have One
Chef knives, boning knives, and paring knives, oh my! There are so many different kitchen knives to choose from, and each has its own special skills. So, what about that one with the uniquely shaped blade with the little indentations? That would be the Santoku knife – and it has plenty of uses in the kitchen.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this guide:
What is a Santoku Knife and How is it Used?
The Santoku knife is a Japanese-style chef knife that serves as a multipurpose tool in the kitchen. Crafted differently than a Western-style chef’s knife, the most noticeable feature is the shape of the blade that is often referred to as a “sheep’s foot” – however, not all modern Santoku knives carry this trait.
Usually measuring about 6 to seven 7 long, the Santoku blade features a curve from the spine to the tip, rather than coming to a point like a traditional chef’s knife. The edge of the blade is usually flat compared to the curved belly of Western chef knives, and is designed for the up and down chopping technique often referred to as “push-cutting”. This technique involves lifting the blade between each cut, which is a much different technique compared to the rock chop method used with traditional chef knives.
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The thickness of a Santoku blade is often another notable feature, along with how it's sharpened. Japanese-style blades are traditionally known for being much thinner compared to a Western-style chef’s knife, although you’ll find many variations of the Santoku knife since its popularity boom in the early 2000s.
For example, the F.N. Sharp Santoku knife, available individually and in both the 6-knife and 3-knife essential sets, captures some of the same traits of a Western-style chef’s knife, including the blade thickness and slight belly, rather than the traditional flat edge.
Traditionally, Japanese chef knives were almost always single bevel, as in the edge is sharpened on one side; however, the double bevel feature commonly seen in Western chef’s knives is also becoming more common in Santoku knives. The difference is that double bevel Santoku blades are usually sharpened at angles ranging from symmetrical 50:50 ratios to asymmetrical 70:30 ratios, while the Western style is almost always 50:50.
Another unique trait on the Santoku blade is the Granton or “scalloped” edge, which refers to the indentations on the face of the blade. The Granton edge is designed to prevent delicate ingredients like fish from sticking to the blade between slices.
Just like the Western-style chef’s knife, the Santoku knife is a multipurpose tool with many uses, making it a must for any home kitchen.
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How to Use a Santoku Knife Like a Pro
The word Santoku translates as “three virtues” or “three uses”, and after using this handy knife, you’ll find that its design helps it excel at three common kitchen tasks: slicing, chopping and mincing.
Using a Santoku Knife for Slicing
The Santoku knife is ideal for slicing cooked and raw meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and any other ingredient that requires uniform cuts. (Think perfectly sliced fish for sushi, evenly sliced tomato for sandwiches, or a medley of uniformly cut veggies for a ratatouille.)
If properly sharpened, the blade cuts through any ingredient with ease and without tearing the flesh of meats, ripping the skin of vegetables, or squeezing all of the juice out of fruits.
A major advantage of slicing with the Santoku blade is the Granton edge, which makes it much easier to butterfly chicken breasts, pork chops and steaks, as well as slice through fish without its proteins clinging to the blade.
When it comes to slicing with the Santoku knife, you’ll want to follow some of the same kitchen knife safety rules as working with a traditional chef’s knife, such as keeping your offhand in a claw formation to avoid nicking a finger.
To begin slicing, use a quick downward motion while pulling the blade slightly towards you during each cut. It will be tempting to cut straight down without moving the blade towards you, but this can bruise or crush some ingredients rather than cut cleanly, so be sure to practice!
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Check out how this sushi chef uses F.N. Sharp knives) to create a rainbow roll:
Using a Santoku Knife for Chopping
When it comes to chopping with a Santoku knife, the method differs from standard techniques, so you’ll definitely want to practice until you get the hang of it.
The Santoku knife’s flat edge requires you to lift the blade off of the cutting board between each cut, rather than using the rock chop technique commonly used with the Western-style chef’s knife where the tip of the blade stays on the cutting board between cuts.
It’s also a good idea to make sure you have the best cutting board for your knives, All kitchen knives dull with regular use, and the surface you’re cutting on has an important role in prolonging the sharpness of your blades, especially when it comes to the up-and-down chopping technique used with the Santoku.
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To begin chopping with a Santoku knife, first make sure your cutting board is stabilized on a flat surface (placing a damp paper towel underneath your cutting board is a handy trick). Also be sure to stabilize your ingredient – if it’s round, you can cut it in half or take a thin slice off the top or bottom so it lies flat on the cutting board.
Once your ingredient is held in place, align the flat side of the blade against the knuckles of your offhand (fingers should be curled under in the "claw" position). Then begin chopping in a smooth, up-and-down motion while slightly moving the knife forward and lifting the blade off the cutting board between each cut.
Check out the video below to see the F.N. Sharp Santoku knife chopping an onion in action:
As you become more comfortable with the up-and-down chopping technique, you can start chopping even faster by also employing the push-cut technique, which involves pushing the ingredient towards the blade as you chop.
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Using a Santoku Knife for Mincing
The Santoku knife is one of the best choices when it comes to preparing recipes that call for minced garlic, herbs or any other delicate or sticky ingredient that involves very fine cuts. Again, that Granton edge will help release sticky garlic from the blade and avoid tearing delicate herbs (which can impact flavor), while the length of the blade and weight of the knife offer greater control between cuts.
As an added bonus, the width of the blade is ideal for scooping up ingredients – just be sure to use the spine of the blade rather than the edge to avoid rolling or chipping the sharpened edge (and ending up with a dull knife).
Mincing with a Santoku knife involves similar techniques as the Western chef’s knife, and even more so if your Santoku has a slight belly. You’ll first want to slice or dice your ingredients into smaller pieces or strips, such as a fine dice or a julienne cut.
Next, gather the pieces into a pile and anchor the tip of your knife against the cutting board to provide a pivot point for quickly and repeatedly rocking the knife up and down through the ingredients.
With this technique, your guide hand should be open and positioned on the spine of the blade as you rock your knife up and down. If needed, use the spine of your knife to regather the ingredients into a pile for a finer cut or to scoop them off the cutting board. Using the cutting edge of your knife to scrape up ingredients can dull the blade, so try to get into the habit of using the spine of the knife or a board scraper.
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How to Care for a Santoku Knife
How you care for your kitchen knives has a direct impact on how long they stay sharp. Be sure to wash your Santoku knife immediately after each use – and by wash, we mean hand wash with warm, soapy water using a soft cloth or gentle brush to remove debris, if necessary. Then, be sure to wipe it completely dry with a towel before putting it back into a knife block.
If you don’t have a knife block, then check out this magnetic one from F.N. Sharp! It offers plenty of space to store your kitchen knives and other utensils (not to mention, you can also showcase your F.N. Sharp Knife Set 😜). And if you don’t have the space for a block, then check out our guide to knife storage for other options.
How to Sharpen a Santoku Knife
Knowing how to properly sharpen your kitchen knives takes time to learn and a bit of practice to perfect – especially when it comes to the Santoku knife. Since most Santoku blades are double bevel (and feature that handy Granton edge), the sharpening process can be a bit complicated for a novice.
In order to properly sharpen a Santoku knife, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the specifications of your knife, as sharpening angles can vary. It’s also important to practice, especially when using a whetstone because you’ll need to sharpen at the correct angles for each side of the blade. You'll also want to work with two whetstones, while keeping both moist during the entire process.
Sounds like it takes a bit of work and a whole lot of practice, doesn’t it? Then how about one of those home electric sharpeners? It’s better to just avoid it altogether when it comes to your Santoku knife as it can easily destroy that handy Granton edge.And if you’d rather not spend time regularly sharpening your Santoku, or any of your kitchen knives for that matter, then consider upgrading to the sharpest tools in the kitchen from F.N. Sharp!
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