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A santoku knife is a Japanese-style knife that is becoming more popular in the United States, with many versions being made in America as well as abroad. Santoku translates as “three virtues” or “three uses” and refers to the three types of cuts the knife is made for: slicing, dicing, and mincing. The blade has a flat cutting edge and the handle is in line with the top edge of the blade. The end of the blade has a rounded curve called a sheep’s foot, rather than a sharp point that’s more common with Western blades.
Because of the flat blade, the santoku doesn’t rock on the cutting surface the way that the blade of a chef’s knife does, so it might take some practice to get used to the style. Santoku knives are shorter, lighter, and thinner than Western-style chef’s knives. Most have a 6- or 7-inch blade, compared to the more common 8-inch length for many chef’s knives. If you're looking to add a santoku knife to your collection, these are the best ones.
Best Overall: HENCKELS Zwilling J.A. Henckels TWIN Signature Hollow Edge Santoku Knife
Made in Germany with an ice-hardened stamped blade, this santoku knife is a worthy addition to any cook’s kitchen. It has a full tang that provides the best weight and balance, and three rivets for security. The handle is particularly comfortable. Its shape positions the hand for proper cutting technique, so even new cooks will use proper cutting techniques.
The 7-inch blade has a razor-sharp edge that makes it perfect for fine cuts, and particularly for cutting meat and fish into small pieces for stir-fry dishes or fajitas. Meanwhile, the contoured edge makes it ideal for chopping vegetables and the hollow grind helps keep food from sticking to the blade.
Best High-End: Zelite Infinity Alpha-Royal Series Santoku Knife 7 Inch
This blade is beautiful as well as functional. While a pretty knife might not be your first priority, there’s something special about taking a knife from the rack that looks so stunning, with a tsunami rose Damascus pattern on the blade. It makes cooking just a little bit more pleasurable.
But it’s not all about looks. This has a full tang and good weight, and it’s designed for impressive performance. Made from 67-layer high carbon Japanese stainless steel, the razor-sharp edge makes slicing easy.
This is hollow ground, so foods won’t stick, and is tempered in liquid nitrogen for long-lasting performance. The handle is triple-riveted for security, and even the rivets are decorative, with a three-metal mosaic pattern.
The handle is designed to be ergonomic, while the tapered bolster makes it comfortable to hold, with perfect balance. Made by a multi-generational family-run business that prides itself on engineering and innovation, this is sure to be one of the prettiest knives you’ll own. Of course, you need one for yourself, but this comes in a box that would also make it a lovely gift for any cook you know.
Best NSF Certified: Mercer Culinary Genesis Forged Santoku Knife, 7-Inch (M20707)
While home cooks have a wide variety of knives to choose from, NSF-certified knives are most likely in the kitchens of your favorite restaurants. This one from Mercer Culinary is NSF certified but still attractive enough for a home knife block. It has a Santoprene handle for a safe, comfortable grip and a 7-inch blade made from German steel that is rust- and corrosion-resistant. The knife has a full tang for better balance and a taper-ground edge that stays sharper longer. The Granton edge keeps food from sticking, for easier cutting and chopping.
Best Budget: Victorinox Swiss Army Cutlery Fibrox Pro Santoku Knife
A good santoku at a budget price, this has a stamped blade with a Granton edge that prevents food from sticking to the blade and minimizes friction. Because the 7-inch blade is stamped, this knife is lighter in weight, which some cooks might prefer, and its unique shape allows it to be used as a spatula to scoop up the ingredients you're chopping. The handle is made from a patented material that’s slip-resistant and ergonomically designed for comfortable cutting.
Best Self-Sharpening: Sabatier Forged Stainless Steel Santoku Knife
Maintenance couldn’t be easier since this knife sharpens itself every time you insert it into the sheath or remove it, so you’ll never need to use another sharpener to keep the knife at peak efficiency. The blade is made from high-carbon steel with an ideal cutting angle, and the handle is designed to be ergonomic and comfortable during use. The handle material is very durable, so this knife will last for many years. As with most fine knives, this should be hand washed and dried immediately.
Best Hybrid: Zwilling JA Henckels Pro 7" Rocking Santoku Knife
This santoku knife combines the traditional shape of the santoku with a curved blade that provides the familiar rocking action of Western blades. Made from German stainless steel, it has an ergonomic textured stainless steel grip and balanced weight for the best control. This knife is dishwasher safe, although hand washing is recommended.
Best Mid-Sized Santoku: Wusthof Classic Hollow Edge Santoku Knife 4182, 5"
Shorter than most santoku knives that are typically about 7 inches long, this is a great knife for folks with smaller hands, or simply for those who prefer a smaller blade. It’s also great as a substitute for a utility knife for everyday cutting. This is an attractive knife with a comfortably shaped handle, made from a very durable material that has a traditional look and feel. It has a full tang for better balance and three rivets that hold the handle securely.
The blade is forged rather than stamped, and is made in Germany with a proprietary edge that enhances the sharpness and lasts longer before sharpening is needed. It has a Granton edge that keeps food from sticking for easier slicing, dicing, and chopping, while the full bolster protects the cook’s hand.
Best Mini Santoku: OXO 23081 Good Grips Mini Santoku Knife
Cooks who like their larger santoku knives will love this mini version that can take the place of a utility knife or a paring knife. It’s great for all those small tasks, whether it’s slicing citrus for a cocktail or chopping chives for a garnish. The small size also makes it handy for tucking into a picnic basket or for keeping it in the desk at work for lunch needs. The soft, comfortable handle is easy to hang onto, even when hands are wet, and the stainless steel blade stays sharp and is easy to resharpen when needed.
For a top-of-the-line santoku knife with a razor-sharp blade perfect for fine cuts, we recommend the Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Signature 7-Inch Hollow Edge Santoku Knife. Looking to splurge on something extra special? The Zelite Infinity Alpha-Royal Series Santoku Knife is a beautiful and highly touted tool.
What to Look for When Buying a Santoku Knife
Blade length should not be based on the size of the cook’s hands, but instead on what the knife will be used for, the size of the food to be cut, and the size of the cutting surface, as well as the comfort of the user. A 7-inch blade can be used to cut a variety of foods while a 5-inch is better for smaller ingredients.
From manmade materials to wood with pretty grain patterns, there are a lot of choices when it comes to handle materials. Synthetic materials can be more resistant to kitchen oils and cleaning products and tend to cost less, while many people prefer the natural look of wood. Decide what feels best in your hand; if you are storing the knife in a block on the counter, you may also want to take the handle’s appearance into consideration.
Every knife has its own unique features, like special grip designs, different styles of Granton edges, or being dishwasher safe. Some knives include extras like storage sheaths, a full tang, or self-sharpening features. Think about what you really need before you choose a Santoku knife.