The Best Santoku Knives — 2020 Reviews and Top Picks

    Last Updated on

    OUR TOP CHOICE

    OUR TOP CHOICE

    Key Features

     Materials: Japanese VG-Max steel (blade), ebony pakkawood (handle).

      Blade edge: 16 degrees.

      Blade length: 7”.

      Rockwell hardness: 60 to 61.

      Dimensions: 15.5” x 3.1” x 1”.

      Total weight: 7.3 ounces


    Japanese blades

    Santoku knives are my favorite knives, and I’m not alone; popularity for the nonstandard chef’s knife replacement is growing worldwide.

    They offer a wildly different experience than the average chef’s knife, in handling, appearance, and other factors, and are potentially more user friendly for the average home chef than the often unwieldy kitchen staple might be to boot.

    So why don’t we take a look at some good knives and what makes them so appealing?

     


    For the complete product list, please continue reading…


    Top 9 Santoku Knives (2020 Reviews)

    1. Shun Classic Hollow Ground 7 inch Santoku Knife

    Pros:

     Exceptionally good steel is ultra hard while retaining decent enough flexibility
     Can be sharpened to pretty much any angle, and can retain that edge for a long time
     Comfortable and tasteful handle
     Stylish etchings
     Beautiful and functional blade profile

    Cons:

     A little on the expensive side
     Does not come pre-sharpened to the greatest angle

    Specifications:

      • Materials: Japanese VG-Max steel (blade), ebony pakkawood (handle)
      • Blade edge: 16 degrees
      • Blade length: 7”
      • Rockwell hardness: 60 to 61
      • Dimensions: 15.5” x 3.1” x 1”
      • Total weight: 7.3 ounces

    This may be the perfect santoku knife, both in terms of appearance and quality.

    I don’t usually like engravings or etchings on my blade very much, and particularly tend to shun (…no pun intended) faux Damascus etchings like this which are usually put on as some sort of misleading marketing rather than established as a true aesthetic choice and nothing more. Plus, they just tend to look tasteless more often than not.

    Here, though? It looks really good. Of course, looks aren’t everything with a knife, you need quality to back it up. This knife has that in spades.

    The blade profile and design is perfect, a wicked curve that allows for easy rock chopping (my preferred method) while retaining a sharp point for gouging and a razor edge for more fine slices. The blade of this knife is as close to perfection in my eyes as you can get, and it has the steel to back it up; VG-Max steel, arguably the best steel for kitchen knives on the market right now.

    Combine that with the comfortable, simple, and stylish handle and you have yourself my favorite santoku knife.


    2. Miyabi Kaizen 5.5 inch Granton Hollow Edge Santoku Knife

    Pros:

     Exceptional hardness tempered by a bit of flexibility
     An extremely sharp edge
     Good edge retention
     High quality steel
     Comfortable handle
     Great blade design, gently curved but mostly straight, excelling at nearly any cut

    Cons:

      Fairly expensive

    Specifications:

      • Materials: Japanese VG-10 steel (blade), micarta (handle)
      • Blade edge: 9.5 to 12 degrees
      • Blade length: 5.5”
      • Rockwell hardness: 60
      • Dimensions: 3” x 1”
      • Total weight: 1 lbs.

    This is a very nice knife, both in terms of aesthetic value and in terms of performance. It has an extremely keen edge; some coming in sharpened at under 10 degrees, and the blade quality to hold that well. VG-10 steel isn’t the absolute top of the line, but it’s close. The insane hardness of this steel allows for some truly impressive results, particularly as its thin layers offer it a bit more flexibility than similarly hard steels might.

    Maintaining it is still a bit difficult, mind you. Such a thin edge is very brittle, and must be treated with care.

    Thankfully, the rest of the knife’s design is such that it should be relatively easy to slice through things without putting undue pressure on the blade, no matter how you choose to slice with it. It has a nice Granton edge, and is very gently curved from the tip to the back, increasing slicing power by a lot and allowing for a gentle rock chop in a pinch for things like shallots.

    If you can justify the price, this is one of the best knives out there today, of any variety.


    3. Calphalon 5 inch Santoku Knife

    Pros:

     Extremely cheap
     Decent quality steel in the blade
     Exceptionally comfortable handle, both in terms of grip and contouring
     Good curve on the blade tip allows for rock chopping ability and straighten edges might not allow

    Cons:

      Blade comes with an abysmal 20 to 25 degree edge, so will need to be properly manually sharpened

    Specifications:

      • Materials: high carbon German stainless steel (blade), Polynesian handle
      • Blade edge: 20 to 25 degrees
      • Blade length: 5”
      • Dimensions: 14.75” x 3.75” x 1”
      • Total weight: 8.8 ounces

    This is a quite well made knife, with a strong high carbon German stainless steel blade, and a simplistic but comfortable handle. The handle doesn’t look like much, but it’s grippy and feels very nice in the hand, both because of its materials and shape.

    The blade is short, but that’s not necessarily a drawback with a santoku knife. 5 inches is plenty long enough for most purposes, particularly the majority of vegetable chopping you’ll need to do, or tasks like cheese slicing. Where it may struggle is cutting though meats, however, so if you plan to cube a ham or some such, a slightly longer knife is probably your best bet.

    For the price, this is a great knife. It’s very middle of the road in both materials and performance, and comes in at an exceptionally affordable price point that makes this an essentially no risk buy. It’s a small step above the bog standard stainless steel knife you can find almost anywhere, with the caveat that you spend some time sharpening the edge yourself; users report this comes pre-sharpened at a roughly 20 degree edge, which is terrible, but it holds a good edge well once properly sharpened.


    4. Dalstrong Gladiator Series 7 inch Santoku Knife

    Pros:

     Great quality high carbon stainless steel blade
     Comes pre-sharpened to a good edge, and holds it well
     Comfortable and tasteful pakkawood handle
     Easy to use, with hollows for easy slicing

    Cons:

      No significant rounded portion like some santoku knives, making it awkward to sue for some cuts

    Specifications:

      • Materials: high carbon German steel (blade), pakkawood (handle)
      • Blade edge: 14 to 16 degrees
      • Blade length: 7”
      • Rockwell hardness: 56
      • Dimensions: 15.75” x 14.06” x 1.42”
      • Total weight: 1 lbs

    I’m of mixed feelings about this one.

    On the one hand, like most Dalstrong knives in the Gladiator series, the materials are great.  The blade is an excellent high carbon German steel. It holds a keen edge (pre-sharpened at a satisfying 14 to 16 degrees) and is quite hard and strong, easy to keep in relatively good repair with minimum effort.

    The handle is a likewise well made pakkawood option. The blade design though, is where things get a little more dicey.

    I’m not a fan of how flat this santoku knife is, at least compared to its length. It is a perfectly straight and flat edge blade until the last few centimeters of its tip, which makes it easy to chop using a push or pull slice, but makes it more annoying to rock chop; a handy cutting method for a lot of smaller vegetables.

    In some ways, depending on your preferred cutting style, that might make this santoku knife a bit worse than the equivalent chef’s knife would be, and for the price (not exorbitant, but relatively high end due to the materials and craftsmanship involved) that means you’d need to be very sure you don’t mind that before buying.


    5. Wusthof Classic Hollow Edge 7 inch Santoku Knife

    Pros:

     Quality high carbon stainless steel
     Excellent blade design; gently curved and razor sharp
     Pre-sharpened to a ridiculously keen edge, and retains it well
     Good handle materials

    Cons:

     Handle is a bit slender and may be awkward in larger hands
     A tiny bit pricey for the quality

    Specifications:

      • Materials: high carbon German steel (blade), POM (handle)
      • Blade edge: 10 degrees
      • Blade length: 7”
      • Rockwell hardness: 58
      • Dimensions: 14” x 2” x 1”
      • Total weight: 5.6 ounces

    This is a nice one, as you’d expect from Wusthof. While simplistic, it more than gets the job done, and has a great blade design, gently curved from tip to rear. It’s perfect for a rocking chop, and great for slicing as well, though may struggle on some push and pull slices against harder things (like thick carrots).

    The steel is of course good, a high carbon German stainless steel that holds a great edge, and is hard and sturdy, but retains excellent corrosion resistance. The handle is a simple resin one, and a bit thin for my tastes. It’s not uncomfortable, and would probably fit very well if you have smaller hands or longer fingers, but my stubby mitts don’t quite feel at ease with such a slender handle.

    For the price this is an exceptional choice. It’s on the relatively more expensive end of things (as Wusthof knives tend to be), but its performance speaks for itself well enough; this is the kind of knife you could be comfortable using for a lifetime, so long as you take care of it.


    6. Dalstrong Shogun Series 7 inch Santoku Knife

    Pros:

     Excellent overall material quality
     Good curve for a 7 inch santoku knife
     One of the best handles I’ve ever seen on a knife, both in material and design
     Decent looking faux Damascus etching

    Cons:

     A bit pricey for the quality
     Takes a middle of the road approach, to the detriment of those who might have a strong preference for blade profile

    Specifications:

      • Materials: Japanese AUS-10 high carbon stainless steel (blade), G10 resin (handle)
      • Blade edge: 8 to 12 degrees.
      • Blade length: 7”
      • Rockwell hardness: 62+
      • Dimensions: 12.2” x 1.81” x .09”
      • Total weight: 8.4 ounces

    This knife sits roughly in the middle of where I’d put a mid to high end knife. It’s got great quality steel and a very good handle; overall perfect in terms of materials.

    In terms of blade design it’s hit or miss. The shaping is decent, with a gentle curve, but could have benefited from committing more to a curved blade or a straight one; it’s not exactly the worst of both worlds, but has elements of that.

    The faux Damasucus etching isn’t terrible, but isn’t particularly impressive. Neither are the Granton scallops, which are a bit shallow.

    However, the overall quality of the materials and the excellent handle design might be enough to sway you. It is insanely comfortable, in part due to its G10 construction, and in part due to its impeccable (and quite handsome) angular design, which gets cradled in the hand almost perfectly.


    7. Zwilling J.A. Henckels Pro 7 inch Hollow Edge Santoku Knife

    Pros:

     Great steel quality
     Comfortable handle
     Nice looks
     Sturdy, but flexible construction

    Cons:

     Strange blade shape
     Very pricey

    Specifications:

      • Materials: high carbon stainless steel (blade), polymer (handle)
      • Blade edge: 10 degrees
      • Blade length: 7”
      • Rockwell hardness: 57

    This is a bit of an odd duck. It has a pretty great steel for the blade, training in a bit of hardness for flexibility in its high carbon stainless steel body. This makes it easier to take care of than some high carbon blades, and gives you a little wiggle room in terms of how you use it.

    In terms of blade shape, it fares a bit less well in my opinion. It’s a bit too flat for my tastes. It has a visible curve in the middle, but not enough to matter much. More importantly, it’s not in the right place, set back from the tip and giving the blade a faint “U” shape that feels awkward to use.

    If it weren’t for the exceptionally high price, this would be fine, but as it is you’re getting a great steel hampered by a strange blade shape.


    8. Wusthof Grand Prix II Hollow Edge 5 inch Santoku Knife

    Pros:

     Good quality steel that’s easy to take care of
     Comfortable handle
     Good quality materials
     Looks nice

    Cons:

     A bit overpriced
     Handle oriented blade balance may be hit or miss with people

    Specifications:

      • Materials: high carbon stainless steel (blade), polymer (handle)
      • Blade length: 5”
      • Rockwell hardness: 58

    Another Wusthof, though this one I like a bit less. However, I think it’s an objectively good knife and has a lot to recommend it; it just comes down to whether it feels good to you.

    Wusthof Hollow Edge Santoku knife has great balance if you like a handle heavy blade. It’s full tang and a bit heavy on the rear, giving a lot of control when using it.

    Combined with the solid blade quality, you have a good knife on your hands. However, you lose out on a bit of cutting power that a heavier blade might give you, and I’m a bit torn on the distinction.

    If given the option of a heavier blade or handle, for a knife like this I’d choose the blade every time. For the purposes of a prep knife, be it a santoku, European style chef’s knife, or some other knife used for day to day tasks, ease of cutting is the biggest thing determining a blade’s quality in my opinion; I’d leave a heavier handle to the knives oriented toward more delicate tasks, like paring knives or sashimi knives.


    9. TUO 5.5 inch Santoku Knife

    Pros:

     Good blade quality for the price
     Easy to use
     Good subtle curve on the blade
     High quality materials

    Cons:

      Oversized handles might be uncomfortable for many users

    Specifications:

      • Materials: Japanese AUS-10 high carbon stainless steel (blade), G10 resin (handle)
      • Blade edge: 12 to 15 degrees
      • Blade length: 5.5”
      • Rockwell hardness: 62+
      • Dimensions: 12.2” x 3.15” x 1.5”
      • Total weight: 9.6 ounces

    As cheap knives go, this one is about as good as it gets. The blade quality is good, if not great; AUS-10 steel is respectable as a high carbon stainless steel option for midrange knives like this.

    The shape of the blade is similar good, but not great. Decently curved but not as beautifully as our winner.

    However, the make or break for TUO Santoku Knife knife is the handle. It’s quite large, almost oversized, and feels pretty good in the hand, so long as your hands are relatively large. It’s not exactly heavy, but has a bit more of a meatier heft to it than other knives.

    If you like this, it could be the best knife around for you, at least in the price range. If not, well there are a ton of other knives with similar performance but a more standard, smaller handle.


    Final Verdict

    Shun Classic Hollow Ground

    Check Price on Amazon Check Price on Walmart

     

    While I stand by the Shun Classic and Miyabi Kaizen as far and away the best knives on this list, it can’t be ignored that they’re quite expensive. This is, in many ways, the largest determiner for what knife you should buy here.

    All are good, to some extent. It really relies on how much you’re willing to pay for a knife in any given “quality bracket” once the other primary criteria (preferred blade shape, handle style, etc.) are figured out.


    How Do I Find the Right One for Me?

    Santoku knives are both alike and unlike a standard chef’s knife. The biggest differences to note are the length and blade shape.

    The length might be the most immediately noticeable. A chef’s knife generally clocks in at 8 inches for a short one, and you can buy ones up to 12 inches long, with the most common offerings hovering in the middle (the 10 inch option).

    Santoku knives are significantly shorter on average, being between 5 inches and 7 inches in length; even the longest santoku knife is significantly shorter than the shortest chef’s knife.

    This makes control the name of the game. Less material and length to swing around means you can make precise motions with much more ease than a chef’s knife in the European style. As a result, santoku knives are exceptionally new user friendly, and great for swiftly and efficiently cutting vegetables.

    What they lack in raw cutting power (less material means less weight, less weight comes out to less force) they make up for in speed.

    Similarly, santoku knives tend to be sharpened to keener edges than a chef’s knife. Generally on a chef’s knife you’re looking at a 16 degree edge on average, or somewhere between 14 and 16 degrees for some makers. Santoku knives on the other hand commonly hold edges in the roughly 10 to 12 degree range; significantly steeper.

    While with a carbon steel blade this makes them significantly easier to chip in theory, the shorter length and added control makes that relatively unlikely in practice, hence why they’re excellent first picks for someone getting into buying more expensive and fragile knives for the first time.

    This is due in part to a change in steel as well. European chef’s knives use German steel as their standard, so something along the lines of a nondescript German high carbon steel (or stainless steel). These steels are good, but typically softer than the steels Japanese knives are made of, making them on average harder to keep sharp but more flexible and less brittle.

    Santoku knives tend to use steels like AUS-10, VG-10, or VG-Max; extremely hard steels that are usually further hardened by cold treatments, allowing them to hold those obscene 10 degree (or even lower) edges.

    When choosing a santoku knife, you want to pay close attention to the blade shape. There are two basic types of santoku knife: straight, and curved. Straight ones are just like they sound; exceptionally sharp straight blades with a lot of slicing power, especially on push and pull slices.

    Curved blades are in my opinion a little better, but more variable. A properly curved blade is great for both the straight slices mentioned above, as well as rock chopping; my preferred method for slicing vegetables, essentially using the cutting board almost as the bottom of a pair of scissors.

    However, a half-hearted blade is generally undesirable. It should have a distinct (even if subtle) curve or none at all. Everything else needs to be quite good to make up for a weird and awkward curve in a blade.