It’s easy to ignore new ideas. I walked past Kiwi fruit in the grocery for fifteen years before I tried one, and if someone hadn’t pushed a santoku into my hands I’d still be using a chef’s knife for everything. The santoku isn’t new in Japan, but it took the world by storm only recently here in the West. If you don’t have one, you should get one.
You’ll still need your chef’s knife for heavy work, but for slicing vegetables you’ll never use another kind of blade once the santoku is on hand. The thin blade and delicate edge make a difference you really can feel — less friction, less work, less fatigue, and more accuracy. The characteristic that’s most noticeable is the granton, that row of small hollows ground in the sides of the blade just above the edge. Many higher grades of santoku don’t include it — it’s the thinner steel and the acute edge that are most important.
What happens when the santoku slides through a veggie is that less blade actually contacts the work. It’s easier to slice things because you’re not forcing a thick piece of steel through them. Pieces do still stick to the blade regularly — even though many swear the hollows magically release slices, that doesn’t always happen. What matters to me is that the work goes faster and easier with this knife. It’ll make you wonder why nobody on this side of the Pacific figured it out on their own.
Our pick for the Best Santoku Knife is Kershaw’s Shun Classic. Made in Damascus steel, it offers the reduced friction of the granton without the reduction in strength. Traditional looks disguise innovative improvements in an already excellent design.
Yoshikin Global’s all-steel santoku comes with granton or in the older traditional smooth blade. Either way, you get perfect balance and a better edge than the European standard.
At the low end of the price range but still high in quality, the R.H. Forschner Santoku gives western chefs a familiar knife style with efficient Japanese improvements.