The Top 6 Recommended Santoku Knives

Published on 01/14/2024 · 10 min readRefine your slicing skills! Discover the top 6 recommended Santoku knives, expertly chosen for their precision, balance, and versatile cutting prowess.
Di Doherty, Kitchen Expert
By Kitchen Expert Di Doherty

Photo by Steve Buissinne

TL;DR: While originally a Japanese design, santoku knives have been widely adopted by Western audiences. These knives have a long cutting edge and stiff blades, making them excellent for precision slicing.

My kitchen knife collection has come together over a decade, but I’ve always had an interest in knives. I used to collect folding pocket knives, compiling a collection of ones of all shapes and sizes, and I still always carry one with me. I’m also a dedicated home cook and baker who learned as I grew up, making my interest in knives a segue into my expertise in kitchen equipment.

I have the intention of collecting every kind of kitchen knife, though it may not be a practical goal. I mostly have Western-style knives, and I added a Western-style santoku to that a while back. It excels at all sorts of jobs, particularly slicing and cutting up a whole chicken. I use it in addition to my chef’s knife, focusing mainly on heavier tasks, as the one I got has a hefty blade.

My time as a dog trainer has made me passionate about sharing tips, tricks, and equipment to make tasks — and life in general — easier, and that’s extended to kitchen knives and cookware. I recommend products and solutions to my circle of friends and family, and this outlet gives me the chance to spread my knowledge to even more people. If you still feel that you’d like advice about which santoku knife would fit you best, please reach out to one of our Curated Kitchen Experts.

How to Pick the Best Santoku Knife for the Job

Santoku knives are general-purpose knives that can do many of the same tasks as a chef’s knife. These knives are excellent for slicing, chopping, and dicing and can be used on vegetables, fish, and meat. They’re also excellent for slicing through the joints of a chicken. Unlike a chef’s knife, though, the blade's curve is on the spine instead of the edge, meaning that it can’t be used for a rocking chop.

That shape does give the knife a larger cutting surface, though, and it excels at slicing larger veggies or cuts of meat. Santoku knives are known for being stiff, so the blade shouldn’t have any give. That’s a benefit in most cases unless you’re trying to debone meat — in which case you should use a boning knife.

A santoku knife next to carrots. Photo by Woifi48 via Pixabay

Types of Santoku Knives

As santoku knives have become more popular in the West, more manufacturers have begun making them. Western knife manufacturers have made them more like Western-style chef knives, while Japanese manufacturers have maintained their thin profile and razor edge.

  • Japanese style: A Japanese-style santoku has many of the same benefits as a Japanese chef’s knife (also called a gyuto knife) that stem from using harder steel, such as having an extremely sharp edge, being thin and lightweight, and excelling at precision slicing. This is the variety to buy if you want to be able to make paper-thin vegetable slices. Some Japanese santoku knives will have a single bevel, which means that they’ll only be sharpened on one side. This is better for precise cuts but has the downside of making the blade harder to sharpen and, depending on the side that has the sharp edge, the knife will be either right- or left-handed.
  • Western style: Western-style santoku knives have taken on many of the qualities of Western knives, such as using thicker, softer steel and a double bevel, so it’s sharpened on both sides of the blade. All of that makes the knife more durable and unlikely to crack or chip, but it does make it heavier.

In addition to these two styles, there are two different blade shape options for santokus.

  • Standard: This is by far more prevalent, and it’s what people will imagine if you say “santoku knife.” These knives have a flat cutting edge and a curve at the end of the spine. Many will have indentations on the side, called a granton edge, to prevent sticking, but that’s not unique to this type of knife.
  • Rocking: A rocking santoku is a fusion between a santoku and a chef’s knife. The curved blade allows you to use the rocking method for chopping, while still maintaining aspects of a santoku, like a longer cutting edge and a stiff blade. While these knives are likely more aimed at Western audiences, Japanese manufacturers like Miyabi do make them.

A santoku knife compared to a gyuto knife. Photo by Di Doherty

Blade Length

Santoku knives come in a few different blade lengths, giving you more versatility in terms of weight and what you plan to use them for.

  • 5 inch: This size santoku knife is more unusual, as it’s more akin to a utility knife or prep knife. It’s ideal for delicate tasks, like cutting up smaller fruit or boneless meat.
  • 5.5 inch: The more common small size for santokus, these knives are large enough to handle most vegetables and softer fruit, like onions, cucumbers, and zucchini, while still giving you a lot of control and maneuverability.
  • 6 inch: Like a 6-inch chef’s knife, these can handle the majority of tasks well but may struggle with larger, harder vegetables or pieces of meat.
  • 7 inch: This is likely the most common size for a santoku, along with the 5.5 inch. More akin to a standard 8-inch chef’s knife, this size santoku can tackle almost any task. They’re great for getting thin slices of food, even on harder veggies like carrots or sweet potatoes.

Slicing up a tomato with a santoku knife. Photo by Ron Lach

Blade Material

What the blade is made out of can make a big difference in terms of the knife’s performance. There are so many different types of metals that are used for knives that I couldn’t possibly list them all. However, they’re all going to fall under these broader categories:

  • Stainless steel: This is an iron alloy that mixes carbon and chromium into iron to make it stronger and resistant to rust. Many alloys add other types of metals and elements, giving the metal unique properties, but a stainless steel blade is going to be durable, easy to clean, and corrosion resistant.
  • High-carbon stainless steel: Adding more carbon to stainless steel allows the metal to be harder. This material is common in Japanese-style knives. It allows for a sharper edge but maintains the corrosion resistance of stainless steel (though most high-carbon stainless steel is less protected against it than regular stainless).
  • Carbon steel: Before stainless steel was invented, knife makers used carbon steel. While uncommon nowadays, this alloy shows up in high-end knives because it’s extremely hard without being brittle, allowing it to have an extremely keen edge. The reason it’s largely fallen out of usage is that it’s prone to rusting and needs to be dried immediately after washing.
  • Damascus steel: Damascus steel isn’t an alloy but a process. It’s created by folding layers over each other as the knife is forged. This ancient technique results in a blade with beautiful wavy lines, which is why it’s still used to manufacture high-end knives.
  • Ceramic: This blade material made a splash when it debuted, but it didn’t catch on the way some people expected it to. If having the sharpest knife possible is your priority, then this is the way to go, because ceramic is harder than steel, allowing it to be sharpened to an extreme degree. But it’s similar to glass in that it has no give, so it’s brittle, making the blades easy to chip or even break.

Santoku knives have become quite popular, so there are a lot of choices in terms of manufacturer and blade style. If you’re starting your hunt for a new knife or are looking to see if one of your top picks makes this list, here are my top recommendations.

1. WÜSTHOF Classic Santoku Hollow Edge

WÜSTHOF’s knife comes with a variety of creatively named colors for the synthetic handle, including purple yam, coral peach, and tasty sumac (pictured above). It also has a choice of a 5.5-inch or 7-inch blade. The dimples on the side of the blade, called a Granton edge, discourage sticking when slicing by creating air pockets when you slice. It’s forged out of their proprietary steel blend and has a full tang. The knife is a bit expensive, but as it’s an all-purpose knife, it’s a good investment.

2. Zwilling Pro Hollow Edge 7-Inch Rocking Santoku Knife

Zwilling is known for higher-end Western-style knives, and this santoku knife fits the bill. If you want a santoku knife but also want to be able to do a rocking chop motion, then this is the knife for you. The handle is synthetic and the blade is made out of their proprietary version of stainless steel that they call no-stain, meaning that it’s dishwasher safe (but as with any quality knife, handwashing is recommended).

It has a Granton edge to prevent sticking and is a classic style that'll match any kitchen. The knife has a full tang, making it well-balanced and durable. It also comes in a 5.5 inch if you want a smaller knife.

3. Mercer Genesis Granton Edge Santoku

Get cooking with a Mercer santoku knife. If you’re looking for a good knife on a budget, then Mercer is an excellent choice. Their cutlery is largely made in Taiwan, and while it’s plain, it’s affordable and durable. This 7-inch knife has a full tang, is made with German steel, has a grippy synthetic handle and good balance. Overall, it’s excellent quality for the price.

4. Shun Classic Blonde Santoku Knife

For those who want a Japanese-style santoku, Shun’s classic is a beautiful knife that holds a keen edge. The 7-inch blade has a carbide steel core coated with many thin layers of stainless steel, which results in the pretty lines on the blade. The pakkawood handle is comfortable and nonslip, as well as water resistant. The hard steel blade is thin, allowing it to be lightweight and extremely sharp, so you can cut paper-thin slices.

As Shun is a premium brand, you do end up paying for that, making this knife the most expensive on this list.

Photo by Di Doherty

Mercer has extended into higher-end knives, and this Damascus steel santoku knife is the result. The blade has attractive patterns on the side from the forging process, making it a bit of a showpiece, especially with the angled handle. The knife has heft, making it ideal for slicing through tougher vegetables, joints, and larger pieces of meat.

It has good balance, and the heavy blade does some of the work for you when you’re slicing. It weighs more than my Western chef’s knives, so it’s not ideal for those who want a nimble knife. If you want more detail, check out the positive review that I wrote for it.

6. Miyabi Kaizen II Santoku Knife

Miyabi’s Kaizen II series is made by artisans in Seki Japan. Its striking Damascus steel blades are darkened via acid dipping to enhance the contrast. It has a D-shaped black pakkawood handle that ensures a good grip and a thin blade profile for precision slicing. The 7-inch blade makes it able to handle almost any cutting task, and the full tang gives it excellent balance. The blade is thin and lightweight, allowing for very thin slices and less fatigue.

Japanese-made knives tend to be pricey, though this one does come in just under Shun’s.

Find the Right Santoku Knife for You

Dicing celery with a santoku knife that has a Granton edge. Photo by ncJourney

Getting a new knife can be both exciting and nerve-wracking, but the Curated Kitchen Experts are here to help. Any of our Experts would be happy to answer your questions, address your concerns, and make recommendations. Chatting with an Expert is a completely free way to make sure that you get the santoku knife that’s just right for you!

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Shop Kitchen on Curated

WÜSTHOF Classic Hollow Edge Santoku Knife
$170.00
Shun Classic Blonde Santoku Knife · 7 Inch
$213.00

Browse more Kitchen

Miyabi Kaizen II Santoku Knife · 7 Inch · Black
$179.99
Shun Premier Boning & Fillet Knife · 6 Inch
$169.95
Miyabi Birchwood SG2 Rocking Santoku Knife · 7 Inch
$349.99

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