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Old 09-18-2006, 07:56 AM   #1
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Santoku as chef's knife

I'm a recent college grad and will be getting my first apartment rather soon. As such, I'm excited to start constructing (and filling) my kitchen. As I am a novice at best in the kitchen, I'm going to start with only the essentials, so I'm looking to get 3 knives: a primary chef's knife, a serated blade, and a smaller, more delicate blade.

It is the first, though, that I am preparing myself for at the moment, and my question is, how would a Santoku knife fair in place of a traditional chef's knife. I've seen a number of on-air chefs use them, and I like the looks and utility of the shape of the blade. Do many people use a Santoku as a chef's knife, or is it more of a situational thing? Does me being a beginner chef have an impact on the decision? In other words, would a Santoku style blade be a more practrical option with some more experience?

I plan on looking for a quality knife that will treat me well, and am prepared to spend a good bit of money on it. I want something that will last, will hold a good edge, and will aid me in the kitchen. I of course plan on testing before buying, as I'd imagine a great deal of this decision is personal preference, but any suggestions as to how a Santoku blade stacks up against a french style blade would be most appreciated.

Thank you.

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Old 09-18-2006, 08:26 AM   #2
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Good morning Cyberslag,
Good knives are your most important tool in the kitchen. The Santoku knife vs the traditional chef knife is more on personal opinion. I have both. I find myself using the chef knife more for most of my work. When slicing and dicing vegetables I prefer the smoother rolling action and finer point of the chef knife. I also looked at a number of manufactures when I purchased a new set to replace my 20 year old Chicago Cutlery set. I weighed price and quality in my decision and ended up gettting a set of Anolon knives. My set contains a:
10 and 8 inch chef knife
10 inch serrated slicer
8 inch Satoku
6 inch utility
6 inch boning
6 inch serated
3 inch pearing
Poultry shears
Honing steel
I use the knives regulary and over the past year they have worked great. They have a nice weight and balance to them and hold an edge well. Another nice accessory knife is a cleaver which was given to me as a gift. I know others will say they prefer the Santoku style blade as well as different manufactures. Find what you like, take care of them and always keep them sharp and you will be cutting up a storm.

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Old 09-18-2006, 08:39 AM   #3
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There's been a lot posted on this subject already, but I'll give my 2 cents, fwiw. I have a Henckel's Santoku, but for most tasks I find it more awkward and less sturdy than either the French style chef's knife (my personal choice) or the German style (a little wider relative to length than the French design). The one exception is when I am making thin, delicate slices of veg. That's where, imo, the Santoku shines. For normal chopping tasks, I like the "rock" that comes more naturally to the traditional chef's knife.
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Old 09-18-2006, 08:42 AM   #4
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I don't recommend "sets" of anything. I think the home cook is often lured into buying a lot of equipment she or he does not need by this "set mentality."

A santoku is NOT a chef's knife, and Rachael Ray is NOT a chef! surprising as that may seem to folks. some home cooks prefer them, and altho I like the Santoku for some things, nothing will ever replace my 10-inch Chef's knife.

My suggestion is that before you buy anything, you take a knife skills class at a local culinary school, or but Jacques Pepin's knife skills DVD from French Culinary Institute... and learn a bit about how to choose a knife and why. It's really basic, but unfortunately a lot of store clerks don't have the knowledge, or they are so $$ motivated that they would rather sell you what they will make the most $$ on rather than what suits YOU best!

Just my 2-cents....

and congrats on going out into the "great world!"
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Old 09-18-2006, 09:06 AM   #5
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In general, the santoku is a thinner, more delicate blade than the chef's. The santoku is good as a slicer and dicer. The chef's also does these tasks well and also can be used for heavier tasks such s cutting through small bones and thick heavy veggies such as butternut squash.

I prefer the chef's knife. I think it's more versatile.
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Old 09-18-2006, 10:15 AM   #6
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I'd suggest an 8 inch chef's knife, a serrated bread knife and a paring knife as a good starter "set." Spend your money on quality rather than on lots of pieces.
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Old 09-18-2006, 10:18 AM   #7
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Thank you, everyone, for your suggestions. The consensus seems to be that a Santoku knife is a good piece to have, but probably not as a replacement to a chef's knife. As I said, the testing block at the store will be the final determination, but I think I might be leaning that way myself.

A new question, as the bread knife was just brought up. I like a thin serated blade for cutting things like tomatoes. Will a bread knife double as this, or is it used exclusively for bread?

Thanks again!
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Old 09-18-2006, 10:27 AM   #8
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A sharp chef's knife will cut a tomato just fine. It's the knife of choice for most kitchen needs. You don't really need a serrated knife or special tomato knife, though they make such a thing. It's just that most people don't keep their knifes properly sharpened.

On that note... make sure you also buy a steel which hones, but does not sharpen, your knives and use it often. Get into a habit of steeling them after you wash and dry and before you put away.

You can get your knives professionally sharpened or do it yourself. The best way is by using a sharpening stone rather than a manual or electric sharpener which can do damage to the blade.

A chef's knife is not ideal for boning out a chicken or cleaning and fileting fish. If you find yourself doing these things often enough, then consider buying a special knife for the task.
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Old 09-18-2006, 02:51 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CyberSlag5k
I like a thin serated blade for cutting things like tomatoes. Will a bread knife double as this, or is it used exclusively for bread?
A tomato knife is just a small bread knife. The bread knife can certainly be used to cut tomatoes. You do not need an extra knife just for that. Also, like Jenny said, the chefs knife (or Santoku if you go that route) are all you need for tomatoes as long as they are kept sharp.
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Old 09-18-2006, 03:49 PM   #10
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I've got a beautiful santoku and great chef's knives of all different names and sizes. I don't recommend a santoku as your primary working knife. I was taught 'use the proper tool for each job'. Sometimes the santoku is just right, and other times, it's not. Personal experiences will guide you. Get both if you can. If you can only get one for now, get a good chef's knife, and get a good santoku later.
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Old 09-18-2006, 03:52 PM   #11
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The knives I use most often... 8" Chef, 5" boning knive (useful for far more than just boning), 3" paring knife. I do have a serrated bread knife, and I use it pretty much just for cutting bread.

Like Jennyema says, the chef will work beautifully for slicing just about anything, including tomatoes.... just buy a good one and keep it sharp with steel and stone. I can cut paper thin slices from a ripe tomato with mine.
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Old 09-18-2006, 04:01 PM   #12
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Also consider a Guyoto, which is more similar to a French or German chef's knife in shape. There was a thread about that yesterday started by Mylegsbig. I responded by suggesting that he read this article about Japanese kitchen knives from the L.A. Times: http://www.danslacuisine.com/danslac...-And-Feedback/

I also suggested a good site for purchasing the knives recommended in the article.
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Old 09-18-2006, 04:32 PM   #13
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This would make a good chef's knife, imo.

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Old 09-18-2006, 04:45 PM   #14
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It looks more like a santoku to me.
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Old 09-18-2006, 06:12 PM   #15
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It's a gyuto.

this is the same knifemakers santoku

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Old 09-18-2006, 06:26 PM   #16
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I agree with Chef June. You need to go to classes to learn about all the diffeeent knives for you kitchen and also what you will be preparing with them.

Jill and Jolie
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Old 09-19-2006, 10:08 AM   #17
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A good chef's knife has no equal. As its been said already, a santoku is generally a thinner blade, and probably a little easier to make very thin slices with. However, with a properly sharpened chef's knife, and a little practice, a chef's knife can make the same cuts, with the same amount of effort. For home cooking puposes, you probably won't need to do much super-thin slicing anyways, and with that in mind, I think a chef's knife beats out a santoku, and probably a guyuto, hands down. I do own a Santoku, but I rarely use it anymore, now that I have a quality chef's knife.

The santoku, being a thinner blade, has a thinner spine, so it's not really very useful for cracking/crushing as a more sturdy chef's knife. Also, a santoku and from the looks of it, a guyuto, just can't compete to the point on a chef's knife. If you need to do any sort of precision work with the point of your knife, then a santoku won't be of much help.

Finally, the japanese blades mentioned above have flatter blades, whereas a chef's knife is rounded, and it really lets you get that great rocking motion that you want when chopping vegetables, or almost anything for that matter.

Here is the knife that 2 of the chefs I work with recently purchased; my opinion is that is a superior knife. If you can find a dealer near you, check out this knife

Here is my knife, which has served me excellently, without issue, for a little over a month now. Best knife I have ever owned: Wusthof

The above is actually the newer edition of the knife I own, but it is just as good.
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Old 09-20-2006, 04:40 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by college_cook

Here is the knife that 2 of the chefs I work with recently purchased; my opinion is that is a superior knife. If you can find a dealer near you, check out this knife

Here is my knife, which has served me excellently, without issue, for a little over a month now. Best knife I have ever owned: Wusthof

The above is actually the newer edition of the knife I own, but it is just as good.

im gonna give my personal experience - i have the wusthof grand prix II block..santoku,chefs,utility,paring,boning,etc first real knives i bought

they are my worst knives they became dull quickly and feel kind of cheap. like plastic handles?

my fav knife is my hattori. my henckels twin cermax is also amazing.
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Old 09-20-2006, 07:30 AM   #19
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Thank you to everybody for your oppinions. They have been most helpful.

A new question, perhaps worthy of a new thread, but what do you guys recommend in terms of sharpening? I've heard I should have a honing steel and to just give my knives a few good strokes on it after using and cleaning them, but I've heard mixed oppinions as to whether I should get a whetstone and sharpen the blades myself, or to send them out to a professional service. The former is obviously the cheaper option, which of course I like, but if I'm giong to put forth a serious investment in a knife, I want to make sure it's cared for properly.

So the question is, home or professional sharpnening, how often to steel and sharpen, and any tips/recommendations related to these processes.

Thanks again!
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Old 09-20-2006, 07:45 AM   #20
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Both home and professional sharpening can have advantages and disadvantages.

Just because someone is a professional knife sharpener, that is no guarantee that they will not mess up your knives. Just ask Andy M.

Now for home sharpening, you can just as easily mess up sharpening with a stone. Don't let that scare you out of trying though. many people do it and do it will. You just need to learn the correct way to do it.

Now if you are like me then you do not want to trust yourself with your good knives. I also do not have easy access to a pro. Because of this, I bought a sharpening system. This takes all of the guesswork out of doing it right. There are a number of good systems out there and they are not very expensive. I love my Lansky Crock Stick sharpener and feel it is worth every penny I paid for it.

As for how often to hone and how often to sharpen...You should hone (steel) every single time you use your knives. Some people hone as part of the cleaning. That is, clean and dry the knife after use, dry, hone, put away. Other people (myself included) hone before every use. I pull a knife out of the block and reach for the steel right away.

Sharpening does not need to be done nearly as often. Some people will say once a year, others will say twice. It really varies on how often and how hard you use your knife. When if starts to feel like it is not cutting as easily as it did then it is time to sharpen it. Just keep in mind that sharpening (unlike honing) actually removes metal from the blade. This is why you do not want to do it any more than you need to. the amount of metal that is removed is not huge, but it adds up over time. If you were to sharpen every day then you would notice it.
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