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Old 09-18-2006, 08:56 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, 09:26 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.

JDP
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Old 09-18-2006, 09:39 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, 09:42 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, 10:06 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, 11:15 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, 11:18 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, 11:27 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, 03:51 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, 04:49 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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