Japanese Santoku knives are versatile tools that deserve a home in every chef's tool kit, both home and professional. Santoku means "three virtues" in Japanese, and can be used to slice, chop, and dice meat, fish, and vegetables. If you don't have one, you're missing out on the great craftsmanship of Japanese blades. That's why our editors searched Japanese E-commerce sites for the best santoku knives. We then picked out the most popular products and tested them.
We focused on 4 things:
We then ranked the products and put what we learned into a buying guide to help you choose the best Japanese santoku knives out there.
Yuki Hirao has worked for NHK, and since going freelance, she has been involved in cooking, recipe and menu development for many companies, magazines and books. Since 2013 she has served underpopulated areas while working for the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.
mybest US' editing team consists of experienced members who have backgrounds in writing, editing, translation, and more. We are dedicated to researching what makes a product or service the best to users in the US in order to create top-quality articles. From skincare, to kitchen appliances, and to DIY supplies, our mission is to find the best ones for you.
The expert oversees the Buying Guide only, and does not determine the products and services featured.
Table of Contents
The "three virtues" which give the santoku its name are slicing, dicing, and mincing. The shape of this knife makes it useful for cutting meat, fish, and vegetables. In particular, blades made of stainless steel are resistant to rust and chipping, very sharp, and easy to clean and care for, making them perfect for home cooks.
Chef's knives (the closest Japanese equivalent is the gyuto knife) are similar and equally popular, but santoku knives have shorter and thinner blades, making them better for smaller kitchens. The shape of the edge also differs, with santoku knives having a gentle curve or fairly straight edge, which makes them good for julienne-cutting vegetables.
If you have a santoku knife and a small petty knife (similar to a paring knife) you can probably cover all your kitchen cutting needs.
We recommend considering the following points before buying a santoku knife.
Santoku knives are available in a variety of materials. We've picked up the most common materials, so take this into consideration when choosing your next Japanese santoku knife.
The most common blade material used in santoku knives is stainless steel, a rust-resistant alloy made by adding chromium to iron.
While not as sharp as steel, otherwise known as hagane in Japanese, stainless steel santoku knives are available in a wide price range, and are easy to maintain, thanks to their rust resistance, making them better suited for domestic use.
However, just because they have a high resistance to rust doesn't mean you don't need to take care of them; make sure to wipe off any moisture after you use them.
Molybdenum vanadium steel is made by adding molybdenum and vanadium to regular stainless steel to make it harder and stronger, which enables it to hold a sharper edge, and for longer. However, because it's harder than your average stainless steel, it's also more difficult to sharpen.
This material is suitable for home kitchen knives, but is also used for professional-grade knives as well as medical scalpels, so you know it's capable of fine cuts. It's resistant to rust and longer-lasting than plain stainless steel.
Cobalt alloy is an incredibly hard material that is also easy to sharpen. While knives made from cobalt alloy are sharper than those made from molybdenum vanadium, the latter is superior in terms of rust resistance and how long it holds its sharpness. Still, cobalt alloy is another common material used in santoku knives for home use.
Knives made of hagane steel are best for those who want sharpness above all else. Since hagane is an incredibly strong material, it can easily slice through hard fish bones with ease.
However, while this material is superior in terms of sharpness, its hardness also means that it can easily chip. It's also prone to rusting as well. If you're not someone who can take good care of your kitchen tools, choose something else.
Stainless steel composite knives use hard stainless steel at their core for increased sharpness, sandwiched by softer stainless steel to make it easy to sharpen and maintain. However, knives made from this material are not as sharp as those made from steel or steel composites.
Damascus steel is a type of laminated steel in which multiple metals are layered on a core material.
While Damascus is often thought of as a sharp material, in honesty, it depends on the quality of steel used. Still, Damascus knives are indeed often sharp and available for affordable prices.
A large knife is more difficult to work with, but if it's too small, your food prep time will increase. For a santoku knife, we recommend a blade length of 6 to 7 inches. It's also a good idea to not exceed the size of your cutting board, so that you don't cut up your counter accidentally or chip the blade on a plate.
You may think a lighter knife is easier to hold and manipulate, but in fact a good knife should have some heft to it. Most santoku knives are in the range of 3.5 to 10 ounces.
We recommend something between 4 and 7 ounces. Having a little weight helps you cut more easily. If it's too light, you have to supply more force. Of course, if it's really heavy, you'll get tired just from holding it.
Some knives are stainless steel all the way into the handle, while others have plastic or wood handles. If there are gaps where the materials join, water, dish soap, and bacteria can get in. Obviously, the solid steel types are the easiest to wash in this sense.
If your knife has a handle made of a different material, look for a steel cap where the handle and blade meet. This is called a bolster.
Knives with a smooth bolster that seamlessly connects the blade and the handle are easy to clean and are less likely to accumulate bacteria due to their lack of any gaps between materials. Additionally, bolsters can prevent water from getting inside wooden handles, preventing them from rotting.
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Seki Magoroku Shoso Santoku Knife
A Versatile and Dishwasher-Safe Japanese Knife
Fujitorasaku All-Stainless Steel Santoku 170mm
Fantastic Sharpness Resulting in Clean and Smooth Cuts
Shun Classic Dimpled Santoku Knife
A Hefty Knife That Uses its Own Weight to Help Cut
Seki Magoroku Damascus Santoku Knife
Highly Durable Knife That Stays Sharp
Seki Kotetsu VG-10. Santoku Knife
Round Handle for Extra Grip
Yoshida Metal Industries
Global Santoku G-57
Easy to Maintain, but Loses Its Sharpness
NeoVerdun Santoku Knife｜OVD-11
Excellent Maintainability, Average Sharpness
Verdun Santoku Knife｜OVD-11
Comfortable Handle but Mediocre Edge Retention
All-Stainless Steel Santoku Knife 17 cm
A Knife With a Comfortable Weight
Akari Santoku Knife With Bolster
A Santoku With a Comfortable Wooden Handle
Kai's Seki Magoroku Shoso Santoku Knife uses high carbon stainless steel in its blade, available in two blade sizes; 5.7-inch and 6.5-inch.
While our testers were able to slice through difficult-to-cut chicken skin with no stress, we did notice the blade got slightly dull in our edge retention test.
Since it's fully made of stainless steel, it is easy to keep hygienic. On top of that, it's also dishwasher safe.
This knife earned top-tier scores in the usability testwith its 4.7-ounce weight and its curved handle. The handle itself was also neither too thin nor too wide, making it versatile and easy to use by everyone.
Tojiro's Fujitorasaku All-Stainless Steel Santoku 170mm is made using cobalt alloy steel for its core, sandwiched by 13-chrome stainless steel for its 6.7-inch blade.
This knife got top-level scores for both the sharpness itself and for how long the blade stayed sharp. The knife can effortlessly cut through tomatoes and chicken thighs, resulting in a clean, shiny cut.
The knife's tornado pattern on the handle fit comfortably in our tester's hands and prevented it from slipping during use. Being a fully stainless steel knife, it's also easy to clean and is thus more hygienic than knives with different handle materials.
Finally, in addition to its sharpness, the knife weighs a mere 5.3 ounces and has a slim handle, making it easy to use by those with small hands.
Kai's Shun Classic Dimpled Santoku Knife has a Damascus pattern as a result of having 33 layers of stainless steel with different hardnesses. This santoku knife is available with either a 5.5-inch or a 6.9-inch blade.
The knife itself has a solid heft to it at 7.2 ounces, making it best for those who want stability. In the cutting test, our testers were able to cut through the skin with ease, earning it high marks in both the cutting and edge retention tests. It also has a bolster connecting the blade and the handle, making it easy to keep clean.
Moreover, thanks to its dimpled surface, food was easily released from the knife after cutting. However, in addition to its weight, the handle is on the thicker side, making it better for those with bigger hands.
Kai's Seki Magoroku Damascus Santoku Knife utilizes a stainless-steel composite for its blade, revealing a Damascus pattern on the surface. The knife is available in two blade lengths; 5.7 inches and 6.5 inches.
This knife was able to slice through a tomato just by barely gliding the edge across the surface, and maintained its sharpness even after using the knife 3,000 times.
While it's not a single-piece knife, it does have a smooth bolster connecting the blade and the handle. Additionally, the handle's inverted triangle shape made it easy to grip, but some of our female testers commented that it was too thick and difficult to hold.
Yasuda Hamono's Seki Kotetsu VG-10 Santoku Knife uses VG-10, an incredibly hard and corrosion-resistant stainless steel, as its core material for its 7.1-inch blade.
In the cutting test, the knife was able to cut tomatoes and chicken with no difficulties. However, after using it 3,000 times, our testers felt that the blade lost a bit of its smooth cutting ability.
While the thickness of the handle made the 5.3-ounce knife feel heavier than it actually is, its round shape fit our tester's hands well. Moreover, the smooth bolster, connecting the blade and the handle, also earned it points in the ease of maintenance department.
Yoshida Metal Industry's Global Santoku G-57 is a single-piece, stainless steel santoku knife. It's available as either a 6.3 or a 7.1-inch blade.
Able to cut all kinds of food easily and smoothly, it earned high scores in the cutting test. However, in the edge retention test, it lost its ability to cut easily through chicken tendons, signaling its dullness.
As for its usability, it received a lower score in comparison to the higher-ranking knives due to its 5.8-ounce weight and the fact that its straight grip made it harder to use. However, its single-piece construction makes it easy to maintain and clean.
Shimomura's NeoVerdun Santoku Knife features a blade made of molybdenum stainless steel, available in two different blade lengths; 5.7 and 6.5 inches.
While the knife had no problems with cutting, its sharpness was fairly average and didn't feel as smooth as the knives that ranked higher. It also got duller than the other knives we tested in our edge retention test.
The handle has a linear shape, so it didn't fit comfortably in our tester's hands. However, this fully-stainless steel knife is dishwasher safe and therefore easy to maintain.
Shimomura's Verdun Santoku Knife is available in two different blade lengths; 5.7 inches and 6.5 inches.
It has a comfortable weight of 4.6 ounces and its curved handle fit comfortably in our tester's hands. This single-piece stainless steel knife is also dishwasher-safe, earning it high marks in the ease of maintenance test.
When new, this knife had an average sharpness. However, in the edge retention test, it lost a significant amount of sharpness, struggling to cut tomatoes or chicken.
Muji's All-Stainless Steel Santoku Knife has a 6.7-inch blade and is made from a single piece of stainless steel.
This knife was able to cut through all foods in our cutting test without issue, but there was nothing particularly notable about the feel of the cut, for better or for worse. However, in the edge retention test, our testers were unable to pierce tomato skins smoothly, showing how dull the blade got.
The knife weighs 6 ounces and has a solid feel to it. Unfortunately, its thick and straight handle lacks any ergonomic features and may get uncomfortable after prolonged use.
Satake's Akari Santoku Knife With Bolster features a comfortable mahogany-style reinforced laminated wood handle and a 6.7-inch composite blade.
At 9.8 ounces, the knife has a solid weight to it that enables it to cut through food with stability. However, it struggled to cut through chicken skin, and our testers felt a bit of resistance when cutting.
In our ease of use test, our testers commented that the wooded handle made the knife surprisingly comfortable to use, regardless of its weight. Finally, the bolster that connects the blade and the handle prevents water and bacteria from getting inside the handle, and makes it easy to maintain.
We put each product through a series of tests to check for the following:
Then we gave them a score out of 5 and ranked them.
First, we tested the sharpness of each knife. We used three foods for this test: tomatoes, skin-on chicken, and a large sushi roll.
We had food coordinator Yuki Hirao check how easily and smoothly she was able to cut each food and how clean the cuts were in order to evaluate the sharpness on a five-point scale.
No matter how sharp a knife is, they eventually become dull if you continue to use them. The longer a knife can retain its edge, the easier and safer it is to use.
In this test, we dragged each knife on a plastic cutting board 3,000 times under the same conditions to simulate a knife that has been used for roughly three months. We compared how well the knives cut in comparison to when they were new and gave high scores to the knives that maintained their sharpness.
Next, we tested each santoku's usability.
While actually cutting the food we prepared, we comprehensively evaluated each knife for how easy it was to grip, how well the food was released from the knife, and its weight.
While it may not be a surprise, we found that knives with textured handles were less prone to slipping during use, making them easier to use than non-textured knives.
Additionally, knives with straight handles were difficult to grip. Because they required more effort to hold, it resulted in more fatigue during periods of extended use. We recommend choosing a knife with a curved, ergonomic handle.
Santoku knives can be used daily, so it’s also important to keep them in a good condition. As the final test, we evaluated each santoku knife based on its corrosion resistance and how easy they were to wash.
For corrosion resistance, we evaluated each knife's materials based on its listed product specifications. To evaluate how easy they were to wash, we checked to see if the knives had a bolster or not, their shape, and whether they were dishwasher-safe or not.
We found that when it comes to keeping clean, single-piece stainless-steel knives got higher scores than other knives, but we also found that as long as a knife has a bolster, it didn't make that much of a difference in comparison to single-piece knives, as they were both easy to wash.
You've got your fancy knife; now you need something to keep it sharp, to cut on, and an alternative when a knife just won't get the job done.
This expert reviewed the contents of the buying guide for accuracy and provided factual corrections when necessary. They did not participate in the product selection process, nor are they affiliated with any of our choices unless explicitly stated so.
No. 1: Kai｜Seki Magoroku Shoso Santoku Knife
No. 2: Tojiro｜Fujitorasaku All-Stainless Steel Santoku 170mm
No. 3: Kai｜Shun Classic Dimpled Santoku Knife
No. 4: Kai｜Seki Magoroku Damascus Santoku Knife
No. 5: Yasuda Hamono｜Seki Kotetsu VG-10. Santoku Knife
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