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Santoku recommendations

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hey, I'm new to this forum, so I'm sorry if this is a rehashed thread, I looked around and couldn't find a similar enough thread to read so I figured I'd start one. Apologies in advance for the length, but I like to be thorough.

I'm a professional line cook, and passionate home cook who's just starting to take my knives more seriously, and I'm looking to get a new Santoku. I had a Kyocera ceramic 5.5" Santoku for about a year and liked it quite a bit but after a while I decided to switch to steel, for a number of reasons. So I went and picked up a Shun Classic 6" chefs knife. I've heard some negative things about Shun, which makes me want to explore other options. I still like my Shun, but it's not quite what I need, I'll continue to use it for some prep tasks, I love the rock it has to it for mincing, and it feels exceptional slicing things like cucumber, I just really do not like chopping with it. I want the versatility and feel of a Santoku again for the majority of on-the-line food service time. I like nimble knives, wa handles are more comfortable for me than yo handles, and I love the look of damascus. A big issue for me with my Kyocera and my Shun is food sticking to the blade, so I'm looking to try out a hammered blade to help quell that. I'm not an educated pro chef so I don't need the best of the best, I have a price limit and I understand that I won't need a $500 kinfe, even if I could afford it. I do, however, appreciate high-quality and I take cooking very seriously, I'm just somewhat new to really caring about the knives I use. I'm very willing to put time into taking care of my blade and I'd prefer a better edge that takes more care to keep over a knife that can't take as good of an edge that's much easier to maintain. I love sharpening my blades and want to get very good at it. On top of that I already wipe my blade between each and every use to avoid discoloration and corrosion. So I'm leaning away from standard stainless steel knives toward maybe blue steel or high carbon steel, although I don't entirely understand the pros and cons of each type. Basically what I'm looking for is a quality Japanese made 6 or 7 inch Santoku with a wa handle, a nice narrow hammered blade, double edged, fairly lightweight, that takes a great sharp edge and is in the price range of $100-$150, I'm willing to go a bit higher for something really worth it, but not much over, say, $175. Damascus would be fantastic, and recommendations regarding types of steel would be very appreciated.

post #2 of 7

Welcome to cheftalk.  Santokus don't elicit much excitement around here, but after 5 days you should get gotten at least some response.  Some questions:


What exactly do you mean by "chopping"?  This is the chopping motion as my unformally educated mind considers the term.



Well it doesn't really matter I guess.  And then there is the steel.  But I guess that really doesn't matter much as if Shun's VG10 works for you then there are a wide variety of premium steels that will do so and better.


Takamura and Kohetsu are reasonably priced and have exceptional steel.  The finish on the Takamura is very good, the grind laser-like.  I have heard some complaints on the Kohetsu but nothing major.  Niether have any particular food release properties though.


I'd have you also check out Jon's broad lineup because all of these knifes are very well put together to Jon's own specs, some have exceptional food release, there's even a hammered damascus one, and Jon will be a great help if you just call, he's a former chef as well as a knife expert in every way and can easily pin down what would suite you best, whether a santoku or something he feels closer to your needs.





post #3 of 7
For chopping you may want to consider a Chinese cleaver.
post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 
Hi, thanks for the response! I've been reading a lot here over the past few days and coincidentally enough, I've already decided against purchasing another santoku because of some of the older threads I checked out. From what I understand now, santokus are basically just okay for most things, not particularly great for anything, and a good chefs knife or gyuto will be a better all-rounder. I'm thinking I'll get a nice variety of more specialized knives for prep, a nakiri, a 210-240mm gyuto, and a paring knife are what my personal preferences and limited research have led me to so far. And then a deli knife, and a shorter chefs knife for on-the-line work because we have a very cramped line with small boards, and anything over 7" is not only impractical in such a small space, but borderline dangerous. My Shun fills the need of the shorter chefs knife at the moment, although after rounding out my kit a bit more, I think I'm going to go for maybe a 7" chefs knife from a brand with a better reputation than Shun and probably a material besides vg10.

By chopping I mean a cut in which no part of the knife is in constant contact with the board, pressing down and pushing forward. This is how I prefer to dice onion and cut avocado slices for example. Slicing I think of as the tip of the knife stays on the board and the blade is slid back into the food then down and forward, repeated in a sort of circular motion, I use this mostly for things like halved cucumber slices and quartered tomato slices. This is what I've been taught to define as slice vs chop, at least. What I don't like about chopping with my Shun is that it seems to take a bit too exaggerated of a motion to ensure that the cut makes it all the way through, and doesn't leave small bits of food connected at either end. I believe the lack of much flat edge at all between the heel and the belly is what causes this, although I'm sure it could also be remedied by improving my knife handling skills.

Again, after a lot of reading here, I've been really considering something besides vg10. I want to give high carbon steel a shot, understanding that a lot of stainless vs high carbon is preference. As I said in the OP I already incessantly wipe my knife after each use, so I don't think corrosion with high carbon will be an issue for me, and I'm very attracted to what I read regarding high carbons ability to take a very sharp edge and hold it well.

I will definitely check out Jon's site, thank you for the recommendation!

I've assumed the hand hammered blades have, generally speaking, better food release properties, because theoretically I feel like they would behave like hollow ground blades and provide air pockets to reduce friction, is that correct, for the most part?
post #5 of 7
Very convexed knives release food better. Usually it's more pronounced on knives with thicker spines and thin at the edge. Knives that are thin the whole way up are flat and food sticks more.

If your line is very cramped, santoku could be a good line knife. The dropped tip is less likely to snag on stuff accidentally while its on the counter too. Also a 180mm gyuto or a short suji (you have to change your grip since thwy have little knuckle clearance). All depends on what you're slicing/plating and how much room you have to work with.
Edited by MillionsKnives - 7/27/15 at 5:37am
post #6 of 7

To elaborate on food release, a hammered finish is not the best and depending on the hammering it can actually have little effect.  Some rough finishes tend to have a significant effect, but as Millions said it's the width and shape of the cross-section profile that really gives release.


I know a lot of chefs will have a "wide bevel" knife reserved to use just where the release is needed, doesn't replace your thin knife of course.





post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

Awesome, thanks for the help!

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