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What Is A Santoku Knife (And Why You Need One)

If you’re a keen home cook who likes to create new things and experiment with new flavours, your kitchen isn’t complete without a Santoku knife. You may have heard of these particular kitchen knives being present in professional kitchens. There are many reasons top chefs choose to use these Japanese kitchen knives in NZ, which we will explore in this blog. It’s also worth noting that a Santoku knife fits right in your home kitchen, too, with a great price point. 

So, what actually is the point of a Santoku knife? What is the preferred option when comparing a chef’s knife vs a Santoku knife? And why should you even care when there are so many other knife options available at Briscoes? We’re about to answer all of these questions and more. Here’s what we’ll cover: 


The meaning of Santoku

What is a Santoku knife?

The best uses for a Santoku knife

What is the difference between a chef’s knife vs a Santoku knife?

How to clean and care for a Santoku knife

The range of Santoku knives at Briscoes


Let’s get into it!

The meaning of Santoku

As we’ve already mentioned, Santoku is a Japanese word. In Japanese, the word Santoku translates to ‘three virtues’. When you break down the word, San means three, and Toku means virtue. No one is exactly sure where or when the term Santoku originates from. However, in terms of this popular knife, the three virtues may relate to the Santoku knife's many functions, being: 

  1. Dicing
  2. Mincing 
  3. Slicing

The three virtues may also be interpreted as the food that this knife is known for, and what makes it one of the best kitchen knives, being: 

  1. Vegetables 
  2. Fish 
  3. Meat

What is a Santoku knife?

Generally speaking, these popular Japanese kitchen knives in NZ are between 13 and 30 centimetres in length. The blade on a Santoku knife will typically curve down to an angle that approaches about 60 degrees at its point. We have a wide selection of knives and knife accessories at Briscoes, but here are other reasons that make a Santoku knife one of the best kitchen knives available. 

Thin straight edge sheep’s foot blade

This particular blade that is a feature on all Santoku knives is usually sharpened to a lower edge than other knives like a chef’s knife or paring knife. The lower angel generally means the sharper the knife. As well as this, Santoku knives are normally made with Japanese steel, which is harder and can hold its edge longer than knives from other countries. 

Fun fact: Non-cooking knives with a straight edge sheep’s foot blade are commonly used for emergency first responders. This type of blade is helpful for cutting seatbelts. 

No bolster

Most Santoku knives have no bolster. When it comes to kitchen knives, a bolster is the balancing point that sits between the blade and handle. However, if your knife doesn’t have a bolster, like a Santoku knife, it means you can sharpen the knife to the full length of the blade with a knife sharpener. Santoku knives also usually feature a larger blade height, meaning your knuckles don’t touch the chopping block. 


One of the main reasons a cook may choose a Santoku knife over another chef’s knife in NZ is how light and short it is. A Santoku knife's weight, balance, size and lack of curvature in the blade make for efficiency when cutting. To get the most out of your Santoku knife, you’ll want to use a straight up and down cutting technique instead of rocking back and forth like you would with a chef’s knife. 

The best uses for a Santoku knife

You need to use the proper cookware to bring the most visually appealing and delicious recipes to life. As we’ve already covered, a Santoku knife is ideal for dicing, slicing and mincing. In particular, here are some practical cooking applications where a Santoku knife shines. 

Slicing vegetables and fruits

Ever wanted to create an incredible ratatouille? What about the perfect slow cooker meal? Given its precision, a Santoku knife is ideal for dishes where evenly cut vegetables and fruits are essential. Read our slow cooker recipes and slow cooker buying guides for inspiration. 

Delicately cutting cheese

There’s nothing like sitting down with your loved ones to toast a hard week at work. And, no Friday nibbles would be complete without an impressive cheese platter. Given its precision and weight, a Santoku knife is well suited for evenly slicing and dicing cheese, however big you want those slices to be!

Cutting or dicing meat

One of the three virtues of a Santoku knife may be cutting meat. Sure, some dishes don’t require precise cutting of poultry and meat, but some dishes like sushi, beef stir fry or any other delicate cuts may be well suited to a Santoku knife, given its weight and precision.  

Top tip: If you’re frying mean on a cast iron pan, you’ll also want to be sure your pan is well seasoned. Check out our guide on how to season a cast iron pan

Mincing herbs

Some home cooks prefer to use dried herbs and spices. In saying that, to bring your dishes and meals to life, you want to use fresh. If you are cooking with fresh herbs, many recipes require you to mince them. Given its weight and ease of use, a Santoku knife can be very efficient at this. 

Finely slicing seafood

Sure, if you’re making sushi, you may prefer to use a specialist sushi knife. But, for some home cooks, a Santoku knife is a great Japanese kitchen life in NZ that’s up to the job. If you’re also looking to slice and dice seafood to finely to be battered and fried, a Santoku knife will also work well as it can slide the meat cleanly instead of smashing or grinding it. 

Top tip: If you want to cook seafood in your air fryer, check out our summer recipes and air fryer buying guide