When it comes to Japanese knives, santoku and gyuto are perhaps some of the most well-known cutleries in the culinary world. But just how different are these knives?
Santoku vs gyuto, what is the difference between the two? Santoku is a shorter and slightly heavier knife that can be used for cutting fish, vegetables, and boneless meat. Gyuto is a typical Japanese chef’s knife that is considerably longer and pointier and is usually used as a general all-purpose knife.
Read below to learn more about the differences between santoku and gyuto, their characteristics, and the best uses for each knife!
Santoku was invented in 1940s Japan and was marketed as a versatile knife that would fulfill the “three virtues” — cutting, slicing, and chopping.
Compared to the other options on the market, the santoku knife was shown to be a better and more manageable option that could also be used by beginners.
Its shorter size and agile yet accurate design were seen as welcoming features for people who had never worked with a professional knife at home.
This is why Santoku truly bridges the gap between professional and amateur knives! It is perhaps one of the most non-intimidating cutting knives on the market — and it’s made with world-class Japanese blade forging practices.
Here are some of the main characteristics of a Santoku knife.
Santoku is a generally shorter knife that is specifically built for control and precision.
This knife is usually no longer than 7 inches and can easily fit in the hands of both men and women.
Its handle length is usually around 2-3 inches, which means that you can easily grip using your palms without causing a loss of accuracy or fatigue.
As mentioned, the size of this knife is one of the biggest reasons why it is preferred over professional knives, such as the gyuto.
With a smaller design, most people can use this knife without having to adjust their cutting strategy.
It can be gripped using either the handle or the three-finger gripping method — while this gives the knife far more versatility, its benefits do come at a small cost!
The shape of a typical santoku knife is unique when compared to other professional knives. Not only does it have a shorter size, but it also features a taller blade.
This taller blade design gives santoku an advantage over other blades, as it adds more control and accuracy with every stroke.
However, due to its slightly thicker spine, santoku is generally heavier and might take some getting used to, especially for beginners.
The blade of the knife has a straighter edge that allows for glide cuts. While it can also be used in a rocking motion, this knife performs best when it is glided across food in quick but steady succession.
The tip of the blade is rather blunt and subtly rounded, which doesn’t make santoku a great knife for piercing food.
You could easily go through soft foods like vegetables and fish, but you might run into trouble with beef or other hard foods that require a quick sweeping motion.
Santoku knives can hold a sharp edge for longer because of how well they are built.
These knives are made using traditional Japanese knife-making best practices — which are renowned around the globe. So, you can be sure to get your money’s worth with a purchase of a high-quality santoku.
The best thing about its sharpness is that it is very easy to maintain! All you need is to use it with care and to occasionally sharpen the blade through a professional service.
Although the blade can also be sharpened at home, you should opt for professional services if you don’t know a lot about sharpening high-quality knives.
Even with a blunt tip, santoku more than makes up for its piercing capabilities!
Take hard vegetables as an example: cutting carrots or even scoring and dicing onions can be a walk in the park thanks to the extreme sharpness and precision of the blade.
The uses of a santoku knife are many, but if you want the most out of its versatility, then we recommend that you stick with vegetables, poultry, fish, boneless beef, and nuts.
The shorter blade is ideal for gripping and can provide you with a lot of utility when it comes to scoring and dicing food. Even the taller blade design can be used to sweep and pick up food from the cutting board!
Ironically, the taller blade design makes it very awkward to use the knife in specific tasks. You may find it troubling to peel vegetables, slice bread, or chop food with bones.
For this reason, we think that the santoku knife would make more sense when you need it to coarsely chop soft or dense foods.
Unfortunately, due to its shape and size, even if you were to use a santoku knife for large pieces of dense meat, it would require you to cut through the meat in a sawing motion, which would eventually ruin the texture of the meat slices.
The same can also be said about slicing very soft food, like bread. The unique form factor of a santoku knife may end up ruining the delicate texture of bread, no matter how sharp or well-maintained your knife is!
In simple terms, Gyuto knives are classic chef knives.
Like Santoku, the gyuto knife also has a Japanese origin. It is made using the same ideology that goes behind the making of extremely high-quality katanas.
These knives are world-class and are perhaps best used by most professional chefs around the world. They have an extremely balanced grip and can be used for virtually all cutting tasks!
Gyuto knives are made from reinforced materials that help them maintain their sharp edge over time. Its longevity and robustness are one of the reasons why this high-quality blade is usually seen as a long-term investment.
While gyuto knives are certainly longer, there are multiple variants of them on the market. Some gyuto knives can be as long as 9.5 inches! But you can also find a few options that hover around 6-7 inches (more on this below).
Whether it is slicing, dicing, chopping, or piercing — the gyuto knife can easily help you overcome even the most challenging kitchen tasks with speed, accuracy, and efficiency.
Here are all of the characteristics of a gyuto knife.
Gyuto is a typical “chef’s knife” that can be larger than a santoku knife.
It usually comes in at around 14 inches and can provide far more coverage when it comes to cutting large vegetables or other bulky pieces of food.
The overall size of this knife may make it a bit intimidating and may even deter some beginners, but since the knife is extremely well-balanced, you can easily and intuitively grip it with comfort and ease.
The handle of a gyuto provides enough room to rest the palm of your hand. If you need more control, you can just grab the spine of the blade using the three-finger method for more accuracy.
The larger size of this knife may make it a bit difficult to handle, but once you get a hang of it, the gyuto knife will quickly become your new favorite all-purpose knife!
Gyuto has a typical straight edge with a sleek design and a pointed tip.
The blade isn’t as tall as a santoku, so you might not be able to scoop up a lot of food on the side of the blade.
However, due to its extremely balanced width-to-length ratio, you can easily use the knife in either a gliding, rocking, or chopping motion.
The edge has a very subtle curve that allows for both full contact and a subtle rocking motion.
This means that you will be able to cut through not just dense food like meat or nuts, but you could also make quick work of large vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, or leafy greens with just one glide.
The pointed end of the knife makes it one of the best tools to cut meat. It can easily pierce hard surfaces and you can also work with this knife with bone-in meat too.
Gyuto is made from high-quality stainless steel with a higher carbon content (carbon Damascus Steel), which gives it extreme durability and a very long-lasting edge.
Keep in mind: just like santoku knives, gyuto knives are also made from the same high-precision and strict quality standards!
Gyuto knives are one of the best cutleries in the world and are a go-to option for professional users, so manufacturers put extra emphasis on the quality and longevity of the knife.
Most high-quality gyuto knives will be able to maintain their sharp edge for a long time, provided that you use them the right way.
But even if the edge dulls, you can get it sharpened very easily!
This ease of use and extreme precision are one of the reasons why the gyuto is such a beloved cutting tool in the culinary world.
Known for its sheer versatility, a gyuto knife can be used in several ways.
Owing to its longer blade size and sharp point, this knife can either be used for something as simple as neatly cutting a loaf of bread to even carving thick pieces of meat.
Got bone-in meat to cut? Then this is the perfect knife for it!
Not only does the gyuto shine through in difficult kitchen tasks, but it can also be used for mundane cutting jobs like coarsely chopping onions, tomatoes, or even dry fruits.
Most people prefer to use a gyuto when cooking in large batches because this knife can easily render nearly all cutting tasks in one go — without you having to sharpen it!
The downside is that the gyuto may not be an ideal knife for peeling or skinning, especially if you are using a larger-sized gyuto knife. But you may still be able to get some value out of this type of knife if you go for a smaller gyuto.
How To Choose The Right Knife For You
Choosing the right knife truly comes down to your personal preference and skill level.
With that being said, let’s cover some recommended (and NOT recommended) uses for each knife so that you can see what best fits your needs.
Santoku — What It’s For
For most people, a shorter santoku knife should be more than enough to get done with basic kitchen tasks.
These tasks can include cutting vegetables, slicing boneless meat, or chopping dried fruit. The knife also offers a few functional advantages too.
Remember the wider blade design? Santoku allows you to conveniently sweep and pick up chopped food straight from the cutting board using the side of the blade!
Not only is santoku an ideal cutting tool for any novice chef, but it can also be indispensable for professionals as it can help them get through small-scale cooking tasks without having to switch to another knife.
Santoku — What It’s NOT For
A santoku knife isn’t a great option for piercing and slicing dense foods.
Ironically, another thing to consider is its size: the size of the blade may make limit the knife’s coverage.
In the case of cutting cabbage or larger vegetables, you would have to constantly use a slicing or sawing motion to cut through.
This issue extends to other foods too. For example, a santoku knife may not be the best knife for carving meat or for making smooth and perfectly cut meat slices.
Gyuto — What It’s For
If you are looking for something that is highly versatile and intuitive, then we can’t recommend a high-quality gyuto knife enough!
This is perhaps the best cutting tool for all types of major cutting tasks and can easily replace any type of large chef knife in the kitchen.
The gyuto can cut through bone-in meat or other dense foods with extreme precision and control. The knife can chop, slice, score (using the tip), or even finely dice food without you having to exert additional effort.
Since it is made from high-carbon steel, you may never need to purchase another knife too!
It’s built to last and can maintain its sharpness for a long time without you having to manually sharpen it after each use.
The gyuto is a must-have for intermediate or professional-level chefs who are looking for a serious cutting tool that can help them save time and effort.
Keep in mind that the gyuto knife is also a great choice for beginners who already have experience using a santoku.
The bonus here is that since both knives have similar characteristics, you can practice your skills using either knife!
Gyuto — What It’s NOT For
Larger gyuto knives can be a bit awkward to use at first, so they should only be used by someone who knows the basics of handling a chef’s knife.
Perhaps the biggest drawback of using this knife is that it can’t peel food.
Sure, you could chop off the ends and cut around to take the peel off but it won’t be as accurate as a shorter knife — plus, you’re bound to end up with more food waste.
Gyuto knives can also be pretty expensive! If you are in the market for a cheaper and more versatile knife, then you should go for a santoku instead.
Santoku Vs Gyuto Knives — Comparison Chart
That was a lot of information to take in, we know. Here is a side-by-side comparison of both knives to help break it down:
|Blade Shape||Subtly curved||Mostly straight|
|Blade Tip||Blunt||Pointy and sharp|
|Handle Shape||Octagonal and grippy||Grippy and comfortable|
|Blade Material||Stainless steel||High-carbon stainless steel|
|Blade Length||Around 6 inches||Around 8 inches|
|Cost||Relatively cheaper||Can be expensive|
Now that you know the differences between santoku and gyuto knives, here are some related questions we thought you might have.
Should you buy both a santoku and a gyuto knife?
While it may seem redundant, owning both knives may be a smart option if you are looking to cover all bases.
A santoku can be used for small-scale or everyday kitchen tasks, but you can go for a gyuto when you want to cook food in large batches — or when you want to impress others with your knife skills!
What is the best knife for peeling?
A gyuto and santoku may be too big for ultra-precise tasks like peeling food.
Try going with a smaller paring knife that is specifically designed to peel thin slices of fruits and vegetables.