In the world of Japanese cooking, two styles of blade reign supreme – the Gyuto and the Santoku. Both blade profiles find their origins in a traditional Japanese nakiri, a knife shape dating to the mid-sixteen-hundreds that was mainly used to process fruits, vegetables, and other non-animal foods.
This being said, both the gyuto and santoku knives drew inspiration from the nakiri in vastly different ways despite both being developed within a century of each other.
The two knives rapidly evolved to have blades with different strengths and weaknesses, relative to each other, with each being suited to a specific set of tasks.
What Is a Gyuto Knife?
A Gyuto knife, simply put, is a Japanese-style chef or kitchen knife. The name “gyuto” actually means “cow sword”, likely a reference to this knife’s ability to cut meat remarkably well.
What Is a Santoku Knife?
A Santoku is a multi-purpose blade, often used as a kitchen knife, also made in Japanese style.
Its name actually means “three virtues” and, though many argue about what those particular virtues are, it is often said the three virtues of the Santoku are its ability to chop, mince, and dice, its three distinct parts, and the ability to cut through practically anything (except for bone).
What’s Different Between a Gyuto Knife and a Santoku Knife?
Although they look similar, there are some differences between the Gyuto knife and the Santoku knife. Here I have discussed the 9 main differences between the two knives.
- Blade Size
- Blade Shape
1. Origin Comparison
Origin of Gyuto Knives
These knives were developed in the second half of the 19th century, also called the Meiji era in Japan, in response to Western demand for kitchen knives.
Although it is unsure which country developed the original Gyuto knife, historians guess it was developed in either Germany or France and then imported into Japan where it then earned its title of “Gyuto”.
Origin of Santoku Knives
The Santoku originated in Japan in the mid-20th century, about the time of World War II. Interestingly, it was actually based on the Nakiri knife, which is specialized in cutting or chopping.
In short, the Japanese created the Santoku knife as their own form of the Western kitchen knife.
2. Blade Comparison
Blade Size of Gyuto Knives
Considering the size of the Gyuto knife, it is as long as a normal chef’s knife. Blades of Gyuto knives often averages out to about 8 to 11 and a half inches or 210 to 290 millimeters.
Blade Size of Santoku Knives
Japanese Santoku knives are slightly smaller than Western-style chef’s knives. Their blades are range in length from 5 to 8 inches which helps in increasing the balance by distributing its weight.
3. Blade Shape Comparison
Blade Shape of Gyuto Knives
Full tang or half tang Gyuto knives have a Granton edge, they have a bit more of a bolster. On the other hand, Gyuto knives have a more curved edge profile and a less turned-down spine than Santoku knives, as well as an overall slim shape.
As a result, Gyuto knives have a sharper tip that actually lifts up more from the bottom edge of the knife.
Blade Shape of Santoku Knives
Full tang or half tang Santoku knives usually do not have a bolster and may feature shallow dips all along the blade to discourage food from sticking to the blade.
Additionally, Santoku knives tend to have wide, flat blades and slightly blunt or rounded tips. They will also have a less curved edge and a dropped spine, often called a sheep’s foot spine.
4. Weight Comparison
Overall, Gyuto knives are longer, larger, and more curved than Santoku knives even though both knives have about the same weight.
5. Uses Comparison
Gyuto Knife Uses
Gyuto knives have various uses in the home kitchen or restaurant, including separating fish or meat from the bones and cutting them into thin slices.
It also has a good reputation for cutting almost all kinds of vegetables and fruits. In short, this knife is made for cutting, dicing, mincing soft food ingredients.
Santoku Knife Uses
Santoku Knife is commonly used in home cooking. It is also well known for chopping or cutting vegetables, meat, seafood, or cheese.
6. Benefits Comparison
Gyuto Knife Benefits
Gyuto knives are often popular because they are light and can easily keep a sharp, hard edge to the blade.
This highly effective and durable blade has been made possible by the skill of the blacksmiths who originally made swords in Japan. Also, in most cases, high carbon stainless steel is used as the core steel of these knives.
This strong edge means the Gyuto can be used for many different techniques, particularly cutting a slicing.
Due to its blade shape, the knife can be used for rocking motion. Additionally, the pointed tip is very useful if something needs to be piercing.
Santoku Knife Benefits
Another specific detail about Santoku is that, in order to add the needed weight to make it a good and useful kitchen knife, Santoku knives are made using naturally heavier Japanese steel and are created with a chunky and compact shape much like the hefty cleaver they were inspired by.
Santoku knives are made of harder steel, giving them the ability to become ergonomic without sacrificing the strength of their cutting edge and allowing them to be wider than a traditional kitchen knife.
The blade is flat in shape making it good for cutting up and down and forcing. Also, the vegetables can be easily removed from the cutting board.
In addition, as Santoku knives are relatively small and light, they can be used in a fatigue-free manner for a long time.
7. Weakness Comparison
Weakness of Gyuto Knives
It is important to mention, though, that Gyuto knives should not be used on meat that still has bones in it, foods that are frozen solid and hard, or for anything that requires a prying motion.
If Gyuto knives are used for any of these three things, the blade could be damaged or even destroyed.
Weakness of Santoku Knives
They are relatively short so you can’t use them for long-slicing purposes. Santoku knives usually do not have a bolster that is also annoying for some users. Also, its tip is not straight enough which makes it a bit difficult to piercing.
8. Maintenance Comparison
Although these two types of knives are made of good quality steel, they are not dishwasher safe in most cases. So after each use, just hand wash it with lukewarm water and dry it quickly. It is best to use a wood cover or block for storage. Also, those who use them regularly should sharpen at least once every two months.
However, if the sharpening seems difficult or boring or a waste of time to you then you can buy a top self-sharpening knife set. Just as you don’t have to sharpen knives regularly, the self-sharpening block will keep your precious knives sharp for use on a regular basis.
9. Price Comparison
The final difference, and often the most important difference for those who like to save money or maybe on a tight budget, is the cost and availability of Gyuto knives and Santoku knives.
Both types of knives are easily available for purchase online over several websites. However, there is a notable price difference.
While Gyuto knives are more versatile in the kitchen, they are definitely more expensive than Santoku knives.
Average Gyuto knives can be found for about a minimum of $30-$80, good quality $80-$150 and high-end Gyuto knives are $150-$250.
Average Santoku knives can be found for about a minimum of $20-$50, good quality $50-$100, and high-end Santoku knives are $100-$200.
On top of that, Santoku knives are also available at more easily accessible in-person locations than Gyuto knives, which are often intricately made with a Damascus pattern.
Because Gyuto knives are able to be used for multiple things, the price difference between the two may not mean much to you.
It simply depends on what specific type of knife you are looking for, what you want that knife to do for you, and whether you prefer a cheaper knife or one that can be used in multiple ways.
Gyuto vs Santoku – Which One to Choose and Why?
As stated in the section above, Gyuto and Santoku knives vary from each other in many aspects. That begs the question if these two types of knives look different then which one is best when using them in the kitchen?
Because of the Santoku’s dropped spine and thus lack of a knife tip, Santoku knives are not exactly well adapted for piercing and, because of their lack of bottom edge curve, they also cannot be rocked back and forth when cutting.
This means that Santoku knives are best suited for long cutting strokes and chopping. This is exactly what you’d want to use to chop hard foods like carrots.
The long cutting strokes also allow chefs to get long, thin slices of ingredients which are often popular in Japanese-style food. The long blade on the Santoku also means that they are useful in transferring food to other workspaces.
On the other hand, Gyutos are more well-rounded and are better at being used as all-purpose knives. Gyuto knives have a tip and curved belly that allows for piercing and rocking motions, which can be particularly useful for working with meats.
One particular thing to note is your style of cooking.
If you are somebody who cooks fast and throws things together, the Santoku knife’s flat blade can allow you to easily transfer food to different surfaces, pots, and pans. While this technique may not sound important it’s little details that can help save you a lot of time while cooking.
The curved Gyuto blade makes scraping much harder and usually requires multiple attempts to get everything moved over to where you need it to be.
These comparisons are important to consider when thinking about the usefulness of Gyuto knives and Santoku knives.
While this won’t make or break which knife you choose or which one is better, actually it completely depends on your requirement and purpose.
Firstly, Gyuto knives originate from either Germany or France while Santoku knives originate from Japan. So while they are both in Japanese style they come from opposite ends of two different continents.
While subtle, the easiest way to differentiate a Gyuto knife from a Santoku knife when looking at them is to note the shape, particularly the shape of the knife tip.
There are a few particular characteristics that make the Santoku and Gyuto unique. Santoku knives are often smaller than the normal chef’s knife and thus easier to use if you have smaller hands.
When it comes to size Gyuto knives are larger and longer, usually reaching a blade length of 11.8 inches or longer, while a Santoku knife is never seen to be longer than 7 inches.
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