Both gyuto and santoku are popular types of Japanese that are not only physically similar but are also multipurpose kitchen knives.
Considering their looks and application, a beginner might have difficulty picking out the differences or settling for one.
Well, the truth is that they have striking differences. And in this gyuto vs. santoku comparison, we shall look at all these differences, features, and use cases to find out which of them is best for you.
But to begin with, here is a summary of the major differences between gyuto and santoku Japanese knives.
Overview: Differences Between Gyuto and Santoku
|Japan, late 19th to early 20th century
|Japan, Mid-20th century
|7 to 10 inches
|5 to 7 inches
|Sharp pointy tip
|More rounded curve and less pointy
|Slightly heavier with uneven balance
|Lighter and evenly balanced
|Smooth rocking motion
|Up and down chopping
|Versatile, slicing, chopping
|Precise tasks, mincing, dicing, all-purpose
|A bit more expensive
What is A Gyuto Knife?
A Gyuto is a kitchen knife that is often considered the Japanese version of the Western chef’s knife. It typically features a long, thin, and slightly broad blade with a double-beveled edge.
Both sides of the blade are slightly curved towards the tip. This makes achieving a smooth rocking motion easier when chopping, mincing, or slicing your ingredients.
The term “gyuto” is a Japanese word that translates into “beef knife” in English. Its origin is traced as far back as the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Japan opened up to the West. This resulted in cultural exchanges, including the introduction of Western cooking techniques and cutlery.
Features of Gyuto
You can quickly spot a gyuto by looking out for these physical features:
- A long and thin blade that ranges between 7 to 10 inches.
- Slightly curved on both sides towards the tip.
- Sharp pointy tip.
- A double bevel edge.
Uses of Gyuto
Gyuto is quite versatile and can handle a wide range of ingredients, just like any chef’s knife. However, it is most suitable for handling meat, including tasks like cutting, trimming, portioning, filleting, etc.
It can be used for other purposes like:
- Chopping, slicing, and mincing vegetables and fruits.
- Achieving thin and clean slices of meat or fish, or any other delicate ingredient.
- Peeling or paring.
What is A Santoku Knife?
A Santoku, on the other hand, is a medium-sized kitchen knife that is used for a wide range of tasks. It is characterized by a relatively short and wide blade, usually between 5 – 7 inches long.
The blade is less pointy, having a more rounded curve (on top) and a slight curve towards the tip. As a result, the Santoku is more suitable for up and down chopping, in contrast to the smooth rocking motion technique obtainable with a gyuto.
Talking of origin, Santoku was first developed in the mid-20th century after WWII. The Japanese were starting to adopt some Western-style culinary techniques. So they needed a more versatile knife for handling meat and vegetables effectively, unlike what the vegetable knives, nakiri, and usuba offered.
At that time, gyuto (chef’s knife) wasn’t easy because it was totally different from what they were used to. Therefore, the Japanese knife makers developed the Santoku which then found a balance between nakiri and gyuto knives.
Read Also: 10 Best Japanese Vegetable Cleavers
Features of Santoku
Think of a santoku knife as a model between a nakiri cleaver and a chef knife. You can spot them with these features:
- Relatively short wide blade.
- More rounded curve (on top) towards the tip.
- Sharp but less pointy tip than a chef’s knife.
- Thick spine at the base but tapers towards the tip.
- Double bevel straight edge.
Uses of Santoku
“Santoku” is a Japanese term that translates into “three uses” in English. It is a kitchen workhorse that can perform various tasks, from slicing, and mincing, to dicing.
- Perfect for slicing, chopping, and mincing vegetables and herbs.
- Effective for portioning meat and fish into sizable pieces, suitable for cooking.
- Cutting tough items like squash and hard cheese.
- Suitable for peeling tasks.
Gyuto vs Santoku: Physical Comparison
In terms of blade length, it is rare (if at all) to find a gyuto that is shorter than 7 inches or longer than 10 inches. This ample surface area makes it well-suited for handling larger meats and vegetables.
A santoku, however, with a blade length of 5 to 7 inches is quite easy to control and maneuver, especially when handling delicate ingredients.
Both gyuto and Santoku have slightly broad blades which are thick at the base but taper towards the tip. But in gyuto, the blade is slightly curved on both sides and very pointy while a santoku is less pointy, and has a more rounded curve on the spine, towards the tip.
Weight and Balance
Considering their blade lengths, it is easy to predict that an average gyuto is heavier than a santoku. However, their weights are also a function of the material they’re made from.
For example, a typical stainless steel gyuto weighs about 0.48lb, while a santoku counterpart would weigh about 0.38lb.
Also as a result of their blade length and weight, a gyuto tends to have a more forward-heavy balance. This means that more weight is concentrated towards the front of the knife.
Santoku, on the other hand, is evenly balanced, with its weight distributed commonly between the blade and the handle.
Although both knives are versatile, their design is the factor that influences their usage and cutting techniques. A santoku, for example, has a less curvy edge. As such, it is best suited for the up-and-down chopping technique.
That’s unlike the gyuto which has a more curvy edge which makes it adapt to the rocking chopping technique.
Both gyuto and santoku knives are made from a wide range of materials. They can feature different types of steel and handle materials like wood, composite, and synthetic components.
The most common but cheaper steel used is stainless steel. This can be VG10, AUS-8, AUS-10, VG-Max, and so on.
More expensive ones are made from high-carbon steel like white steel and blue steel. These knives are sharper and have better edge retention compared to stainless steel. On the flip side, carbon steel knives are not the easiest to maintain.
In fact, each of these materials has its pros and cons. To learn more about this, we’ve written a post on Japanese knife materials, comparing and revealing all you should know about them.
Maintenance and Care Requirements
There are no differences in the ways you care for gyuto and santoku. For either of them, you need to:
- Use a good quality and soft cutting board to preserve the knife’s edge.
- Dry the knives thoroughly with a soft towel after each use, to prevent water spots that could lead to rust formation.
- Hone the knives regularly using honing steel to maintain their edge between sharpenings.
- Keep the knives in a knife block or magnetic strip to protect the edges and prevent accidents.
Santoku vs Gyuto: Price
Pricing of knives, most times, depends on factors like brand, material used, craftsmanship, and where the knife is sold. But for gyuto and Santoku, the price difference stands out most of the time.
Santoku knives tend to be more budget-friendly while gyuto are generally more expensive. This won’t come as a surprise, I guess, judging by Gyuto’s blade length, rigidity, and versatility.
Take for example, basic santoku knives made from standard stainless steel are quite affordable and are priced between $30 to $50. Those made from high-carbon steel and Damascus steel are sold between $100 to $300.
But entry-level gyutos made from standard stainless steel sell between $50 to $100. Those from Damascus steel and carbon steel are priced between $150 to $400.
Which Should You Choose: Gyuto or Santoku?
Having explored and understood the differences between gyuto and santoku, now it’s time to answer the question, “Which of them should you choose?”
Most times, it’s all about personal preference. But do not get overwhelmed because the differences, at times, are not prominent; except you are a professional chef.
Here are some guidelines to help you choose:
- Consider a santoku if you’re on a budget and looking for a decent versatile knife.
- Maybe you have a small storage space, a santoku might be your best bet for now.
- Do you have a chef already and want to add a knife with a Japanese vibe to your set? A santoku is the right option.
- Go for gyuto if you use the rocking chopping technique, and santoku if you use the up-and-down cutting technique.
- Get gyuto if you handle more meat than vegetables and vice versa.
- If you have a specific need for a longer knife, consider getting the gyuto.
Gyuto vs. Santoku: Key Takeaway…
The debate between santoku and gyuto actually unveils two exceptional knives, each with its unique advantages. With its long and thin blade, the gyuto proves to be an excellent tool for handling several cutting tasks in the kitchen.
Santoku’s shorter blade not only thrives in versatility but also when you need that culinary finesse and precision.
Then the choice between the two depends entirely on individual preferences, cooking style, and needs. The differences are clear and it’s now on you to take the one you prefer.