If you’re shopping for a new kitchen knife, you might be wondering:
What’s the difference between a santoku and a gyuto?
The santoku has a shorter blade, sheepsfoot spine, and flatter edge. Gyuto blades are longer with a sharper tip and curved edge. Both are multi-purpose knives, but the santoku is better for vegetables and straight cuts, while the gyuto is better for meats and the rock chop technique.
That’s the high-level difference, but there’s much more to know.
In this comparison of santoku vs. gyuto knives, you’ll learn how they stack up in terms of usage, cutting action, and blade design. I also explain the differences in length, sharpness, weight, and price.
By the end, you’ll know if your next knife purchase should be a santoku, gyuto, or both.
Use the links below to navigate the comparison:
- Santoku vs. Gyuto: Key Takeaways
- What Is a Santoku Knife?
- What Is a Gyuto Knife?
- Santoku vs. Gyuto: Comparison Chart
- Differences Between Santoku and Gyuto Knives
- Bottom Line: Do You Need a Santoku, Gyuto, or Both?
Santoku vs. Gyuto Knives: Key Takeaways
If you’re deciding between a santoku and a gyuto knife, here are the key points to know.
What Is a Santoku Knife?
Santoku knives originated in the 1940s in Japan. They’re known for their sheepsfoot blade profile and lighter weight, making them suitable for straight cuts and plant-based foods.
What Is a Gyuto Knife?
The gyuto is the Japanese equivalent of the Western-style chef’s knife. It emerged in Japan in the late 19th century, thanks to increasing Western culinary influence. These knives are characterized by their longer, sharp-pointed blades, making them more versatile and ideal for meat preparation and various cutting techniques.
Differences Between Santoku and Gyuto Knives
- Blade Design: Gyuto knives feature a sharp, pointed tip ideal for breaking down a chicken or making slits on the top of a roast before inserting garlic. Santoku knives have a rounded sheepsfoot design, making them excellent for slicing vegetables but limiting their ability to pierce or make slits.
- Uses and Technique: The gyuto’s curved edge allows for a rocking motion, which is the best technique for mincing herbs or garlic. The santoku’s flatter edge excels in straight downward cuts, like dicing onions or slicing cucumbers.
- Blade Length: Gyuto knives typically range from 5.5 to 10 inches. Santoku knives, with their 4 to 7-inch blades, are more maneuverable for quick, precise cuts.
- Weight: The heftier gyuto knife provides more force, making it easier to chop through dense ingredients like squash. The lighter santoku offers better control for fine, delicate chopping tasks.
- Sharpness: While both knives are known for their sharpness, santoku knives often have razor-sharp single-beveled edges ideal for thin, clean cuts in vegetables and fish.
- Price: Gyuto knives generally cost more due to their larger size.
Should You Buy a Santoku or Gyuto?
Santoku and gyuto knives are both versatile. But if you only have room in your kitchen or budget for one knife, I recommend the gyuto. Its pointy tip and slightly curved edge enable a wider range of tasks, such as rock chopping, piercing, and making slits in meat. While you can perform these actions with the santoku, its flatter edge and more blunt tip makes it better suited for straight up and down cuts.
Santoku knives were introduced in the 1940s in Japan. Before then, Japanese chefs used specialized blades for each cutting task. But in the World War II era, they began exploring Western culinary techniques and sought an all-purpose knife. Enter the santoku.
Santoku knives have been popular in Japan since the mid-1900s, but they surged in popularity globally in the early 2000s when celebrity chef Rachael Ray said she loved her Wusthof santoku.
Today, it’s a popular multi-purpose knife that eliminates the need for multiple specialty blades for different cutting tasks.
Also called the santoku-bocho, the name means “three virtues” or “three” uses: chopping, dicing, and mincing. The name speaks to the versatility of the knife.
Some santoku knives feature a Granton edge — a series of rounded indents along the face of the blade.
Others incorporate layered steel. For example, the Shun Sora santoku knife is made of soft outer steel for durability with a hard steel cutting core for edge retention.
The standout design feature is the sheepsfoot blade profile named for its resemblance to the front hooves of sheep. It enables controlled chopping, slicing, mincing, and dicing with a straight, up-and-down motion.
The gyuto is the closest Japanese version of the Western-style chef’s knife. It originated in the late 19th to early 20th century when Japan experienced heavy exposure to Western culture and cuisines.
The gyuto, which means “cow knife” or “cow sword,” has a longer blade than the santoku. Overall it features a slim profile, straight spine, and extra sharp point.
Gyuto knives are almost identical to multi-purpose, German-style chef’s knives. The only difference is that German blades tend to be thicker and made of softer steel.
You can gyuto knives for slicing, mincing, cutting, chopping, and dicing. They can handle nearly all food prep tasks, from meat to vegetables.
Santoku vs. Gyuto: Comparison Chart
Here’s a quick side-by-side comparison of santoku vs. gyuto knives.
|Origin||Japan, 1940s||Japan, late 19th to early 20th century|
|Best Uses||Slicing, dicing, chopping, mincing, and making precision cuts.||Cutting firm vegetables, deboning or disjointing meats, piercing meats to create pockets, slicing, dicing, mincing, and crushing a variety of foods.|
|Cutting Action||Chopping or push cutting||Rocking chop|
|Blade Design||Downturned spine, slightly curved blade edge, and less-sharp point||Flat spine, sharply curved blade edge, and sharp point|
|Blade Length||4-7 inches||5.5-10 inches|
|Sharpness||Single or double bevel||Double bevel|
|Weight||Weights vary, but they tend to be lighter than gyuto knives.||Tend to be heavier than santoku knives.|
|Price||Varies by brand (skip to price comparison chart)||Varies by brand (skip to price comparison chart)|
Although santoku and gyuto are both multi-purpose knives, unique features make each shine in specific cutting tasks.
The following section breaks down the main differences between santoku and gyuto knives.
The most significant difference between santoku and gyuto knives is the blade design. The gyuto blade has a flatter spine, while the santoku’s spine is angled downward.
The flatness of the gyuto spine and the curve of its edge gives way to a sharper, more defined point. The subtle curvature of the santoku edge and downturned spine produces a less sharp point. It resembles the shape of a sheep’s hoof.
The edges differ as well. A gyuto knife has a curved edge, but a santoku’s blade edge is only slightly curved — almost straight, depending on the brand.
Aesthetically, both types of knives often differ in design elements. And depending on the brand, they feature a high level of artistry.
For example, Shun santoku and gyuto blades feature San Mai edges or cladded Damascus patterns of layered steel.
A santoku often features a Granton edge, while a gyuto typically doesn’t. The Granton edge has small, rounded indentations that create air pockets to repel food from the knife.
Although both are all-purpose knives, the gyuto is more versatile.
A gyuto is essentially a chef’s knife. The curved edge lends itself to the rock chop technique. This technique involves gliding the knife through food with a back and forth, up and down motion. The edge maintains contact with the cutting board throughout the motion.
You can use a gyuto to:
- Break down meats of all sizes and thickness
- Debone or disjoint meats, such as poultry
- Cut thick vegetables or fruit
- Create pockets in meat to add spices, butter, or herbs
- Slice, dice, mince, or crush a variety of foods
Due to its straight edge, the santoku is perfect for chopping or a technique called push or thrust cutting.
You can chop using a straight up and down motion or hold the tip on the cutting board and lift the heel up and down (this technique is ideal for herbs and small ingredients).
Push or thrust cutting in when you propel the knife forward and down simultaneously.
You can use a santoku to:
- Slice, dice, or chop plant-based foods
- Slice or cut meat
- Mince meat, herbs, or garlic
- Produce fine, precision cuts of meat, vegetables, fruit, or seafood
- Scoop food from cutting board
Both knives have similar uses, but a santoku is better for chopping, push cutting, and making straight cuts, while a gyuto is better for rock chopping, navigating around bones, making slits, and cutting through firm ingredients.
Generally, a gyuto blade is longer than that of a santoku. However, blades for each type of knife are available in multiple lengths.
Some brands like Miyabi and Shun often call gyuto knives chef’s knives or cook’s knives and offer them in lengths from 5.5–10 inches.
Seven inches is the most common blade length for santoku knives, but 5-inch blades are also popular. Gyuto blades are typically 8 inches long, but 6- and 10-inch blades are also common.
While the materials, construction, and length all impact weight, gyuto knives are often heavier than santoku knives.
The table below shows the weight of several popular santoku and gyuto knives:
|Shun Cutlery Premier||7-inch santoku||10.4 ounces|
|Global Classic||7-inch santoku||10.6 ounces|
|Miyabi Mizu||7-inch santoku||7.7 ounces|
|Zwilling Kanren||7-inch santoku||7.8 ounces|
|Shun Cutlery Classic||7-inch gyuto||10.7 ounces|
|Shun Cutlery Kanso||8-inch gyuto||7.0 ounces|
|Miyabi Birchwood||8-inch gyuto||18.8 ounces|
|Global Classic||8-inch gyuto||7.8 ounces|
Almost all gyuto knives are double-bevel. You might be able to find a few single-bevel gyuto knives, but they’re rare.
A double-bevel knife is ground and sharpened on both sides of the blade.
A single-bevel knife is ground and sharpened on one side, so you’ll need to get a right- or left-handed knife (unless you’re ambidextrous).
Single-bevel knives are incredibly sharp, but since the edge angle is so small, they’re prone to chipping. That’s why all-purpose knives like the santoku and gyuto are usually double-beveled.
Most santoku and gyuto knives are sharpened to a 15- or 16-degree angle or less per side (extremely sharp). However, the exact sharpness depends on the brand and collection.
Gyuto knives tend to be slightly more expensive than santoku knives, mainly due to the length of the blade. Santoku blades range between 5- and 7 inches.
Some gyuto knives are as long as 10-inches, though most range between 6- and 8-inches. The more steel — the higher the costs.
Prices vary based on the materials, brand, and collection. For example, a rosewood-handled knife will command a higher price than one with a synthetic or plastic handle.
The chart below shows the current prices of popular santoku and gyuto knives.
|Miyabi Birchwood 7-Inch Santoku Knife||Amazon|
|Misen 7.5-Inch Santoku Knife||Amazon|
|Henckels Classic 7-Inch Santoku Knife||Amazon|
|Shun Premier 7-Inch Santoku Knife||Amazon|
|Shun Classic Blonde 7-Inch Santoku Knife||Amazon|
|Wusthof Classic 7-Inch Santoku Knife||Amazon|
|Mac 6.5-Inch Santoku Knife||Amazon|
|Yoshihiro 8.25-Inch Gyuto Knife||Amazon|
|FAMCÜTE 8-Inch Gyuto Knife||Amazon|
|Shun Classic Blonde 8-Inch Gyuto Knife||Amazon|
|Miyabi Mizu 8-Inch Gyuto Knife||Amazon|
|Findking 8-Inch Gyuto Knife||Amazon|
|Masamoto 79.5-Inch Gyuto Knife||Amazon|
Bottom Line: Do You Need a Santoku, Gyuto, or Both?
Should you buy a santoku or a gyuto knife? Do you need both?
Before I give you my recommendation, let’s quickly recap the main differences.
- The gyuto has a flat spine and curved edge that creates a sharp, fine point. The santoku has a downturned spine and a gently curved edge, creating a less defined point.
- Gyuto’s curved edge and sharp tip make it the ultimate all-purpose knife. You can perform nearly all cutting techniques, including rock chopping.
- Santoku’s straighter edge makes it ideal for chopping up and down or performing the push or thrust technique.
- Gyuto knife blades are generally longer than santoku blades. The large blade means they’re usually heavier and more expensive.
Bottom line — santoku and gyuto knives are both versatile tools. If you only have the budget for one knife, buy a gyuto. It can do everything the santoku can, but its pointy tip and curved edge make it even more versatile.
You don’t need both knives, but if you can afford it, having a gyuto and santoku knife available makes life in the kitchen easier.
Use the gyuto for larger ingredients, meat, and rock chopping herbs, and use the santoku for chopping vegetables and making uniform slices.
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