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Santoku vs. Gyuto Knives: What’s the Difference?

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:

What Is a Santoku Knife?

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 Knife
Santoku Knife

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.

What Is a Gyuto Knife?

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.

Gyuto Knife
Gyuto Knife

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.

SantokuGyuto
OriginJapan, 1940sJapan, late 19th to early 20th century
Best UsesSlicing, 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 ActionChopping or push cuttingRocking chop
Blade DesignDownturned spine, slightly curved blade edge, and less-sharp pointFlat spine, sharply curved blade edge, and sharp point
Blade Length4-7 inches5.5-10 inches
SharpnessSingle or double bevelDouble bevel
WeightWeights vary, but they tend to be lighter than gyuto knives.Tend to be heavier than santoku knives.
PriceVaries by brand (skip to price comparison chart)Varies by brand (skip to price comparison chart)

Differences Between Santoku and Gyuto Knives

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.

Blade Design

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.

Santoku versus Gyuto Blade Profile
Santoku (top) versus Gyuto (bottom)

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.

Damascus pattern on Shun kitchen knife blade
Damascus pattern on Shun gyuto blade

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.

Uses and Technique

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).

Chopping a pepper with a santoku knife
Chopping downward with a santoku knife

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.

Blade Length

Generally, a gyuto blade is longer than that of a santoku. However, blades for each type of knife are available in multiple lengths.

Santoku versus Gyuto Blade Length
Santoku 7-Inch Blade (top) versus Gyuto 8-Inch Blade (bottom)

For example, Wusthof offers santoku knives in 5 and 7-inch lengths in its Classic collection. The Shun Premier collection features 5.5- and 7-inch santoku knives.

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.

Weight 

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:

Brand/CollectionKnifeWeight
Shun Cutlery Premier7-inch santoku10.4 ounces
Global Classic7-inch santoku10.6 ounces
Miyabi Mizu7-inch santoku7.7 ounces
Zwilling Kanren7-inch santoku7.8 ounces
Shun Cutlery Classic7-inch gyuto10.7 ounces
Shun Cutlery Kanso8-inch gyuto7.0 ounces
Miyabi Birchwood8-inch gyuto18.8 ounces
Global Classic8-inch gyuto7.8 ounces

Sharpness

Most santoku knives are double-bevel, but some are single-bevel. For example, the Kamikoto 7-inch santoku knife features a single-bevel edge.

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.

Price

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.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

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.

Ready to buy? The top brands I recommend are Wusthof, Zwilling, Shun, Global, and Victorinox. You can learn more about these options in my Definitive Guide to the Best Kitchen Knife Brands.

Andrew Palermo Founder of Prudent Reviews

Andrew Palermo - About the Author

Andrew is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prudent Reviews. He’s studied consumer buying behavior for 10+ years and has managed marketing campaigns for over a dozen Fortune 500 brands. When he’s not testing the latest home products, he’s spending time with his family, cooking, and doing house projects. Connect with Andrew via emailLinkedIn, or the Prudent Reviews YouTube channel.

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