Best Santoku Knife of 2021
The J.A. Henckels International Hollow Edge is one of the sharpest knives in this review. It takes a top spot for its consistent, high-quality cuts. It easily slices through onions and chops herbs without bruising them. We find that this knife is well-balanced and feels just weighty enough in hand to provide efficient and fluid chopping power. This full-tang forged blade with a triple-riveted handle is just right for almost any kitchen cutting task.
Though it performs well as a slicer, it is surprisingly uncomfortable to hold. The bolster is very sharply angled, and its corners just downright hurt when using the knife with a traditional pinch grip. It's an odd oversight for an otherwise well-crafted knife; however, we think it can be a reliable kitchen companion that we would turn to before any other.
The Kai Pure Komachi 2 is a solid budget option. It comes with a protective sheath, and its coated stainless steel blade and plastic handle are both super easy to clean. For those who prioritize durability over aesthetics, this is a great choice. Our testers found that it was reasonably comfortable and sharp enough out of the box, and the high clearance of the handle protects knuckles from contacting the cutting board.
We don't have a whole lot to knock about this blade. Our primary observation is that it is all-around average, and that might just be what you need. The materials look and feel inexpensive, and it doesn't have the same gravitas as the other full-size top contenders. In the end, you get what you pay for, and what you pay for is a reliable slicer that is easy to maintain.
The Kyocera Advanced Ceramic is a super sharp santoku knife with a ceramic blade. It excels pretty uniformly for delicate herbs, or on firmer veggies, like carrots. Its small size makes it a good option for people with small hands. It's a nimble knife that allows for precise cuts. It could even be a great beginner knife for children looking to improve their skills in the kitchen. It is comfortable to hold, its plastic handle is durable, and the whole thing is easy to wash.
Like other short blades, this model doesn't stand up quite as well to hefty root vegetables or produce with thick skin. It is also very lightweight, which could be a plus for some, but also means that it doesn't carry the heft you need for larger chopping jobs. Having said that, we love this knife and recommend it highly.
The Victorinox Santoku is one of our favorites for its versatility, and is razor-sharp right out of the package. It has a thin blade that makes it well-suited for delicate, precise slices, but is also long enough that it can handle larger vegetables. This model would be a nice addition for someone looking to test out a santoku knife for the first time, or for anyone who doesn't spend a ton of time in the kitchen and feels like they only need one high-utility option.
For everything that this knife brings, elegance doesn't seem to be part of the package. It performs well, but its plastic handle is pretty basic. Though it is reasonably comfortable to grip, there is no transition between the blade and handle. We don't have a lot of criticism for this knife, so if you need a solid go-to, this one is worth a strong look.
The Mosfiata Super Sharp is one of the most comfortable knives that we tested. It has an exceptionally well-designed bolster with a gradual slope that conforms beautifully to fingers. Its finished composite handle looks nice, and it has a stainless steel blade with surface etching meant to emulate the pattern of Damascus steel. It handles reasonably well for cutting tasks that don't require a ton of precision.
This knife looks great, but we found that it struggled just a little bit with some basic jobs. The blade is fairly sharp, but it also exerts a disproportionate amount of drag on produce like onions. During our slicing test, the knife made it through vegetables but our testers reported that each stroke required a confusing amount of force to 'recover' the knife to bring it back for the next slice. We think that this santoku is right for those who want a supremely comfortable grip, and don't mind doing a little extra work to process their produce.
The DALSTRONG Shogun Series Damascus is an elegant and sharp blade. It is supremely comfortable in hand. It has a smooth, gently angled bolster that all but eliminates abrasions during extended use. It has a protective sheath, which helps keep it sharp, and its substantial handle and good balance contribute to an almost superior experience.
We were slightly disappointed with how this knife performed during testing. The edge was plenty sharp, but our testers reported feeling a lot of drag behind the blade, especially with thicker or high-moisture produce. It's on the pricier side as well, so we think that there are other models that can offer greater utility from the cost. However, if you want a knife that looks good and cuts well-enough, the DALSTRONG fits the bill.
The Farberware 5119324 is a mighty mini knife. It is great for produce of a particular diameter and density (think zucchini, brussel sprouts, or carrots; it also manages garlic fairly well). It is very inexpensive relative to the rest of the pack and chops well-above its weight class. The handle is plastic but feels almost silicone-like and is easy and comfortable to grip.
The primary downside to this knife is that its size limits its versatility. You can get through a butternut squash with it if you have to, but we wouldn't recommend it. Its handle also has relatively low clearance from a cutting board, so you have to watch your knuckles to make sure you can cut all the way through whatever is in front of you. Those things aside, this is an excellent low-cost option for those who want a low-maintenance knife for small jobs.
The Mercer Culinary Santoku is a comparatively inexpensive pleasant surprise. It is comfortable to hold and well-balanced. Despite its lightweight, it still performs well on everyday slicing and chopping. It doesn't provide the most refined precision cuts, but the blade is thin enough and sharp enough that it will get the most common jobs of slicing onions or chopping herbs satisfactorily done.
The drawbacks of this blade mostly come with the price point. It has only a partial tang (meaning the blade only extends partway into the handle). It also has a flat face, which produce sticks to and stacks up on more than normal. The handle itself is unfinished wood, which means that it is liable to wear more quickly than those with a plastic or finished wood composite handle. However, if you are looking for your first full-size santoku knife at a reasonable price, we think you will enjoy this one.
The Wusthof 4182 is a short, sharp santoku that handles small tasks well. In daily use, we found that it made quick work of garlic, shallots, onions, and herbs. Because of its size and weight, it is very nimble and feels like an extension of the hand. The handle is also recessed enough that even given its tiny size, it still provides plenty of cutting board clearance for knuckles.
The downsides of this knife come down to aesthetics and comfort. It has a riveted plastic handle, which visually doesn't compare to the elegance of finished wood. It also suffers from a metal bolster with oddly sharp angles that we found are abrasive with repeated use. However, all things considered, this model makes a great complement to a full-size knife.
The Hammer Stahl 7.5-Inch is a behemoth of a blade. The handle is made from a combination of steel and pakkawood, giving it a distinctive look. The bolster is relatively smooth and comfortable to grip. We found that this knife performed reasonably effectively on basic tasks that don't require much precision.
Typically, knives with some weight behind them make chopping easier but as one of the heaviest models in this review, it drifts too far into 'clunky' territory. The blade itself is thick and the metal is heavy. Using this knife for an extended period of time is tiring. On top of that, we didn't find it to be especially sharp out of the box and its precision is lacking. It comes with a lot of flair though, so if you want a unique-looking knife, this is that.
Why You Should Trust Us
We purchase all of the products that we test at GearLab at retail prices. With over five years of experience in commercial kitchens, lead reviewer Ben Applebaum-Bauch brings his experience with a wide array of specialty knives to this table. Researching and testing with GearLab for almost four years, he has reviewed hundreds of consumer goods in that time, including nakiri knives, as well as other kitchen products. In addition, as a lifelong home cook, he brings his passion for experimentation and precision to this review.
We put these santoku knives through the same rigorous testing process as all of our products. We start by researching the market and selecting models that we think will be top contenders. We assess each blade in a handful of metrics, including cutting (i.e., chopping, slicing, and julienning), as well as their comfort, balance, and durability. We used each model to chop herbs, slice an onion, and julienne a carrot. During testing, we took note of their grip, measured and marked their centerline of mass, and assess any components, including the blade, hilt, and handle, that, over time, might wear disproportionately.
Analysis and Test Results
Here we more thoroughly outline the definitions of each metric and share our findings for each one. The metrics are ordered here in terms of how important we think they are, but if you find that prioritize one or two a little bit differently, we encourage you to weigh those accordingly to find the Santoku knife that is most right for you.
We use the term 'cutting' generally, but within this metric, there are different techniques we employed with each knife. We chopped herbs, sliced onions, and julienned carrots for our controlled tests. We also used each knife with a variety of produce to see how each model performed on a daily basis over the course of a month.
We found some pleasant surprises. Some top all-around performers include the J.A. Henckels International Hollow Edge and the Victorinox Santoku. The former has both the heft to make its way through hearty produce and the sharpness to chop herbs without bruising them, while the latter relies on a razor-sharp blade to get the job done and is also highly nimble as a result of its low weight.
Other contenders don't have a lot of heft but come with a sharp blade that proved to be especially adept at slicing. The Kyocera Advanced Ceramic falls into this category, as does the Kai Pure Komachi 2. The shorter knives in the category, including the Farberware 5119324 and Wusthof 4182 both perform admirably for their size and are more than adequate for small-diameter produce.
Most knife grips are serviceable in the short term. However, handles come in many shapes, sizes, and materials. If you are using your santoku knife for a long stretch (say, if you are prepping for a party), especially with a pinch grip, the shape of the bolster can be especially important for user comfort.
The standouts here are the DALSTRONG Shogun Series Damascus and Mosfiata 7" Super Sharp. They both have smooth and very gently curved bolsters that are supremely comfortable to hold with a pinch grip. Several other models are also very comfortable to hold and use. The plastic handles of the Farberware 5119324, Kyocera Advanced Ceramic, Victorinox Santoku, and Kai Pure Komachi 2 are smooth and rounded such that it is easy to avoid blisters and abrasion.
A few models proved to be just uncomfortable. Despite its excellent chopping performance, the bolster of the J.A. Henckels International Hollow Edge has sharp angles and points that can dig in to fingers and caused our testers some discomfort. To a lesser extent, the Hammer Stahl 7.5-Inch and Wusthof 4182 also have bolsters that just don't conform well to a standard grip.
Balance is a state of the knife. As a general rule, a kitchen knife should be balanced such that its center of mass is near the bolster (where the handle meets the blade). This helps to ensure that the knife not only feels good in your hand but performs more efficiently as well. We measure and mark the balance point of each knife and consider the hand-feel and weight of each blade.
We will acknowledge upfront that all of these knives proved to be fairly well-balanced. However, some standouts include the J.A. Henckels International Hollow Edge, which has a nice, slightly handle-heavy balance, and the Victorinox Santoku, which is a very lightweight knife that we found to be nimble in-hand. The Mosfiata 7" Super Sharp and the DALSTRONG Shogun Series Damascus are the two other knives that seem to take balance seriously, with the former executing a little bit better.
The middle-tier contenders are all similar. The Farberware 5119324, Kyocera Advanced Ceramic, and Kai Pure Komachi 2 all happen to be balanced, but they are light enough that it almost seems to be incidental. The monstrous Hammer Stahl 7.5-Inch has a thick blade but an even beefier handle. If this knife was a chair, you might fall backward out of your seat.
Knives need to be cared for. No blade can stay sharp forever, and no handle is absolved from wear that comes with regular use. However, with any knife, you are making an investment and it's not always at the top of every home chef's mind to sharpen and care for their knives regularly. With that in mind, we look at the robustness of blade and handle materials, protective covers, ease of cleaning, and blade resilience.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, we found that some of the least expensive knives proved to be the most durable. Both the Farberware 5119324 and the Kai Pure Komachi 2 are among the easiest to clean and least hassle to maintain. Both also come with a plastic sheath to protect the blade in a drawer. The other fully-plastic handle options are the Victorinox Santoku and Kyocera Advanced Ceramic.
Composite, riveted handles like those found on the Wusthof 4182 and J.A. Henckels International Hollow Edge are also wear-resistant. Some blades are also less delicate than others. Though no knife stays sharp forever, we again found that those with thinner blades require the most care to avoid getting dinged up. Those that maintain their cutting edge reasonably well, even if you don't treat them especially nicely, again include the Farberware 5119324 and Kai Pure Komachi 2.
There are a lot of santoku knives to choose from. However, we hope that our expert review has given you the information you need to make the right decision for you.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch