Recommendation, Santoku?

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Dog

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Hi everyone,

I'm in the market for a "good" kitchen knife in a 7" to 8" length with a flat ish profile (not much belly). I'm very familar with folding knives and outdoor/hunting fixed blades. I also think I have a decent grasp of western kitchen knives. However, Japanese kitchen knives are new to me. I feel like I have a good understanding of blade geometry, the balance of wear resistance and toughness, etc but I guess you don't know what you don't know. My wife does most the cooking. She prefers smaller knives and regularly uses a Victorinox 5" chef knife and a Tojiro dp petty. The Vic regularly finds its way into the dishwasher, but the Tojiro is hand washed. I usually touch them up with a ceramic rod and/or a strop. I give them a full sharpening when needed.

I want to try something bigger and a step up from the Tojiro dp. I'm hesitant to buy something crazy thin...I dont think we need a laser and I have repaired the tip on the Tojiro once. That said I would like to have one knife we baby and keep real nice.

I'm open to any suggestions. Again, I dont know what I dont know. If you were buying your first good kitchen knife all over again what would you buy?

Thanks everyone! I'll put the rest in the questionnaire below.

LOCATION
What country are you in? United States



KNIFE TYPE
What type of knife are you interested in (e.g., chefs knife, slicer, boning knife, utility knife, bread knife, paring knife, cleaver)? Santoku or similar?

Are you right or left handed? Right

Are you interested in a Western handle (e.g., classic Wusthof handle) or Japanese handle? Probably lean Western but not opposed to trying a Japanese handle.

What length of knife (blade) are you interested in (in inches or millimeters)? 7" to 8".

Do you require a stainless knife? (Yes or no) No but the more stain resistant the better.

What is your absolute maximum budget for your knife? Good question. I dont really know. Probably below $200 but I can't say I would never spend more. $150 is better but maybe not realistic:)



KNIFE USE
Do you primarily intend to use this knife at home or a professional environment? Home

What are the main tasks you primarily intend to use the knife for (e.g., slicing vegetables, chopping vegetables, mincing vegetables, slicing meats, cutting down poultry, breaking poultry bones, filleting fish, trimming meats, etc.)? (Please identify as many tasks as you would like.) Slicing, chopping, general food prep. I already have a good fillet knife.

What knife, if any, are you replacing? No replacement.

Do you have a particular grip that you primarily use? (Please click on this LINK for the common types of grips.) Not so much.

What cutting motions do you primarily use? (Please click on this LINK for types of cutting motions and identify the two or three most common cutting motions, in order of most used to least used.) Push cut. Pull cut. Not much rocking.

What improvements do you want from your current knife? If you are not replacing a knife, please identify as many characteristics identified below in parentheses that you would like this knife to have.)

Better edge retention, not real heavy, not as concerned about aesthetics.

Better aesthetics (e.g., a certain type of finish; layered/Damascus or other pattern of steel; different handle color/pattern/shape/wood; better scratch resistance; better stain resistance)?

Comfort (e.g., lighter/heavier knife; better handle material; better handle shape; rounded spine/choil of the knife; improved balance)?

Ease of Use (e.g., ability to use the knife right out of the box; smoother rock chopping, push cutting, or slicing motion; less wedging; better food release; less reactivity with food; easier to sharpen)?

Edge Retention (i.e., length of time you want the edge to last without sharpening)?



KNIFE MAINTENANCE
Do you use a bamboo, wood, rubber, or synthetic cutting board? (Yes or no.) Synthetic

Do you sharpen your own knives? (Yes or no.) Yes

If not, are you interested in learning how to sharpen your knives? (Yes or no.)

Are you interested in purchasing sharpening products for your knives? (Yes or no.)
Yes. If needed. I do pretty good with what I have.


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M1k3

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MrHiggins

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One year, I bought three Takamura Cromax 210 gyutos as Christmas gifts for my coworkers. They're all home cooks who had never really given their knives much thought. The knives were met with universal praise and, three years later, the recipients are still thanking me and I sharpen them every couple of months for them. They've held up great. So ... If you can find one, I think it would fit the bill.

Here's a comprehensive review:

 

Jovidah

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Don't think I'd go for a Mazaki if you're leaning to stainless; the cladding is quite reactive.
Takamura can work but IMO it's not for pinch grippers and it is in that thin laser category. Cuts very well though, and great value.
 

AT5760

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I'd consider one of these two. Both are within your budget and lean toward stainless and longer edge retention.


 

chefwp

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I tried to find a bunka knife in stock that would meet your other criteria, as I think the tip better serves a cook more than a typical santoku, but I could not find any in stock.

This santoku comes in under budget and I think is a fantastic knife for the price from the description (caveat: I have never used this particular one, but am familiar with the Hitohira brand, and it is good). Note, while it is stainless clad, the edge steel is reactive carbon, you will need to keep this knife clean and dry while not in use. I really always recommend that people that want to get serious about using and caring for knives properly get used to keeping them clean and dry while not in use, out of the dishwasher, and stored properly <i.e. not banging around loose in some drawer>. A not-well-known-fact is that even high carbon stainless knifes corrode on a level not visible to the naked eye if not cared for in this way.

good luck in your quest!
 

HumbleHomeCook

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Let me also add some personal philosophy (opinion) here...

As someone who was also really into sporting/EDC knives for many years, I would say to not be too concerned with steel type for this purchase right now. There's a broader performance preference to tougher steels that are often (rightly or wrongly) shunned in the EDC world. If you can sharpen, that mitigates most of that anyway. Starting out, especially under $200, I would place a much higher priority on shape and design and learning what you like and don't.

And don't fear carbon, especially Aogami Super. It isn't nearly as bad is sometimes made out. You just need to wipe it off and keep it dry. :)
 

coffeelover191919

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dunno if it'll Suite you but fwiw I just picked up the yoshikane Hammered SKD 180mm Santoku from epic edge. yoshikane quality, fit and finish, free shipping, skd semi stainless steel.
 

Benuser

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You may consider a stainless cladded with a carbon core. Only the small exposed core part is reactive as long as no patina has installed -- which happens within a few days. From there on, daily maintenance is just as easy as a stainless, but with the Aogami Super performance and easy sharpening. In this case, very hard, but without the slightest trace of brittleness. Best edge retention I have ever experienced under harsh circumstances. As long as you keep it thin behind the edge you may sharpen it conservatively and enjoy a spectacular performance. Personally I would prefer a 180mm gyuto, but I'm a forward slicer.
 

ModRQC

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Yoshikane SKD 180mm was a nice Santoku.

IDK why I sort of ended up with a preference for Bunkas... and none so tall as the Yoshi Santoku. There are Nakiris for that. Still, it was a better Yoshi than the dead spot Gyuto I tried.

Deep Impact are pretty good knives too. Good place to start if you feel for a heavier, more neutrally balanced knife than Wa Santokus tend to be.

If you want a tall Santoku that pretty much doubles up as a Nakiri, you could at least take a look at Masashi Blue#1 SS Clad from Yoshihiro Cutlery. Or if you can ever find a VS2 unit, it's pretty much the same steel as Yoshi SKD. Knifewear carry some of these but can't remember seeing Santokus.
 

Dog

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Let me also add some personal philosophy (opinion) here...

As someone who was also really into sporting/EDC knives for many years, I would say to not be too concerned with steel type for this purchase right now. There's a broader performance preference to tougher steels that are often (rightly or wrongly) shunned in the EDC world. If you can sharpen, that mitigates most of that anyway. Starting out, especially under $200, I would place a much higher priority on shape and design and learning what you like and don't.

And don't fear carbon, especially Aogami Super. It isn't nearly as bad is sometimes made out. You just need to wipe it off and keep it dry. :)
So this all makes sense. I actually tend to tougher steels in folders (14c28n, Cruwear, M4, etc). The challenge with shape and design is I really have no idea what I will like. Help me understand the advantage of Arogami Super over something like SLD (similar to D2?) or Chromax (similar to A2?)...I guess there is too much steel nerd in me to suppress the curiosity:)
 

HumbleHomeCook

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So this all makes sense. I actually tend to tougher steels in folders (14c28n, Cruwear, M4, etc). The challenge with shape and design is I really have no idea what I will like. Help me understand the advantage of Arogami Super over something like SLD (similar to D2?) or Chromax (similar to A2?)...I guess there is too much steel nerd in me to suppress the curiosity:)

"Advantage" as you know, is subjective and relative. I mentioned it specifically as it is one of the least reactive carbon steels so it can be a nice introduction into that world. It also has outstanding edge retention, while still being quite sharpener-friendly. I have stainless clad AS in an Akifusa 180mm gyuto and love it. Now, all the same rules apply as it would to say 1095 or Shirogami 1. No dishwasher, no leaving it on the counter for 20 minutes after use, etc. But, you'll find you also don't have to fret over them in the way it often seems when you're new. Soft/wrought/iron cladding, in my experience, is almost always more reactive than the core steel regardless of what it is. But even then, I have found most of those to be not too troublesome.

SLD is one of those steels that some consider stainless and others call semi-stainless. I tend to fall into the latter camp as in the EDC world 10+ or even 13+ chromium is the typical delineator to be considered stainless. In the kitchen cutlery world, that cut off is often much lower. I have one example of SLD in an Ittetsu X-Hammer 165mm bunka and it is not troublesome at all. It is also thin and hard enough that, at least with my one knife, I haven't had any of the sharpening struggles that D2, especially in thicker edged knives, can sometimes cause people.

I don't have any Chromax but by all accounts it is excellent, especially from Takamura. On Takamura, keep in mind these are thin knives so care in use will be more important than rust, regardless of the chosen steel.

I would also say, fear not VG-10. I know in the EDC world this is seen as a passé steel and many in the kitchen cutlery world aren't fond of it but I have no issues with it at all and find it makes a fine steel in the kitchen.

In addition to AS and SLD, in carbon I have White 1, Blue 1 and 2, and SK, with only the AS being stainless clad. I honestly don't find any of them troublesome. The cladding on the B1 pairing knife is a touch more reactive than I wish it was but no biggy and if it does develop an orange haze, a little Bar Keepers Friend cleans it right up.

Silver 3/Ginsan/Ginsanko/G3 is a stainless that sharpens very much like a carbon, in my experience I'd say it is very much like the shirogami (white) family. Easy to sharpen but not quite as good edge retention as many others. But, it is so responsive to a few stropping strokes that I don't find edge retention to be an issue at all. This is an awesome stainless that I love and I'm tossing out as it is a steel that you never hear of in the EDC world and can be a little confusing when you first encounter it.

As for the size, design, etc. preferences you will have, well, there's no better way than experimentation. Do your research and try to narrow in on things that up front appeal to you but odds are, you're going to end up going through a few knives before you really start bracketing your likes.

Some will say start with quality knives that cost more as you're likely to get better grinds and fit and finish. A note here, I don't tend to find "bad" heat treats in lower end brands, or most any brand. Some do steels better, but even on the lower end, heat treats are usually pretty good and it is other features that suffer. Anyway, you can go this route and either absorb the cost or re-sell on the forum's BST.

My path was to go with lower end knives with a focus on size, shape and steel. Tsunehisa, Tadafusa, Honesuki, Masakane, and others. 210mm gyutos, tall gyutos, shorter gyutos, flat bunka, curved bunka, nakiri, etc. What I've learned about my likes is steel is not high in priorities, I perfer carbon cladding if I get a carbon edge, I like 180mm and thin, nimble slicers. It was the development of these things when I pulled the trigger on the Akifusa and am now eyeing a 180mm bunka. Incidentally, none of the "budget" knives I have are actually bad and all handle/preform well so it isn't like they were a waste of money. Some absolutely suffer in the F&F area and a couple of the grinds aren't the greatest but I don't regret any of them.
 
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Dog

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Thanks for all the great info and suggestions! How would the Yoshihiro SKD santoku compare to the takamura? It looks like it costs a little more, a little shorter, but available. Is it as thin? It seems that Yoshihiro's SKD gets good reviews. Im assuming Aogami Super would probably hold a fine edge a little longer but be more reactive. Im not afraid of carbon steels, but we do cut a lot of tomatoes, lemons and limes...maybe not enough to matter...
 

Jovidah

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As a very rough generalization (with plenty of exceptions), carbon should generally sharpen easier and faster to sharpen, but you have to be less lazy on cleanup and maintenance. Whether that's a worthwile tradeoff is up to you. In the end a knife steel has limited influence on how a knife performs, it mostly influences how long it performs as it does. In the end there's good optionsi n every steel type, and in general I'd say focus on getting the right knife / knife maker first and then worry about what exact steel.

I only have a Yoshi and Takamura gyuto, not a santoku, but comparing those:
-Actual cutting performance on wedgy stuff isn't far apart, both are really thin behind the edge.
-Food release is similarish; nothing to write home about on either.
-Yoshi has a fatter spine and feels stiffer and a bit more weighty and forward heavy as a result. Total weight is lower on the Takamuras too.
-Ergonomics for pinch grippers are noticably better on the Yoshikane; fatter spine and eased spine / choil, compared to the sharp edges on Takamura. If you don't pinch grip it comes down to whether you prefer wa or western. I'd say here are the biggest differences between the two.
-Both are in the rather delicate category IMO and feel as such when handling (due to being really thin behind the edge).
-Both are in the (practically) stainless category, so no issues with acidic ingredients. Yoshi takes a slight patina over time. Wouldn't leave either dirty overnight.
-Profile is flatter on Yoshi gyutos vs Takamura gyutos, but that's very much a personal preference thing.
-The Takamura is quite a lot cheaper. As in, potentially half the price.
 

coffeelover191919

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Thanks for all the great info and suggestions! How would the Yoshihiro SKD santoku compare to the takamura? It looks like it costs a little more, a little shorter, but available. Is it as thin? It seems that Yoshihiro's SKD gets good reviews. Im assuming Aogami Super would probably hold a fine edge a little longer but be more reactive. Im not afraid of carbon steels, but we do cut a lot of tomatoes, lemons and limes...maybe not enough to matter...
I wouldn't worry about skd steel and anything acid. I cut lemons and limes all day with my blue #2 unclad petty. even left the juices on for 15-20mins at a time. you'll be fine as. long as you eventually wash it and dry it.

that yoshikane skd is nice!
 

Dog

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I read back through everyone's recommendations. I understand the importance of finding the right knife design. The problem is I just really don't know. I suspect I'll just have to try a knife or two or three to figure it out. I think I'm leaning to a takamura in chromax if I can find one anytime soon. It seems like a more affordable way to experiment, which is part of the fun I suppose. Any suggestions on a knife in SKD12 or R2 thats not as thin? Also, does anyone have experience with the Gihei in SLD or Hap40? I can see the advantage of a fine grained carbon steel if a super thin laser is the goal, but honestly I'm afraid we would break it...Maybe I dont know what I'm missing. Im not really afraid of steels that are a little more difficult to sharpen as I have had good luck sharpening steels like ZDP189 in knives that are fairly thick behind the edge. I know steel is somewhat of a secondary consideration to the right design, but that seems to be very personal. At least to a degree.
 

coffeelover191919

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in your OP you mentioned 7-8in, relatively flat profile, kind of not want a laser but kind of do. I think you'd like the Yoshikane SKD 210 gyuto (from knivesandstones.us) Its not a cheap first knife, but it has the thin edge of a laser, but the spine of an everyday knife thats comfortable to hold in pinch grip. SKD is semi stainless so you can leave it wet for 10-20 mins at a time without worrying about rust.
 

Delat

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Lots of good suggestions already offered. Here’s one more in full stainless. I have the 210 gyuto version and like it a lot - it’s not a laser, but it’s a tough, worry-free knife and a solid performer. Keeps a useable edge for a long time. I have several lasers and near-lasers but still reach for my Kamo more than any of the others. Kamo does a great job with R2, imho.

The choil shot of this one looks a bit different from mine, possibly thinner behind the edge.

 

MrHiggins

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Hey Dog - I'm glad to hear that you're leaning towards the Takamura chromax. I think it's just about the ideal first Japanese style knife. Thin, but still tough (not tough like a German knife, but less likely to break than most Japanese knives). Too bad they're out of stock everywhere.

As for shape: there's a reason why gyutos dominate the market. The traditional chef's knife that most of us are used to has a lot of advantages, so I recommend you get a 180 or 210 gyuto.

I also highly recommed at least stainless clad. If you're not used to wiping down your knives, I think iron clad knives will disappoint you by rusting or creating an ugly patina (compare the two ongoing patina threads on this forum to see the difference between beautiful patinas and not-so-beautiful patinas).

Regarding breaking the knife, your new knife (whatever you choose) will be much thinner at the edge and much more brittle than you may be used to. Use care because chips (even big chips) can be a reality. That said, they're meant to be used, and you should. Just don't abuse them.

Get whatever steel you want! My first Japanese knife was HAP40, because it intrigued me. It was a huge factor in my choice, and I have no regrets. I think you should follow your passions, and if you're a steel nerd, then embrace that!

Let us know how it goes.
 

HumbleHomeCook

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I read back through everyone's recommendations. I understand the importance of finding the right knife design. The problem is I just really don't know. I suspect I'll just have to try a knife or two or three to figure it out. I think I'm leaning to a takamura in chromax if I can find one anytime soon. It seems like a more affordable way to experiment, which is part of the fun I suppose. Any suggestions on a knife in SKD12 or R2 thats not as thin? Also, does anyone have experience with the Gihei in SLD or Hap40? I can see the advantage of a fine grained carbon steel if a super thin laser is the goal, but honestly I'm afraid we would break it...Maybe I dont know what I'm missing. Im not really afraid of steels that are a little more difficult to sharpen as I have had good luck sharpening steels like ZDP189 in knives that are fairly thick behind the edge. I know steel is somewhat of a secondary consideration to the right design, but that seems to be very personal. At least to a degree.
Something to keep in mind with Japanese cutlery are the things you need to be mindful of in use. Scraping across the board with the edge can be problematic, hard items can be an issue, the subtle twists and tweaks you ay well normally make when cutting can be disastrous. When I got my first Japanese knife I was really surprised to discover joust how much I tweaked the knife, especially when it hit the board. You don't really notice with softer western style knives but when you get a nice thin edge, you definitely hear and feel it if you do it. And with a high hardness, thin edge, than can be a no-BS terminal problem.

Obviously everything is sort of on a sliding scale so the further up the hardness and thinness you go the more prone to problems and vice versa. But, of course that same to can be applied to slicing performance, etc.

For a first Japanese knife, especially one intended for a more general purpose role, the more resilient steels can be excellent way to start. Tsunehisa's Ginsan is an excellent example. Well made, good performers (significant step up from western knives) and in a steel that will give you a lot of the Japanese knife steel experience and still be comparably tough.

Just more food for thought is all. Nothing wrong with diving right in, just be cautious and very mindful when you first start using your knife.
 
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I am not too far down the Jknife path. I bought my first Santoku last year. I chose to go with a Takamura R2.

I had been using a Victronix Santoku that I really liked the size and weight. For me, a Gyuto feels too big.

Coming from EDC, I wanted a good, powered steel. I love the thinness of the Takamura blades.

I since bought my daughter a Tojiro DP Gyuto. It ia a nicely made knife, but it does not glide through produce like the Takamura R2.

It is not overly fragile. In the I the year I have had it, I have only sharpened it twice. For me, it is everything that shows off the difference between German knives and Japanese knives.

I believe MTC Kitchen does have stock on these.
 

Justinv

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Also, does anyone have experience with the Gihei in SLD or Hap40?
yes, a hap40 santoku from CKTG. Its very thin, 1.5mm spine, and has some flex. Great steel, holds an edge for a really long time, I find it easy to sharpen. The factory edge was weak but no problems after its first sharpening. Thats common. Fit and finish could be better.
 
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