There are all kinds of knives out there that you can add to your collection, but for most true knife enthusiasts and professionals that use knives often, no set is complete without one or a few Japanese knives.
But, with the huge variety of Japanese knives out there given that blades have been forged in the country for a way much longer time than in many other places, choosing what to buy can be a little hectic. This is more so when you have to choose between two amazing knives like Nakiri and Santoku.
The two are the most widely used Japanese knives both in Japan and in the western world, and it will be an even better idea to have both. But, if you just want one, then knowing their differences will help you make an informed choice.
Below we explain what they are all about and the merits and drawbacks of each and also highlight their main differences.
When translated from Japanese, the term Nakiri means a knife or blade for cutting vegetables, and so from the translation, it should be clear what this popular knife is built for.
The Nakiri knife will be characterized by a straight-edge blade design which will also have some squared-off lips. This blade design makes it possible to cut all the way through vegetables when using a horizontal push/pull motion.
With the flat blade on the Nakiri knife, you can also get some thinner and highly even slices, and because the edge is straight, you can cut in a more fluid chopping action with no need to rock the blade.
Many users also appreciate the fact that this blade allows them to cut even the most delicate vegetables without damaging them.
The only significant shortcoming with this knife is that it has not been built to be very versatile as it will not cut anything else that is not a vegetable such as meat very well. Hence, it will not be very handy in the kitchen when not dealing with vegetables.
- Thin and more even slicing
- Straight edge allows for more fluid chopping
- Nice, clean cuts
- Great for delicate vegetables
- Will not work well for anything else besides vegetables
Santoku is a multipurpose Japanese knife that can be very resourceful in the kitchen. In Japanese, the term Santoku means a knife of three virtues, and it will typically be used for cutting vegetables, meat, and fish.
This knife comes in a shorter length that makes it much easier to handle, and it will also feature a blade that is symmetrically ground and with a blade angle of 10 to 15 degrees per side.
Also, many users will love that it feels more balanced and that it is often made from a thicker Damascus steel which makes it relatively more durable.
The blade shape is more like a regular chef’s knife and those meant for professional use will have Kataba edge while the ones for common or regular use will come with a Ryba edge.
One of the few and most significant complaints that many Santoku users make is that the handle tends to be quite small, and this is more so for those that have larger than average hands.
- More versatile knife
- Well balanced feel
- Often highly durable
- Often highly durable
Straight with squared-off lips (rectangular-shaped)
Wide sheepsfoot blade but with no tip
6 to 7 inches
5 to 7.9 inches
15 degrees per side
10 to 15 degrees per side
Japanese or Western
A little heavier
Average Price Range
$30 to $200
$20 to $180
Nakiri vs. Santoku
You should not have difficulties picking between the Nakiri and Santoku knives as they are quite different from how they look to what they are meant for. Here is a more in-depth overview of the things that set the two amazing knives apart.
1. Blade Design
The blade design or appearance is the most obvious difference between the two Japanese knives and the most reliable way to tell them apart. Once you know which one is which, it is hard to confuse them given that they are quite different.
Also, the design of the blade should give you some idea of what they are meant for and how they cut if you know your knives well.
Nakiri knives will come with a straighter blade design with squared lips which is designed to allow it to cut cleanly through the vegetables to the chopping board using a horizontal pull or push motion.
Santoku knives will have a wide sheepsfoot blade but unlike other similar-looking knives such as the chef’s knife, they will not have a tip. Instead, the blade will include a dull spine on the blade’s back that curves down smoothly to meet the blade’s straight-edged front.
2. Best Uses
Although in many homes knives will not always be used for the purpose they are built for, it is always a wise idea to know what your particular knife is designed for to get the best service from it.
Another key difference between the Nakiri and Santoku is what they are meant for which should be very clear from what their names mean.
Nakiri is meant for slicing and chopping different kinds of vegetables on a chopping board. The overall design and blade size allow it to excel at this. When you want to make some thin and even slices the flat blade will be perfect, and when you want to make clean cuts through vegetables, the flat edge will make this easier for you.
Read More: The Best Vegetable Slicers
With Santoku, you get a more multipurpose knife that has been built for slicing, mincing, and dicing, and it will be perfect for cutting vegetables, meat and fish. This means you will end up using it more than you would use the Nakiri which should explain why it is more popular.
3. Blade Length
Nowadays, knife manufactures seem to break away from tradition and norms when it comes to making different kinds of knives, and they will give their blades almost any length they want.
Traditionally, the Nakiri and Santoku knives have around the same blade length, but nowadays this depends on the manufacturer.
Typically, you can get the Nakiri knife with a blade of anything between 6 and 7 inches with the 6-inch blades being the most common. However, there are still some modern variations that can have blades even longer than 7 inches.
Santoku knives will come with 5 to 7.9-inch blades and many users will prefer to have longer blades so that they can also use the knife like a chef knife alternative for some cuts.
4. Blade Angle
The blade angle of the knife determines how it will cut and also how long it will maintain the sharp edge, and so this is a crucial factor to consider as you choose between these two knives.
Nakiri knives will typically have the Japanese Ryoba edge which means both sides will be angled. In most instances, they will be angled at 15 degrees per side, and this is perfect for making thin vegetable slices. However, this also leaves a very thin blade edge which will not be very useful for heavy-duty cutting applications.
For the Santoku knives, you can get both Ryoba and Kataba edges depending on the purpose of the knife. Kataba edges often have a thinner blade angle that makes them perfect for making thin slices but will be more appropriate for professional while the Ryoba will be more like what you get on the Nakiri.
In numbers, Santoku knives will have a blade angle of 10 to 15 degrees on one side which makes a total angle of 20 to 30 degrees. But, those that have a Kataba edge can sometimes have a blade angle of under 10 degrees on one side which makes them harder to use without special skills and experience.
5. Handle Style
The handle style that you get with many modern knives is not exactly how they were made where they originated from. Hence, you should not be surprised that the handle you get on your Nakiri or Santoku is nothing like what the traditional knives back in Japan use.
With both knives, you will get either a Japanese handle or Western handle style depending on the manufacturer you are buying from. But, more and more brands are now using the Western-style as they try to give the knives a more modern look.
However, in many instances, most brands try to maintain a more classic Japanese handle style for their Santoku knives.
Just like other key things like the blade material and angle, the weight of your knife will also affect everything from how easy it will be to use to how it will cut.
While both the Nakiri and Santoku will be typically lighter than an average kitchen knife. They will differ in weight, and given the different blade size and design, this should be obvious.
The shape and size of Santoku make it feel more balanced and many users will find it easier to wield as compared to the Nakiri which often feels a little heavier.
With these knives, the price will mostly depend on who you are buying from, the size of the knife and also the materials used to make it.
But, overall the Nakiri knives tend to be a little more expensive than the Santoku as their prices will often range between $30 and $200 compared to the latter whose typical price range is from a little over $20 to around $180.
With both knives it is important to note that there are some that will still cost more than $200, and this is more so when buying from expensive high end brands like Wusthof and Shun.
A good knife set or collection should always include all kinds of knives from the various Western-style knives to the more traditional Asian-style knives like the two popular Japanese knives, the Nakiri and Santoku.
And if you were still not sure which one between these two amazing knives will work best for you, things should now be clear as our comparison above explains what sets these two amazing knives apart.
For those thinking of trying out these knives, they will be ideal for different situations and uses. If you are looking for something that will make vegetable chopping and slicing quicker and easier, the Nakiri is what you need to buy.
But, if like many other knife enthusiasts and home users you prefer something more versatile that will do a lot more in the kitchen besides just cutting vegetables, the Santoku is perfect.