There are a lot more knife companies in 2022 than 10 years ago which makes buying a good knife more complicated even for chefs. So when I was recently asked by a Japanese knife company called Syosaku to review one of their knives, I jumped at the chance.
The knife in question is called Santoku which is an all purpose chef’s knife. The name Santoku means the “three virtues” because it is designed to chop, slice and dice. This knife is handcrafted and currently costs $199.99 on Syosaku’s own Japanese website or if you live in the UK, you can buy from their Amazon shop, for £149.99. The material used for the handle is Magnolia, which is a hard wood and has a fine grain making it water-resistant and non-slip. Obviously this Santoku looks like a top quality knife, let see how it performs!
Japanese versus German knives
Historically, both Germany and Japan make professional quality kitchen knives but they use a different production process. German brands like Henckels or Wusthof are forged from one solid piece of high-carbon stainless steel scoring 56 and 58 on the Rockwell scale. This makes them ideal for cleaving through bones but not quite so good at staying sharp, whereas top quality Japanese knives are made using a more complex method where the steel is folded and then heated again and again, akin to the process of making a samurai sword, and it is this method that gives the knife its attractive wavy pattern. This process also allows the steel to be hammered into a thinner edge.
Both German and Japanese knives are usually well balanced, though traditional German knives tend to be heavier which may be an issue for some people. In my kitchen I have a mix of both German and Japanese knives.
The total length of this Santoku knife is 13 inches (322mm). It’s high carbon content (1%) combined with special production techniques give exceptional hardness of 60-62 (Rockwell scale) to the core. The hardness allows the thinner blade edge, resulting in razor sharpness. High chromium content (15%) and other alloy components make it stainless. The hard VG-10 core is then clad in softer stainless steel. This gives the blade an added toughness and durability, as well as stunning appearance.
Modern Damascus steel is made from several types of steel and iron slices welded together to form a billet (semi-finished product). The billet is drawn out and folded until the desired number of layers are formed, which is 46 in the case of this particular Damascus beauty.
Handcrafted in Sakai, Japan, where 90% of Japanese knives are made. This Syosaku knife was created by craftsmen who pass on their skills generation after generation. Unlike some Japanese knives, the edge of Santoku blades are symmetrical meaning they have an equal angle on each side of the blade so it doesn’t matter whether you are right or left-handed like me.
If you’re looking to invest in one good quality knife, then you should be looking at a Chef’s knife: in Japanese terms that means Gyuto or Santoku knife. I have been putting this Santoku through its paces for the last couple of weeks to to find how well it performs in slicing, dicing and chopping?
The Santoku made easy work of thinly slicing white cabbage for my spring rolls, the knife seemed comfortable in my hand and I felt completely in control, which is important when wishing to slice something this thinly. I then used the Syosaku knife to slice a large tomato, which again is good indication of its out of the box sharpness. You can see how thin the slices of tomatoes are!
Dicing root vegetables like carrots or swedes (rutabaga) is another good exercise to show the user the balance and comfort of the knife. Brunoise is the term for a very small dice 3 millimetres (1⁄8 in) and used for clear soups and sauces such as Bolognese.
Whether you are chopping herbs or shrimp, you dont need the weight of a big knife if your knife is sharp!
Does and Don’ts for Syosaku knives
Do not put top quality knives into your dishwasher, wash them by hand. The manufacturer recommends that you only sharpen their knives on a whetstone and don’t use a sharpening (honing) steel as you may damage the edge. Protect your expensive knife and keep it boxed or in a sheath when not in use rather in a loose in a kitchen drawer or in a ill fitting butcher style knife block.
To keep your knife sharp you will need to have a duel grit stone something like this. Where two stones have been bonded together giving a course and fine grit. The lower the number the courser the grit. You start sharpening on the courser side before finishing on the fine grit side.
Before using a whetstone it must be submerged in (tepid) water for at least 20 minutes to absorb water, this prevents friction when sharpening your knife. I fill an empty spray bottle with water and spray the stone as well, to make sure the whetstone stays wet! Syosaku recommends you sharpen their knives using a 15 degree angle (see my diagram).
Your choice of cutting board has a big bearing on how long your knives stay sharp. Although restaurants use coloured coded plastic cutting boards to prevent cross-contamination, at home I always use solid hardwood boards for more about this see my article here.
When people ask me for advice about chefs knives, I always give them the same advice. Shop carefully and buy the best knife you can afford. Buy just 1 knife and see if you are happy with it and then consider buying more knives from the same company. I am very impressed with how this Syosaku Santoku knife performed, its balance and how comfortable it felt in my hand. You may think they are expensive but if a handcrafted knife serves you well for 20 years, then the price is cheaper than buying new cheap knives every couple of years.
Syosaku Santoku Review© Kevin Ashton 2022
I am trialing a new larger font to make my blog easier to read (hopefully). I’m still wrestling with my hatred of WordPress Blocks and the WordPress editor…. grrrrr. If only WordPress was a good as it thinks it is. I want true WYSIWYG! This acronym was coined some years ago over at Apple and it stands for What You See Is What You Get. In other words what you see in the editing mode is exactly how it looks when published. Years ago all blog platform editors allowed the writer to choose the point size of the font, but now it seems fonts on the WordPress platform only come in small, medium, large and extra large like some ill fitting pair of jeans, sold at the thift store.