The santoku is a Japanese alternative to the traditional chef's knife, with a shorter, thinner blade and a straighter cutting edge. (The name "santoku" roughly translates to "three uses," meaning that the knife is suitable for cutting meat, vegetables and fish.) The santoku's narrow blade excels at delicate tasks such as thinly slicing vegetables, and beginning cooks may find it easier to control than a heavy chef's knife.
Although we found scattered recommendations for many santoku knives, Wüsthof Classic Santoku 4183 (*Est. $75) receives the best reviews overall. Ironically, this German-made knife is closer in shape to a traditional santoku, with a nearly straight blade. This knife is an editor's pick at the cooking blog TheKitchn.com and receives stellar reviews from more than 225 reviewers between Amazon.com and Cooking.com. Writing for TheKitchn.com, reviewer Emma Christensen says, "The blade itself feels long enough that I can accomplish whatever slicing task I have before me, but not so long that I worry about accidentally stabbing the person across from me while dicing onions." A few users say it isn't quite as sharp as other santoku knives, while others complain that the blade's scalloped edge doesn't eliminate sticking, as the manufacturer claims.
If money is no object, the Shun Classic Santoku DM0718 (*Est. $170) also earns good reviews. Unlike most santokus, it has a slight curve, which allows for a rocking motion while mincing (similar to a traditional chef's knife). Owners at Amazon.com and Cooking.com say this knife is well balanced and very sharp, and the "hollow-ground" blade (with indentations along its length) helps keep food from sticking to the knife. Most owners find the grip comfortable, though some left-handed users disagree. Another drawback is that the specialized blade won't work in most electric sharpeners (Shun knives can, however, be sent to the maker for free sharpening).