Author Topic: Knife skills with a santoku are impossible to find  (Read 3348 times)

Offline bluefoxicy

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Knife skills with a santoku are impossible to find
« on: December 12, 2011, 12:29:05 PM »
I have this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Mastering-Knife-Skills-Essential-Important/dp/1584796677/

It is for knife skills.

I noticed Jacques Pépin pulls out at least:

  • A French chef's knife
  • A cheap Santoku
  • A Deba (Japanese chef's knife)
  • A sashimi knife

I may have seen a Nakiri or Usuba in there but I only got a glimpse for a few frames and I think it may have been the sashimi knife.

There are no resources available on kitchen knife technique with the santoku as a primary.  Odd, since Westerners have become fascinated with the santoku over the French and German chef's knives.  It's either a fad or a shift, but I see a lot of chatter about "Should I try a santoku?" "Get a cheap one, you'll love it or hate it." "I never use my chef's knife anymore!" going on.  I don't know why, because there are a lot of technical differences in technique, and attempting to directly apply French/German chef's knife technique to the santoku will quickly make you hate it.

The one difference I see cited is you use more of an up and down chopping motion, as the knife doesn't rock.  Watching Pépin, I can see that he uses a sliding motion.  A santoku does not rock much--some have an exaggerated curve, most are mainly flat except at the tip, and many cheap American santoku are simply flat with a sheepsfoot tip.  Pépin rapidly slices mint, mushrooms, and the like not by using a simple up and down chopping motion (as has been expressed on online resources), but by using this motion with a slight draw forward, slice slice slice instead of just smash smash smash with your hopefully-sharp-enough blade.

Even a razor sharp blade will simply compress skin if pressed (I should know, I play with blades sharp enough to explode a hair at a touch) until enough force is added; but if barely touching and drawn they will slice completely through the skin.  Moving the blade with a slight draw was not a technique I'd seen before--and this is exactly what I'm looking for.

Pépin is amusing, by the way.  He somehow does rock the santoku when he really wants to--notably to chop up garlic, which is some kind of miracle (watch him do it once or twice, the knife becomes a blur for a few seconds and then you have finely chopped garlic). Often he just uses a Deba or French chef's knife for that, but truth be told the man has every kind of knife and will simply grab one if he doesn't need something particular--sashimi knife when fish shows up sure, but then any kind of generic chef's knife for something that requires a chef's knife.

Ah well, ramble ramble ramble.  I've been touching up my knife skills lately.  It's fun to be able to just zip through some food in a few seconds.  Chop chop chop chop chop I've got a chiffonette of mint leaves ready in two seconds, throw some honey on the greek yogurt and a few walnuts and lemon zest and toss the mint on there, I has yogurt!

Offline bluesman

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Re: Knife skills with a santoku are impossible to find
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2011, 12:35:06 PM »
Practice...practice...practice...but not on your fingers. ;)
Ron Price

Offline bluefoxicy

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Re: Knife skills with a santoku are impossible to find
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2011, 12:40:06 PM »
Practice...practice...practice...but not on your fingers. ;)

Yes but the question is:  practice what?  There's all kinds of books, Youtube videos, and DVD courses about how to rock a French knife, about how to chop or dice or slice food with those.  I find myself taking the general knife skills resources and picking through them, determining where there's holes--this won't work because my blade isn't that long, has a sheepsfoot, is not prone to rock that way, or can but the much better technique uses the shape of the blade in a different way...

Some targeted instruction is nice.  It's like I bought a Volkswagen with a V6 and EFI and a clutch and am taking a course on how to work on a Pontiac with a V8 and two four barreled carbs and an automatic.

Offline euge

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Re: Knife skills with a santoku are impossible to find
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2011, 12:59:13 PM »
I have an 7" santoku and an 8" chef's knife. They both perform the same and the cutting motion is identical though I find the chef's knife is also easier to draw\slice towards me as opposed to the down and away chopping\slicing execution I use for both knives. The santoku just doesn't like to cut that way.

Perhaps it's the thicker and wider blade of the Japanese knife?

To do it all again the santoku is really all one needs but I would spring for a quality chef's knife instead.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Offline bluefoxicy

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Re: Knife skills with a santoku are impossible to find
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2011, 01:09:02 PM »
I have an 7" santoku and an 8" chef's knife. They both perform the same and the cutting motion is identical though I find the chef's knife is also easier to draw\slice towards me as opposed to the down and away chopping\slicing execution I use for both knives. The santoku just doesn't like to cut that way.

Perhaps it's the thicker and wider blade of the Japanese knife?

To do it all again the santoku is really all one needs but I would spring for a quality chef's knife instead.

Interesting.  I went with the santoku, I may eventually get both.  How is your Japanese blade thicker though?  The Santoku is supposed to have a narrower body to make finer work easier, which is why I said I'd go for a German style chef's knife over a French one--they're generally thicker.

Offline euge

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Re: Knife skills with a santoku are impossible to find
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2011, 01:35:26 PM »
You are right. Looking at the two knives they are the same thickness.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Online morticaixavier

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Re: Knife skills with a santoku are impossible to find
« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2011, 03:36:34 PM »
I don't cook meat but as I understand it the french (not familiar with german) chef's knife is much better at applications where you need to get that point in there to pull apart a joint etc. The santuko is better for fine slicing with foods that have a lot of drag like fish or fleshy vegetables. as bluesman says practice. Unless you are ready to go to apprentice under a chef your best bet is to figure out what works best for you. as you see when watching mr. pepin there is no 'right' way. my santuko has enough curve to the blade that I can rock it through food as well as the french. but I can't split a butternut squash with it as well as I can with the french. The blade is deeper on the santuko so I don't bang my knuckles as much but it doesn't have as much weight either...

so practice and experiment. find out what works for you. don't simply go by what others do or there is no new things.
"Creativity is the residue of wasted time" - A. Einstein

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Offline MDixon

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Re: Knife skills with a santoku are impossible to find
« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2011, 06:19:13 AM »
Perhaps it's the thicker and wider blade of the Japanese knife?

To do it all again the santoku is really all one needs but I would spring for a quality chef's knife instead.

A real Japanese knife would not be especially thick. I got my last one from http://japanesechefsknife.com/
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Offline mtnrockhopper

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Re: Knife skills with a santoku are impossible to find
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2011, 09:24:12 AM »
Practice...practice...practice...but not on your fingers. ;)

Yes but the question is:  practice what? 

Practice cutting things.  ;)

Who needs books? Just chop away, see how it feels and what works for you.
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Offline euge

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Re: Knife skills with a santoku are impossible to find
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2011, 11:15:47 AM »
I want to get a cleaver. But wondering what it's main uses as I've seen Asians get pretty fancy with one. No santoku in sight.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. -Richard P. Feynman

Online morticaixavier

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Re: Knife skills with a santoku are impossible to find
« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2011, 02:15:44 PM »
I want to get a cleaver. But wondering what it's main uses as I've seen Asians get pretty fancy with one. No santoku in sight.

Which one? http://www.bing.com/tv/overview?q=june+cleaver&seriesid=18AD9073F1D443489A263F9F9E538911&qpvt=june+cleaver&FORM=ENTCOL
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Offline bo

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Re: Knife skills with a santoku are impossible to find
« Reply #11 on: December 15, 2011, 02:18:53 PM »
I want to get a cleaver. But wondering what it's main uses as I've seen Asians get pretty fancy with one. No santoku in sight.

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Offline bluefoxicy

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Re: Knife skills with a santoku are impossible to find
« Reply #12 on: December 24, 2011, 10:46:16 AM »
I want to get a cleaver. But wondering what it's main uses as I've seen Asians get pretty fancy with one. No santoku in sight.

A Chinese Chef's Knife is not a cleaver.  That is a Westernization because it's a big boxy kind of thing.  A Western meat cleaver has a thick body and hefty blade that can stand up to hard bone; a Chinese Chef's Knife is narrow-bodied and will die if it hits a rib.  There should be a little curve to the Chinese Chef's knife, not much, but enough to rock a little.

The primary use for a Chinese Chef's Knife is "everything."  Same as a Santoku or French/German chef's knife.