Santoku vs Bunka knives: What’s the difference?

by | Jul 3, 2023 | Blog, Cooking Tips and Tricks | 0 comments

If you’ve been reading these long enough you know my philosophy with knives; Get a good chef’s knife, get a paring knife, get a bread knife. This will cover 95% of what you’ll need to do in a kitchen. Everything you add after will simply do the jobs of these knives, but sometimes slightly better.

Let’s say you have these three knives and you’re looking to expand to another knife. I would strongly suggest looking at either a Santoku or a Bunka. Both of these knives come in around the 6 inch mark, which is small and nimble enough to do some smaller detail work, but hefty enough to take care of general chopping and slicing. The bonus of this knife size is that the edge geometry is usually a bit thinner, thus making cutting more satisfying and feeling a bit less like you’re wedging into the food. The Santoku shape has a “sheep’s foot” geometry while the Bunka has a “K-Tip,” which is short for kiritsuke tip. The shared characteristic is that the tip of the knife is generally smaller and is the longest as it gets closer to the board. With less surface area, there is less drag when using the tip of the knife to specifically cut through items. Both the Santoku and Bunka are capable of doing many different tasks in the kitchen. Santoku means three virtues, which depending on who you ask refers to vegetables, meat, and fish, or slicing, dicing, and chopping.

You can’t go wrong with either of these knives as long as you remember to try the knife before you purchase it. What feels good in my hand may not feel great in your hand. Until you get very experienced trying lots of knives, you won’t be able to read the experience by simply looking at the blade shape, handle, curvature, and steel type.

Santoku (image from Hida Tool)
Bunka (image from Hida Tool)

Written by David Salerno

Originally from the Northeast, David (he/him) has been in Seattle since 2016. He studied classic culinary arts at the French Culinary Institute in NYC and currently works as the Senior Meal Program Coordinator at HIP. He can completely nerd out over culinary anthropology and can talk about food and food science for hours with anyone who is willing to listen. When not in the kitchen, you can find him playing hockey or running in different neighborhoods of Seattle.

July 3, 2023

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