Shun Classic Santoku Knife Review

by | May 19, 2021 | cutlery and knife | 0 comments

A great Japanese kitchen knife for people who usually use western style cutlery

The Shuns Classic series sits in a good place subdued by mostly available prices and a reliable naming. It’s also the last stop in Shun’s entire series of knife sets before things start to get expensive. This Santoku is nothing special if you spend a lot of time trying a lot of different Santoku knives.

it’s a really good knife if you’ve only ever used $ 20-50 knives. It bites easily and cuts smoothly, and the handle gives you very easy control. The biggest problem with this Santoku is that it is dressed like a Japanese knife but does not behave like one.

The balance is a bit slack, it’s heavy (compared to other Japanese knives), and it’s a little thicker behind the edge. Nor is it exactly a traditional Santaoku thanks to the basket at the edge. However, this is an increasingly common thing, and this still bites and follows well through. Check price on Amazon Check out the price at Blade HQ

specifications

A close-up of the Shun Classic Santoku knife cutting through a ripe red tomato.

  • Total length: 12.5 ”
  • Knife length: 7.0 ”
  • Style: Santoku
  • Handle length: 5.0 ”
  • Blade steel: 69 layers VG-MAX Damascus
  • Knife sharpening: hollow
  • Handle material: Pakkawood
  • HRC rating: 60 – 61
  • Weight: 7.1 oz

Advantage

  • Perfect for vegetables and herbs
  • Crazy sharp
  • Nice steel with a Damascus cladding
  • Fantastic fit and finish
  • D-shaped handle if you are interested in that kind of thing

Disadvantages

  • Not the best value
  • Balanced more against the handle
  • VG-MAX is a brittle steel
  • D-shaped handle if you are not interested in that kind of thing

Shun presentation / Fit and Finish

The Shun Classic series of knives have an excellent fit and finish, and the knives are delivered in a nice box. Shun is a class action. They have good quality control, they respond quickly to customer problems, and their knives appear in a black box with their logo tastefully printed on. It’s still just a cardboard box, but it’s strangely difficult to find a kitchen knife company that is good at both packaging and making decent knives.

It’s not the kind of thing that should make or break a decision to buy a knife, but I really appreciate this aspect as someone who spends a lot of time recommending gift knife ideas to people. It is a prerequisite that a Shun knife has a good fit and finish. The transition from bolster to handle is seamless, the corners of the spine and ricasso are rounded just enough to prevent digging into the finger, and the pakkawood handle is shiny and smooth, yet not smooth.

The only problem I have with the look is the clutter of information they have on one side of the magazine. Shun has found it appropriate to not only stamp their logo on both sides, but also to give the model number, steel, type, knife style and blade size in a small bite of letters on the left side. It’s not such a terrible thing. This is useful info if you have lost the box and want to look something up in the knife or call in about a defect. But I can not get over how much better this knife would look as a whole if they just had the Shun logo in themselves on one side and left the rest of it clean.

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A good leaf with a non-traditional edge

Shun Classic Santoku slices through a large red cabbage on a wooden cutting board. If I was really strict on this, I would say that the edge of the Shun Classic Santoku is wrong because the edge has a curve. Traditionally, a santoku edge must be perfectly straight because it is intended to be used almost exclusively in a rigid diagonal motion to cut.

This santoku curves slightly into the top of the leaf, making it a kind of western fusion style that is actually not that uncommon to see these days. And it turns out I actually like that curve, so I’m not complaining about tradition here (I’ll do that later when I talk about weight balance). Check price on Amazon Check out the price at Blade HQ

Cutting performance

The first twenty minutes of cutting with this are amazing. I used it mostly for cooking a few Mexican and Italian dishes, so I can not say that it works well in Japanese cuisine with a lot of authority. But I can tell you that it’s great for cutting up garlic, mushrooms and tomatoes. It is especially nice to use on garlic, something I have had many problems with in the past when using thicker knives.

However, Shun Classic can cut garlic cloves really fine without much hassle, and the edge’s hybrid curve allows me to chop to make the fats even finer. It turned out to be a good knife for cutting up stirring ingredients. Shun paints this knife for approx.

16 degrees, which is thinner than your typical kitchen knife, but is actually a little thicker than many other Japanese knives that can have 15 or even 12 degree edges depending on the style. So while this certainly bites better than most Western-style kitchen knives, it does not have the same bite or edge retention for people accustomed to more traditional Japanese kitchen knives.

Abrasion resistance and edge retention

A close-up of Shun Classic Santoku testing the edge of a piece of paper. I have been using this knife on for about two months now and have not really noticed much of a change in the edge. It still performs paper tests beautifully and I can cut into a ripe tomato without too much trouble. Admittedly, it has not been two months to use it every day.

I probably used it heavily once or twice a week with occasional cuts in between when it happened to be convenient as I was trying to grate a packet of cheese with my grubby fingers. I have not felt the need to strap or polish it yet, and I have not noticed any roles in the edge. With the speed at which I use kitchen knives, I would guess that it would take at least six months before I needed any kind of edge maintenance on this.

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The full pliers handle

Close-up of the D-shaped handle on the Classic Shun knives. The handle mostly feels good. The finger grooves in the boulder are comfortable in a knife grip, and the size feels almost straight in a full grip, even in my weird ham hand. Pakkawood is polished super smooth, but I never felt like it might slip off my fingers.

This may be due in part to the D-shape, which I’m still lukewarm about, but the point is, the handle is fine for the most part. I did notice, however, that my hand cramps after a little extended use, and I think it’s because of how this knife is balanced.

Handle heavy problems

Shun manufactures most of their knives with a hidden pliers that extends the entire or entire length of the handle. Technically, this means that this knife is generally more durable, which sounds good, but it really is not necessary on a santoku with an edge that was made to cut fine.

All pliers do with this knife is make it heavier in the handle, making it a little more uncomfortable to make multiple straight, straight cuts. My hand has to compensate by putting a pressure further back when it needs to be dedicated largely to pushing the knife down and forward. At first, it didn’t seem like a big deal because the blade cut so well, but after I cut a dozen mushrooms.

I started to feel some strain in my wrist and the lower two fingers. It is quite possible that this discomfort is caused by poor form. I’m not some kind of professional chef, but I know a santoku is meant to be centered or blade heavy because it is meant to cut in the straight diagonal direction. After using this thing for a while, I understand why. Check price on Amazon Check out the price at Blade HQ

D-shaped handle vs literally everything else

Some people swear by D-shaped handles, and Shun seems to shape them well enough. However, I am not a fan in general. In theory, D-shaped handles should give you a little more grip by giving a lip to your fingers and palm to cling to. While doing so, it does not really feel like it helps enough to make it worthwhile to deal with the weird feeling of it.

I have never felt it get in the way and it may even help my grip a bit. However, I tend to hold knives in weird ways, and I switch to my left hand every now and then (sometimes just because it’s the way the flow of cooking goes, and sometimes for pictures), and having that lip on the one hand, the adjustment makes that much more awkward for me.

I prefer oval handles or western handles and I am definitely a fan of the oval handles with a bit of medium height as you can see on many Yaxell knives. However, this is a very subjective thing, and again, I’m not actually a chef. I mostly just cut things into mash for tortillas. So the handle is fine; I’m just judging.

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The alternatives and the continuing price problem with Shun

The Enso HD Santoku knife is a good alternative to the Shun Classic. Most of the alternative recommendations I have for Shun are cheaper, but perform pretty much the same. Shun’s Classic Series is nowhere near as expensive as it used to be, and Classic Santoku is a really nice knife, but it’s not the best sign when its performance competes with knives that cost $ 30-50 less.

Enso HD is a good alternative if you want an oval handle, although it actually has a more pronounced problem of being heavy. But it also has a hammered finish and a Damascus design that looks a little more interesting, so I would actually place it as the more attractive alternative, although it could be argued that the cutting performance is not quite on par with Shun, and the price is usually only slightly lower.

Tojiro’s DP series is a good alternative option if you want a western handle. The Tojiro DP Chef knife is still one of our favorite kitchen knives, and the Tojiro company generally makes a pretty incredible combination of cutting ability for the price. It does not look fancy, but it is reliable. The Global G-46 is about the same in price as the Shun Classic, but the ergonomics and edge are surprisingly good.

I have always underestimated global knives because of how they look, but they put a lot of emphasis on getting the balance in their knives just as well and use a steel that looks a little harder. There are, of course, many other options in the Japanese cutlery world, but it is the quick recommendations that seem most relevant to me.

Conclusion

Shun Classic Santoku slices a tomato sideways on a wooden cutting board. This is a good knife that might cost a little more than it’s worth, depending on what you’re looking for. It’s great as a gift for someone who cooks a lot at home (I don’t hear of many restaurant workers using santokus).

There is some guarantee of quality and customer service you get with Shun, which is not always given at other companies, even (or especially) at companies that make better knives. My main problem with Classic Santoku is the balance, but it really is not pronounced enough to be a serious problem. The edge of it cuts incredibly smoothly and I have enjoyed using it in general.

I do not think I would recommend it over a Global or Tojiro unless someone specifically wanted something with a D-shaped handle, but in the end it’s nice to have around the kitchen and you could definitely do it a lot worse. Check price on Amazon Check out the price at Blade HQ

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