Cleaver vs Nakiri vs Santoku: A Comprehensive Comparison of Kitchen Knives

Kitchen knives are essential tools for every cook, and choosing the right one can greatly enhance your culinary experience. Cleavers, nakiri knives, and santoku knives are popular options that offer unique features and functionalities.

In this article, we will provide a comprehensive comparison of these three knives to help you make an informed decision based on your cooking needs and preferences.


Originating from ancient times, cleavers have a rich history. These knives are characterized by their broad and heavy blades, sturdy construction, and thick spines. Cleavers are primarily used for chopping through bones, tough vegetables, and meat. Their versatility, durability, and ability to provide leverage for chopping make them a popular choice in professional kitchens.

Nakiri Knife

Nakiri knives have their roots in Japanese cuisine. They are known for their straight, double-edged blades and squared-off tips. Nakiri knives excel in precise vegetable slicing, dicing, and chopping.

Their exceptional balance, precise control, and suitability for vegetable-centric cooking make them a favorite among chefs who prioritize the art of vegetable preparation.

Santoku Knife

The santoku knife is a versatile and widely embraced option in Japanese culinary traditions. It features a shorter, wide blade with a curved belly and often includes a Granton edge, which consists of hollow divots along the blade.

Santoku knives are well-suited for slicing, dicing, and mincing tasks for both meats and vegetables. Their versatility, maneuverability, and efficient cutting capabilities make them a popular choice for home cooks and professionals alike.


To help you understand the differences between cleavers, nakiri knives, and santoku knives, let’s compare them across various aspects:

In this section, we will delve deeper into the comparison of cleavers, nakiri knives, and santoku knives, focusing on several important aspects.

Blade Design

Each knife type possesses distinct blade characteristics that influence their performance in the kitchen. Discuss the following points:

  • Cleavers typically have a broad, rectangular-shaped blade with a thick spine. This design enables them to deliver powerful chopping force and handle tough cutting tasks.
  • Nakiri knives feature a straight, double-edged blade with a squared-off tip. This design allows for precise slicing, dicing, and chopping of vegetables.
  • Santoku knives have a shorter, wider blade with a curved belly. Additionally, many santoku knives feature a Granton edge, which consists of hollow divots along the blade. This design helps prevent food from sticking to the blade and allows for smoother slicing.

Cutting Technique

Each knife type requires specific cutting techniques to maximize their effectiveness. Explain the recommended techniques for each knife:

  • Cleavers excel in chopping motions, utilizing their weight and broad blade to power through bones and tough ingredients.
  • Nakiri knives are ideal for vertical cutting and push-pull slicing motions, enabling precise and controlled cuts for vegetables.
  • Santoku knives are versatile and can be used for slicing, dicing, and mincing using either rocking or push-pull techniques.

Primary Uses

Highlight the specific tasks that each knife type is best suited for based on their unique blade designs and features:

  • Cleavers are commonly used for tasks such as breaking down large cuts of meat, splitting bones, and crushing garlic.
  • Nakiri knives are designed for precise vegetable slicing, dicing, and chopping, making them ideal for creating finely prepared vegetable dishes.
  • Santoku knives are versatile all-purpose knives that can handle various cutting tasks, including slicing, dicing, and mincing, for both meats and vegetables.

Handling and Ergonomics

Discuss the weight, balance, and handle designs of each knife type, and how they impact comfort and control during use:

  • Cleavers tend to be heavier and have a robust construction, providing a sense of stability and power during chopping tasks.
  • Nakiri knives are often lighter and well-balanced, allowing for precise control and reduced fatigue during prolonged vegetable preparation.
  • Santoku knives strike a balance between weight and maneuverability, offering comfortable handling and easy maneuvering in the kitchen.

Maintenance and Care

Explain the cleaning and sharpening requirements for each knife to ensure their longevity and optimal performance:

  • Cleavers typically require hand washing and immediate drying to prevent rust. Regular sharpening and honing are necessary to maintain their cutting edge.
  • Nakiri knives can be easily cleaned by hand, and regular honing and occasional sharpening will keep them in top condition.
  • Santoku knives also benefit from hand washing and drying, and regular sharpening will help them maintain their sharpness.

Price Range

Discuss the cost range of cleavers, nakiri knives, and santoku knives, considering their overall value for money:

  • Cleavers can range in price depending on the quality of materials and craftsmanship, with options available for different budgets.
  • Nakiri knives vary in price, with options available for both entry-level and higher-end knives.
  • Santoku knives come in a wide price range, catering to different budgets and quality preferences.

By considering these factors, you can make an informed decision on which knife type aligns best with your specific culinary needs and preferences.


In conclusion, the comparison between cleavers, nakiri knives, and santoku knives highlights the unique qualities and applications of each kitchen tool. Cleavers stand out with their robust construction, making them ideal for heavy-duty tasks such as chopping through bones and tough ingredients.

Nakiri knives excel in precision vegetable preparation, offering precise control and finesse for slicing, dicing, and chopping vegetables. Santoku knives, with their versatile and balanced design, provide a multipurpose solution for various cutting tasks in the kitchen.

When choosing between these knives, it is essential to consider your specific cooking needs and preferences. Cleavers are a go-to option for those requiring power and durability, while nakiri knives are perfect for vegetable-centric cooking enthusiasts seeking precision. Santoku knives offer a versatile and maneuverable tool suitable for a wide range of tasks.


Q: What is the main difference between a cleaver, a nakiri knife, and a santoku knife?

A: The main difference lies in their design and intended use. Cleavers have a broad and heavy blade, ideal for chopping through bones and tough ingredients. Nakiri knives have a straight, double-edged blade, perfect for precise vegetable slicing and dicing. Santoku knives have a shorter, wide blade with a curved belly, suitable for a variety of slicing, dicing, and mincing tasks for both meats and vegetables.

Q: Are cleavers, nakiri knives, and santoku knives suitable for professional chefs or home cooks?

A: All three knives can be used by both professional chefs and home cooks. Cleavers are commonly used in professional kitchens and meat-processing environments due to their versatility and durability. Nakiri knives are popular among chefs who focus on vegetable preparation. Santoku knives are versatile tools that can be found in both professional and home kitchens.

Q: Do cleavers, nakiri knives, and santoku knives require special maintenance?

A: Proper maintenance is important for the longevity and performance of these knives. They should be cleaned after each use and dried thoroughly to prevent rust. Regular sharpening is recommended to maintain their sharpness. Additionally, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for specific care and maintenance guidelines.

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