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Deba vs Santoku: What are the key differences?

Japanese knife styles offer you a wide variety when it comes to cutlery. Different Japanese knife types have varying functionalities. 

When shopping for a knife, understanding the task’s specifications is essential. Having the wrong knife in your hands can make your cooking experience a nightmare. 

In this article, we shall have a review of the features of Deba and Santoku knives.  We aim to provide you with all the necessary information you need before clicking the buy button. 

deba knife
A deba knife(source)

Deba Knife

Deba is a traditional Japanese knife whose use dates back to the early 18th century. The name came from deba-Kiri and translates to beheading knife. The Deba knife is also known as Deba-bocho.

Western Deba

A Western Deba is a type of knife that is similar to a Japanese Deba. They are both designed for slicing and chopping. However, Western Debas are iteration of japanese deba and are typically larger and heavier than Japanese Debas.

What is a Deba knife used for?

The Deba specializes in the preparation of fish. You can use the knife for beheading, cleaning, and filleting whole fish. The blade is ideal for breaking down a chicken and other soft meat.

Deba is not suitable for cutting through large or thick bones. Exerting pressure parallel to the blade length can chip or shatter the blade. For such kind of demanding I recommend going with a cleaver.

Can I use Deba knife as a chef’s knife?

Yes, Deba knives can be used as a chef’s knife. They are designed for slicing and chopping, and they offer great performance in those tasks. However, they are not the ideal knife for every task in the kitchen, so you may want to consider a different knife for specific tasks.

A chef knife is a more versatile knife than a Deba knife and it is a double bevel edged knife hence suitable for both right-handed and left-handed people. A deba knife single bevel edge means it is more specific and you have to make choice when buying depending with your predominant hand

Can you use Deba knife for vegetables?

Yes, Deba knives can be used for cutting vegetables. They are designed for slicing and chopping, and they offer great performance in those tasks. However, they are not the ideal knife for every task in the kitchen, so you may want to consider a different knife for specific tasks.

Can you use a Deba knife for everything?

No, you cannot use a Deba knife for everything. They are designed for slicing and chopping, and they are not the ideal knife for every task in the kitchen.


A Deba knife is a heavy, sturdy knife with a thick, wide blade and a pointed tip. The Hon-Deba (meaning True Deba) is the most prevalent style of the Deba knife. Hon-Deba knives have sharp, durable blades ranging from 6 to 13 inches in length and are 5 to 9mm thick.

The blade is broad at the heel and narrows as it approaches the cutting edge, finishing with a sharp tip. The Deba knife‘s robust spine and the obtuse angle help in the precise cutting of the fish head.

Like most Japanese knives, the Deba has a single bevel sharp edge at an angle of between 10 to 15 degrees. Most single bevel blades favor right-handed use. If you are a left-handed person, you might have to ask for the manufacturer’s change on the knife. 

Most Deba knives have the Wa-handle that gives you a choice between D, Oval, and octagonal shapes. You can also come across modern Deba knives with Western styled handles.

Are Deba knives good?

In terms of use and quality, Deba knives are very good. Most are made with high carbon steel and premium handle construction, they offer great performance due to their thin sharp single bevel edges. However, in terms of price, they are not the most affordable option on the market. 

Deba knives are more suited for professionals who can operate a single bevel knife. It is more specific to its tasks, unlike other double bevel knives that are more versatile and can be adapted to more use cases. 

Deba knives are made to be single beveled so that they can be sharper and more precise when slicing thin flesh.

How do I choose a Deba knife?

When choosing a Deba knife, you should consider the size, shape, and weight of the knife. You should also consider the type of steel and the handle material. Most deba knives are made of Japanese high carbon steel which offers great edge retention but may easily rust due to them being non-stainless steels.

santoku knife
A Santoku Knife(source)

Santoku knife 

Santoku is a Japanese style multi-purpose knife with its main uses being slicing, chopping, and dicing. Santoku means three virtues and is famous among many chefs and home cooks.

Best use

The versatile Santoku knife plays a major role in the preparation of many meals. You can use it in cutting meat, fish, and vegetable. The blade is sharper, shorter, and lighter than the typical western style knife. Thus, the knife is easy to handle, especially for small hands or if you are working for a lengthy period. 


Santoku blade knives have a length of between 6 to 7 inches. Up to date, most Japanese blacksmiths manually forge the Santoku knives. Most Japanese Santoku blades are (True-forged) blades that use Japanese high carbon- steel material. 

Because of the choice of material, Santoku knives have thin edges when sharpened. They also stay sharp for an extended time. 

The Santoku blade features a sharp cutting edge almost straight from the heel to the edge. The spine has a gentle curve, culminating in Santoku’s signature rounded tip. The tip is also known as the sheepsfoot. The light and thin blade may look fragile, but Santoku is a capable, strong knife.

The traditional Santoku knives favored single blades. But due to its rising demand, contemporary Santoku knives feature double bevel blades. The blades maintain the sharp Japanese edges, whether single or double beveled.

Deba vs. Santoku Knife 

Deba and Santoku knives are both Japanese-style knives that are used for slicing and chopping. The main difference between the two is that Debas are heavier and have a thicker blade, while Santokus are lighter and have a thinner blade. Santokus are also more versatile, as they can be used for slicing, dicing, and mincing, while Debas are primarily used for chopping.

Let us make a comparison between the features of the two knives. 

Shape and design

The Deba knife features a short and wide blade. The blade is thick at the heel and tampers towards the cutting edge. The spine slopes to an obtuse angle and ends to a pointed tip. The Deba knife is ideal for cutting, beheading and filleting fish.

The Santoku is your regular household utility knife. The short and light blade is versatile and ideal for cutting, chopping, and dicing tasks. You can use Santoku to cut vegetables, meat, and fish.


The Deba knives are lengthier, with blades between 6 to 13 inches. The longer blades are suitable for slicing meat.

Santoku is a shorter chef’s knife with a blade length of between 5 to 7 inches. The blade size minimizes fatigue, especially during extended use.

Other features

The Deba and traditional Santoku are single beveled knives with very sharp edges. But, modern Santoku knives are double beveled while maintaining the signature sharp edges.

With both the Deba and the Santoku knives, you can choose between the wa- handle and the western-style handle. The Wa-handle gives you a choice between oval, octagonal, and D shapes. 


As we have seen, the Deba and Santoku knives have entirely different functionalities. The Deba is ideal for meat preparation, in particular fish. The Santoku knife on the hand is your day-to-day multi-purpose knife.

Your choice of a knife depends on your intended purpose. If you want a general home cook knife, Santoku fits the bill. If you are looking for a sturdy knife to handle fish preparation, you may opt for the stronger Deba knife.