I am trying to grasp the very basics of using a (westernized) santoku knife. First things first: how to hold it.

This is the balance point: enter image description here

This is my interpretation of "pinch grip"(grossly exaggerated). I imagine the remaining fingers are there purely to allow the handle to bounce off them when chopping soft foodstuffs like vegetables, mushrooms or herbs: enter image description here

I know I should be placing my ring finger onto the balance point. As that feels too awkward here's a picture halfway applying that advice - middle finger on balance point, wrist as relaxed and natural as possible(looks like a death grip but ring and pinky are very much relaxed): enter image description here

What bothers me is that the blade is sideways oriented - instead of in line with the hand like in a "death grip". I imagine this is going to put huge strain on my wrist/forearm when chopping(instead of sideways slicing). What am I doing wrong?

EDIT: @ all the commenters:

You guys are probably experienced chefs. "Do whatever feels best" works for someone who knows what they are doing but not for a kid like me! Please post an answer what works for you and I will try to replicate the technique.

EDIT: I'm starting to get the grip of it; after about a bucket of vegetables. A "death grip" feels so perfect about slaughtering steaks and carrots while a "ring finger at the balance point" feels awesome at murdering herbs and mushrooms. Gimme a week or two and I'll come back with final conclusions.

  • 5
    Honestly, I think you're over-thinking it. Just grip it and rip it.
    – GdD
    Jan 6, 2022 at 14:07
  • Knives have different geometry just as people have different physical geometry (size, shape, proportional lengths, etc), so the "ring finger on the balance point" is absurd. Your grip should give confidence that you have complete control of the blade. As for the sideways angle thing, that is a matter of strength and flexibility, so with persistent work this will feel less of a strain and less awkward.
    – Mr Shane
    Jan 6, 2022 at 14:50
  • Agreed with the above, this isn't golf.
    – eps
    Jan 6, 2022 at 17:34
  • You can start with the best intentions of following some strict 'military drumming' stylised grip, but I usually end up with my first finger along the top of the blade, which brings my entire hand forward. I find it faster & more accurate. Do whatever works for you.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 7, 2022 at 12:45
  • A santoku is basically a modified chef's knife, so you could just hold it like you do a chef's knife.
    – xuq01
    Jan 8, 2022 at 15:16

1 Answer 1


The biggest difference will probably be not due to your grip, but due to the motion. A santoku, with its flatter edge compared to a chef's knife, will not lend itself that well to a "rocking" chopping motion. Rather, you push the blade forward and down repeatedly. You can still rock the knife, but not as easily as a classic chef's knife.

That being said, I would definitely go for the more relaxed grip with your fingers on the blade near the handle. You shouldn't strain yourself just to hold the knife at the balance point.

  • Thanks! I've been thinking about pushing vs pulling slices (vs chopping)(thinking by cutting a lot). I even discovered that for some foods 4 forward-backward slices are needed. Gimme a week or two to think this over.
    – Vorac
    Jan 13, 2022 at 18:34

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