I mentioned this to the equipment manager at my school one day, and he let me borrow an 7-inch santoku blade for a few days. Almost immediately, it felt right in my hand, comfortable and balanced. I was making more precise cuts with much more confidence than before. I no longer feared this sharp tool; it felt like part of my arm. This was my knife.
I love the nearly-straight knife edge with its slight rounded tip. The blade itself feels long enough that I can accomplish whatever slicing task I have before me, but not so long that I worry about accidentally stabbing the person across from me while dicing onions. The flat part of the blade is wide enough for me to easily scoop sliced vegetables off the cutting board and into a prep bowl. The handle fits snugly in my palm.
I use this knife for nearly all my kitchen tasks, everything from mincing herbs to boning chickens. The tip is great for fine cuts while the blade closer to the handle is solid enough for serious thwacking.
As for those little scallops in the blade that supposedly help food release more easily after cutting, honestly I've never thought they did much. Food sticks just as much to this blade as any other I've used. I don't see the scallops as a negative for this knife; personally, it's just not a super strong sales point.
I should also mention that I am a lady of small stature with equally small hands. If you are similarly proportioned and haven't felt comfortable with bigger chef's knives, you might consider giving this knife a test run. Ask around to see if a friend has one or at least ask to hold the knife in your hand at the store so you can feel its weight and balance.
It's too bad we don't all have equipment managers to borrow from! Mine certainly led me in the right direction.
• Find It! Wüsthof 7-Inch Santoku Knife, $79.95 at Williams Sonoma
(Images: Emma Christensen)