Knives come in endless shapes, sizes, and cuts to choose from. These all have various purposes depending on the style you go for. Two popular types are stainless steel knives and ceramic knives.
Kitchen knives have traditionally been made from steel for hundreds of years and remain a popular choice today.
However, ceramic knives have been gaining popularity over the past few decades as they offer several noteworthy benefits.
We’ll cover the differences between ceramic and steel knives in this article, including what they are, their pros and cons, and which one you should go for depending on your requirements.
Keep reading this article to learn more about steel and ceramic knives!
What Are Ceramic Knives?
Ceramic knives slowly became popular over the past decade, but they are still relatively new compared to traditional steel knives.
Most homes and professional chefs choose to opt for steel knives instead, although ceramic knives can be used for many different cooking tasks.
Ceramic knives are produced through a different process compared to standard ones. Traditional blades are made by shaping metal into the necessary shape.
This is usually done by pouring molten metal into a mold and pressing it with a tool to create an edge.
Ceramic knives differ as they are created from dry zirconia powder. This will be placed under very high temperatures over 1000 degrees to lock the powder together.
This creates a very hard and durable blade that can stay sharper longer than traditional metals.
Generally speaking, ceramic knives are usually less expensive than steel models, which is part of the reason why they are becoming more widespread today.
Ceramic knives are also incredibly sharp. Whether you want to slice meat, bread, or vegetables, a ceramic blade can cut these foods into thin slices without much effort.
Ceramic knives aren’t made of the same ceramic that lines your bathroom floors. These knives are created from a substance called zirconium oxide.
Also known as zirconia, zirconium oxide is considered an “ultra-hard” material because it has a hardness rating of 9.0 on the Mohs scale. This falls just under diamonds, which have a rating of 10 on the Mohs scale.
As zirconia is so hard, this makes any blades made out of it extremely sharp. Ceramic knives are very durable and as long as they are well looked after, they can stay sharp for a long time.
Despite this, sharpening ceramic knives is difficult, as the material is so hard. It’s best to go to a professional to carry out this job.
If you prefer, you can sharpen a ceramic blade yourself, but it takes a lot of time and effort to learn how to do it. You’ll also need to obtain diamond stones to carry out this process.
Ceramic knives are relatively affordable and can come in many different colors, making them nice to have on display within your kitchen.
They are also light and easy to manage, making it easier to cut through food. However, their lightweight properties can be a hindrance, as you may forget that you are holding onto one.
Ceramic knives can be great for kitchen knives, as the blades don’t have any pores on them. This means that the knives will be easier to clean and won’t take in any odors.
As the knives aren’t porous, they only need a little detergent and warm water to keep them clean.
Non-porous blades are also great for cutting through smelly food, like fish, easily. After cutting through these foods, the ceramic can cut through vegetables and fruits later without transferring any odors to them.
As ceramic knives are free from metal, they won’t rust after contact with water or acidic foods.
Ceramic knives have many advantages, but you need to be aware that as they are so lightweight, they can break down very easily. Zirconium oxide may be hard and durable, but it can still shatter.
Ceramic knives need care when using, cleaning, and storing. Lack of care may lead to the blade breaking down later.
As these knives can break easily, they shouldn’t be used for deboning meat, as the bone could damage the knife. Similarly, ceramic knives shouldn’t be used to cut through hard substances, like frozen foods or ice cubes.
These tools may cut through some foods easily, but if you try to use them to cut through tough materials, you may end up damaging the blade.
What Are Steel Knives?
Steel knives are very versatile compared to ceramic ones, as steel can be tougher than ceramic.
Many types of knives use steel blades, including chef knives that cut through meats and vegetables, filet knives that slice off fish scales, and boning knives that debone meat.
Steel knives can also be used to prepare more types of food compared to ceramic ones. These can cut through baked goods like pastries and cakes to make interesting food shapes.
Steel knives aren’t as lightweight as ceramic ones, but this may not be a disadvantage. The weight of the knife helps the user be aware of the tool. This makes balancing the knife easier, which allows you to hold it much better.
As steel knives are heavier than ceramic ones, they aren’t as likely to shatter when dropped.
The downside to steel knives is that they can become dull over time. If you don’t maintain them regularly, then they may start to lose sharpness. Despite this, steel blades are much easier to sharpen compared to ceramic ones.
You can hire a professional to do this for you, but as long as you have the right equipment, you should be able to sharpen your blades.
Another disadvantage of steel knives is that the metal is porous. This means the blades are harder to clean and can absorb odors easily.
You may notice that a steel knife that cuts through fish transfers the same odors onto other foods. Cleaning the blade can take a lot more effort, as you’ll have to scrub the knife multiple times with an effective detergent.
Steel knives are usually more expensive than ceramic ones. However, some users find that their durability and versatility often outweigh the cost.
They’re also easy to find in most stores, making them ideal for beginners and seasoned chefs alike.
Ceramic Knives Or Steel Knives: Which Is Better?
The answer as to which type of knives are better than the other depends on what they will be used for. There are advantages and disadvantages for both types, which we’ll cover in more detail below.
Advantages Of Ceramic Knives
- Ceramic blades are sharper than steel ones, making it easier to cut through foods like vegetables, bread, and deboned meat.
- Ceramic knives are made from zirconium oxide, one of the strongest materials ever known. The blades will hold their sharpness level for longer than steel ones.
- Ceramic isn’t porous, making it easier to clean. They won’t absorb odors from other foods and won’t break down upon contact with acidic foods and salt.
- As it is non-porous, it won’t take in bacteria as easily as steel, so illnesses are less likely to occur.
- Ceramic isn’t a metal, so it won’t rust when exposed to water.
Disadvantages Of Ceramic Knives
- Ceramic’s lightweight properties mean that it’s more likely to shatter and chip.
- Ceramic blades are very hard to sharpen at home without a professional’s help.
- As ceramic blades are more likely to shatter, they shouldn’t be used on hard foods, like frozen items or meat with bones within.
Advantages Of Steel Knives
- Steel knives are strong and can be used to debone meat, press garlic, and slice through bone.
- Steel knives aren’t lightweight, so are resistant, meaning they can be used in the dishwasher.
- They are heavier than ceramic, so the blades won’t break as easily.
- They can be used for more types of food preparation, such as cutting baked goods, slicing vegetables, and chopping herbs.
- They are easier to sharpen at home.
- If taken care of, steel resists stains and corrosion well.
Disadvantages Of Steel Knives
- Steel blades can become dull more quickly compared to ceramic ones.
- Will need to be sharpened more often to maintain a decent sharpness level.
- Steel is a porous metal, so it can retain bacteria and odors from other foods.
- Steel blades aren’t sharper than ceramic ones, so they might not perform as well in certain tasks.
How To Choose Between Ceramic And Steel Knives
From looking at the pros and cons, ceramic knives are better for slicing foods that aren’t hard, but steel ones can handle more kinds of tasks.
It may be worth investing in both kinds of knives for different tasks, especially if you’re often preparing food in the kitchen.
Despite this, if you have limited funds, it may not be possible to buy both types of knives. In this case, choosing between ceramic and steel knives comes down to personal preference and what you plan on using them for.
Ceramic knives are ideal if you don’t need to handle bones and only plan on slicing foods that aren’t hard.
If you need your knife for various tasks, like deboning meat, removing scales, cutting hard foods, or carving baked goods into shapes, steel blades will suit you better.
As ceramic blades are fragile and can easily shatter, ceramic knives shouldn’t be used to cut meat with bones inside, frozen foods, or anything else that could cause damage.
As long as the food in question won’t harm the blade, ceramic knives are much better at cutting through foods compared to steel ones.
If you only plan on carrying out usual kitchen tasks, like slicing vegetables, fruit, and non-boned meat, ceramic knives will always be a better choice than steel ones.
Cutting foods is easier, faster, and more hygienic, so you won’t need to spend a lot of effort.
However, steel knives are much more versatile. These knives can do everything ceramic ones do, as well as several other tasks. If you want to use your knife for multiple purposes, then steel knives are the way to go.
Ceramic knives are sharper and can cut through suitable foods swiftly, but long as they are sharpened regularly, steel ones still work well at slicing.
They are also less likely to shatter, so if you regularly need to remove bones, cut frozen food, or handle any hard substances, steel ones may be a better choice.
The Bottom Line
In most cases, people will do well with a set of stainless steel knives. Ceramic blades may be sharper, but these aren’t necessary unless you plan on preparing food a lot.
Similarly, if you already have a set of ceramic knives, you won’t need to purchase a steel one unless you plan on handling hard foods.
After outlining the differences between the two knives above, it’s clear that both steel and ceramic knives are better for specific purposes. If you can only choose one type, you’ll need to think about the tasks you often perform in the kitchen.
People that prepare lots of different foods may prefer a steel knife set, while those that only carry out standard slicing tasks may prefer ceramic ones.
However, before you settle on a knife set, be sure to do your research before buying them.
A good knife set should last you a long time, so look at reviews and professional recommendations to make sure you’re getting the most out of your money.
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