Knives are essential tools for every chef. They come in various shapes and sizes, from paring knives to cleavers.
As professional chefs know, choosing the right knife is important because they can make the difference between a good and bad dish.
There are many types of knives, each suited for specific tasks.
For example, a chef might choose a serrated bread knife for slicing bread, a boning knife for removing bones from meat, and a paring knife for peeling vegetables.
Depending on their purpose, knives are made of different materials, including steel. In this guide, we find out what’s the best steel for kitchen knives, and what makes these knives so outstanding.
How Are Kitchen Knives Made?
Before we take a look at the type of steel used for kitchen knives, it’s important to understand a little bit about how knives are made.
While the type of steel is important when making a knife, the forging process can make a big difference to the quality of the blade.
A good blacksmith will be able to produce a good quality knife from inferior steel. However, if you’re looking for something that has exceptional cutting power, then you’ll want to use high-quality steel.
The first step in manufacturing a knife involves heating up the metal until it becomes malleable. This allows the bladesmith to shape the metal into the desired form.
Then, the blade is ground down into its final shape.
The most common material used to forge knife blades is high-carbon stainless steel. This type of steel has excellent resistance to corrosion, making it ideal for use with food.
The process of forging a knife blade usually takes about two hours but can take longer depending on the type of knife and the skill of the bladesmith.
After that, the blade must be tempered (hardened) before being polished. Tempering helps prevent rusting or other damage caused by exposure to moisture or extreme temperatures.
Tempering also improves the edge retention of the blade. Edge retention refers to how well a blade holds an edge when cutting.
When it comes time to polish the blade, a polishing machine then buffs away any rough edges, leaving the blade smooth and shiny.
Forging a knife and making it durable is an art in itself, and requires years of training and experience.
The Main Types Of Steel For Knives
There are four main types of steel used for making different knives. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages.
We take a look at the four kinds of steel that you’ll find in most kitchen knives.
This is probably the most common material used to make kitchen knives. It’s durable, easy to clean, and won’t rust or stain.
It’s also very strong, which means it doesn’t break easily. However, stainless steel isn’t as flexible as other steels. This means it’s not ideal for some tasks, such as chopping veggies.
Stainless steel has a higher chromium level between 11-17%, which makes it look shinier and corrosion resistant.
Modern stainless steel knives also contain other materials, such as vanadium and cobalt. These materials change the characteristics of the blade slightly.
Advantages Of Stainless Steel
There are some great advantages of stainless steel knives. They can be relatively cheap.
These kitchen blades are resistant to corrosion and staining.
Disadvantages Of Stainless Steel
Although stainless steel is often referred to as exceptional quality, stainless steel isn’t always used for high quality knives.
It can be very difficult to check the exact quality of the knife, and you are more dependent on the information provided by the manufacturer.
Tool steel is another popular choice for kitchen knives. It’s generally the cheapest material used for knives.
Tool steel is categorized into eight grades, which are typically used for cutlery. These grades vary depending on their stain resistance and corrosion.
As tool steel is very cheap, it is not commonly used for good-quality chef knives. It isn’t even advertised, as it is seen as an inferior steel.
The most commonly tool steel grade used is D2 which has a high chromium and carbon content which prevents discoloration and rusting of the knife.
Although tool steel can be a very budget friendly option for kitchen knives, you will be able to find much better stainless steel knives at a similar price.
Advantages Of Tool Steel
Tool steel is much cheaper than stainless steel, but it still offers reasonably good durability.
As tool steel knives are cheap, you can buy a lot of these knives in bulk, and they are available in almost every household store.
Disadvantages Of Tool Steel
When buying a tool steel knife, you should know what kind of steel it is made from. If you don’t know how to identify the right steel grade, you may end up with a poor quality knife.
Tool steel kitchen knives are typically not stain resistant.
Carbon steel is one of the oldest types of steel, and it has been used for centuries in swords and daggers.
This makes it also an ideal choice for professional cooks and chefs in modern times.
Despite its name, carbon steel blades contain less carbon than stainless steel. This is due to the different alloy mixes used in these blades.
In carbon steel knives, the mix of carbon and other alloys is much stronger, which makes these kitchen knives much sharper and harder than your typical stainless steel knife.
Saying this, while carbon steel is very hard, these blades can be brittle and the edge doesn’t stay sharp very long.
This means that professional chefs need to know how to use a carbon knife properly in order to make sure that it doesn’t chip.
Another issue with carbon steel is that it isn’t very resistant to stains and corrosion. This means, although these knives perform excellent in a busy kitchen scenario, they also need much more maintenance.
Advantages Of Carbon Steel
Carbon steel knives are incredibly sharp and hard. Carbon steel has been a proven material for knife makers producing swords, daggers, and knives for centuries.
Disadvantages Of Carbon Steel
The main disadvantage of using carbon steel is that it is prone to chipping and breaking.
This means that you will need to look after carbon steel blades properly to ensure they last for many years to come.
In addition, carbon steel knives are very expensive compared to stainless steel knives.
What Makes A Good Kitchen Knife?
Kitchen knives are essential tools for any home cook or professional chef. They are needed for everything from chopping vegetables to slicing bread.
A good kitchen knife must have a balance between strength and weight. You want something that feels comfortable in your hand, yet heavy enough to do the job well.
You also want a knife that won’t break easily when cutting through food.
A good kitchen knife needs to feel solid in your hands, as if it were forged out of iron. It’s important that the handle is comfortable and fits nicely into your grip.
Finally, a good kitchen knife needs to be easy to sharpen. Sharpening a blade typically takes only seconds with a whetstone, but some low quality blades cannot be sharpened easily.
Toughness And Hardness
It’s important that a good kitchen knife has a high level of toughness. This means that it needs to be able to withstand being dropped on the floor without breaking.
Hardness is another factor that determines whether a knife cuts well. A good kitchen knife should be at least 60 HRC, which is equivalent to a hardness rating of 58-59 on the Rockwell scale.
When choosing a kitchen knife, you also need to consider the thickness of the blade. Most people prefer a thinner blade because it is easier to control. However, thicker blades tend to cut better.
If you’re looking for a versatile kitchen knife, then you might want to choose one that comes with a wide blade.
When buying a kitchen knife, you need to pay attention to its edge quality. This refers to how sharp the edge of the blade is.
Sharp edges are best for cutting through tough foods such as meat. If you’re not careful, however, you could accidentally cut yourself.
Edge retention refers to how well the edge of the blade stays sharp over time. When choosing a kitchen knife, it’s important to find one that retains an edge for long periods of time.
Some cheap knives may retain their edge for only a few weeks before dulling.
Durability refers to how long a kitchen knife can remain useful. Durable knives stay sharp longer than less durable ones.
Cheap knives often fail quickly due to poor construction. In contrast, premium knives usually cost more but are built to last.
Cheap knives are generally made from inferior materials, such as stamped metal. These types of knives are prone to rusting and corrosion.
On the other hand, premium knives are manufactured from superior metals like Damascus steel.
Most kitchen knives will eventually corrode. Corroded blades lose their sharpness and become difficult to use.
However, there are ways to prevent this from happening. Some stainless steel knives are coated with non-stick coatings. Others are treated with special chemicals to make them resistant to corrosion.
Knife blades wear naturally over time depending on how you use them, and what you use your knife for.
If you use your knife to slice vegetables or fruit, then you’ll have to replace the blade after about a year.
In contrast, if you use your knife to chop meat, then you can expect to keep using a cheaper knife only for a few months without sharpening.
The Best Steel For Kitchen Knives
Stainless steel is the most popular metal used for knife blades, and it is also considered the best steel for kitchen knives.
There are a range of different steel grades which offer different features of the blade.
Stainless steel knives are made up of three different metals: chromium, nickel and molybdenum. These metals work together to create a strong, durable blade.
Chromium makes the blade more corrosion resistant and it increases the hardness of the knife.
Nickel makes the blade more resistant to wear and tear. Molybdenum gives the blade an even harder surface making it easier to cut through food.
Although stainless steel is the most common type of steel used for kitchen knives, there are actually several types of stainless steel.
Austenitic stainless steel is the most common grade of stainless steel used for kitchen knives. Austenitic stainless steel is the strongest of the grades of stainless steel.
Ferritic stainless steel is similar to Austenitic stainless steel, however it contains less chromium. This results in a softer blade.
Martensitic stainless steel is the hardest of all the grades of stainless steel, making it ideal for kitchen knives.
Stainless Steel Grades
Each grade of stainless steel offers its own unique benefits. Each grade of stainless steel can be combined with other grades to achieve different properties.
For example, Martensitic stainless steel can be combined to make a harder stainless steel. One of the best value stainless steel grades is 420J2.
This series of stainless steels was developed by American Stainless Company in the 1970s. It’s still one of the most popular grades of stainless steel available today.
This type of steel typically has around 0.38% carbon which makes it softer compared to many other steel grades.
Four hundred series steel needs to be sharpened regularly, and it also tends to chip more often.
However, this grade of steel is very rust resistant which is excellent for cutting acidic fruit or foods that may corrode the blade.
This grade of stainless steel is commonly categorized into three types: 440A, 440B and 440C.
C is typically the better grade, while A and B are inferior.
The main difference between these grades is their carbon content.
440A has a much lower carbon content than 440C, and 440B is somewhere in the middle.
All three grades of 440 steel are suitable for kitchen knives. However, 440B is generally considered the least expensive option.
This is another good quality grade of stainless steel. It’s a great choice for kitchen knives because it is relatively inexpensive and easy to sharpen.
It’s also one of the easiest grades of stainless steel to find.
420 steel is a low-carbon alloy containing about 0.35% carbon. It’s not as hard as some of the other grades of stainless steel, but it does have a high resistance to rusting.
420 stainless steel, such as 420J2 steel, is typically considered inferior, and it isn’t used for kitchen knives. It is usually used for cheaper knives, such as hunting knives.
You can easily sharpen 420J steel knives but they do not retain their sharp edge for long.
ATS Series Steel
This is an Australian brand of stainless steel made specifically for kitchen knives. Their stainless steel blades are designed to last longer than other brands.
They use a proprietary process called “toughened” to create their blades. They claim that toughened blades will hold an edge for up to 10 times longer than normal knives.
They offer several different grades of stainless steel including ATS-10, ATS-20, ATS-30, ATS-40, ATS-50 and ATS-60.
These grades vary depending on carbon content. For example, ATS 34 steel contains around 1.05% carbon, whereas ATS 55 steel contains around 1% carbon.
However, ATS 34 is more rust resistant than ATS 55, and it also retains its edge well.
AUS Series Steel
AUS series steel is made in Japan. It is significantly better than 400 series steel because of added vanadium. This improves the toughness and wear resistance of the blade.
The different degrees of AUS range from AUS-6 steel, which contains 0.65% carbon, to AUS-10 steel which has 1.1% carbon.
The higher carbon content makes AUS-10 ideal for kitchen knives that need to be hard and sharp. However, these knives are less resistant to rust.
SXXV Series Steel
SXXV steel is a modern steel grade which has seen increased popularity with knife makers in recent years.
This has a good reason. SXXV blades are much stronger and rust resistant than many other grades.
While they do hold their edge very well, they can be difficult to sharpen.
In addition, this blade steel is also very wear resistant which makes them ideal for knives in busy professional kitchens.
There are a range of different grades with this steel, including S30V, S60V and S90V. These vary greatly in their carbon content.
S30V steel contains 1.45% carbon making it one of the well balanced options for kitchen knives. It’s tough but not too brittle.
In comparison, S60V is similar to S30V steel but the S60V steel is more expensive and quite rare.
S90V steel is very hard and therefore can be very difficult to sharpen with a whetstone. With a carbon content of 2.30%, this steel grade is typically only used in custom-made knives.
Blue steel, also known as Aogami, is another popular choice for kitchen knives. Blue steel is a combination of stainless steel and titanium.
Titanium is harder than most steels so it helps improve the hardness of the blade. In addition, blue steel is extremely lightweight and strong.
Blue steel is often used in high-end chef’s knives. Some chefs even prefer this type of steel over traditional stainless steel.
However, this extreme hardness does make these knives difficult to sharpen with a normal whetstone or electric sharpener.
Similar to blue steel, white steel is also a Japanese steel. It is a relatively new steel option for kitchen knives. White steel is a mixture of stainless steel and ceramic.
Ceramic provides a layer of protection against corrosion. This means that white steel knives will remain sharp for a long time without having to be replaced.
Ceramic also adds weight to the blade which makes it slightly easier to handle. This makes it suitable for use by beginners who want a light and easy to handle knife.
However, white steel is an expensive option. Therefore, if you’re looking for a budget option, then consider using a cheaper stainless steel instead.
What Is The Best Stainless Steel Grade For Kitchen Knives?
If you want a knife that will last longer than a few months then you should consider using a higher grade of stainless steel.
The best grade of stainless steel for kitchen knives is 440C.
440C is a high-carbon stainless steel which has been hardened by being heated to a temperature of between 1,200 and 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit.
This creates a very hard blade which is extremely durable.
It also has a lower carbon content than other grades of stainless steel. This means that it doesn’t rust as easily.
However, 440C stainless steel is still susceptible to scratches and nicks, so it isn’t suitable for every task.
It is recommended that you use a ceramic coated knife block when sharpening your kitchen knife blades because the coating helps prevent damage from occurring during the sharpening process.
For more information on how to care for your kitchen knife, take a look at our care guide below.
How To Choose A Good Quality Kitchen Knife
There are several factors that go into choosing a good kitchen knife. Here is our list of what you need to look out for when buying a good-quality kitchen knife.
Material Of Blade
The first thing to consider when looking at a kitchen knife is the type of metal used to make the blade. There are two main types:
Stainless steel is by far the most popular type of blade on the market today. It is extremely strong and durable.
Another good quality material for kitchen knives is carbon steel which is a softer version of stainless steel. It is easier to sharpen and maintain than stainless steel.
Next up we have the shape of the blade. Most people prefer straight blades, but there are advantages and disadvantages to both straight and curved blades.
Straight blades are great for chopping and dicing because they allow you to get closer to the work.
However, curved blades are better for slicing because they give you a wider surface area to cut across.
One of the most important things to consider when purchasing a new kitchen knife is the size of the blade.
If you’re looking for a large chef’s knife then this should be around 10 inches long. If you’re looking at a smaller paring knife then you can go down to 7 inches.
The next thing to think about is the handle material. When purchasing a kitchen knife, you should always choose one made from high-grade materials such as titanium, wood, or bone.
These handles are usually more expensive than plastic or rubber handles, but they can last much longer.
Weight And Balance
The final consideration is how light or heavy the knife is. If you’re going to use the knife every day, then you’ll probably want a lighter knife. However, if you’re not using the knife very often, then a heavier knife will keep you steady while working.
So, when shopping for a kitchen knife, remember these tips and you’ll find yourself with a great set of knives that will serve you well for years to come.
There are many different brands of kitchen knives available. Some of these are extremely affordable, while others are quite costly.
In general, you’ll get what you pay for. Cheap knives will likely rust and corrode after just a few uses.
Premium knives are usually much sturdier and they are constructed using higher grade materials. They also come with sharper edges.
Unless you have a specific reason to spend more money, you don’t really need to buy a top-of-the-line knife.
Knife manufacturers offer warranties to ensure that their products perform as expected.
Unfortunately, many companies provide limited warranty coverage, so you should always check the warranty of your knives.
In addition, most manufacturers do not cover damage caused by misuse or abuse.
How To Care For Your Kitchen Knives
After you’ve bought your kitchen knives, you need to learn how to care for them properly so that they stay in top condition for many years to come.
Here are some simple steps to follow to ensure that your kitchen knives remain sharp and ready to use whenever needed.
Keep Your Kitchen Knives Clean
It may seem obvious, but it’s really important to clean your kitchen knives regularly.
You don’t want any food particles stuck between the blade and the handle. This can dull the blade over time.
To clean your knives, simply wipe them down with a damp cloth. You can also run them under warm water to remove any dirt.
Some knife handles also benefit from waxing to make sure the grip stays slick and easy to hold onto.
Store Your Kitchen Knives Properly
You should store your kitchen knives away from moisture and heat. Ideally, you should put them in a drawer where they won’t bump into each other or hit against anything else.
This way, they’ll stay sharp and retain their original shine.
When storing your kitchen knives, it’s best to hang them vertically rather than horizontally. This way, the weight of the knife is evenly distributed along its length.
Use Sharpening Stones
Sharpening stones are a must-have item for anyone who uses a kitchen knife on a regular basis.
They help maintain the edge of the blade by removing metal chips and small nicks. They also smooth out any rough edges that might have been caused during cutting.
A good quality stone typically doesn’t cost much, and it doesn’t matter what kind of stone you buy, as long as it works effectively.
That’s why it’s better to invest in a quality stone.
How To Sharpen A Kitchen Knife
If you’re new to sharpening, you might be wondering how to sharpen a kitchen knife. It’s actually pretty straightforward.
Sharpen Your Kitchen Knife With A Whetstone
First, place the tip of the knife on the stone. Then, move the knife back and forth across the surface until you see a slight change in the color of the steel.
Next, stop moving the knife and press firmly on the spot where the blade meets the stone.
Repeat this process until the knife becomes shiny again.
Sharpen Your Kitchen Knife With An Electric Sharpener
An electric sharpener is similar to a whetstone, except it does all the work for you.
Simply place the tip of the blade on the machine, then turn the dial until you hear the motor start up.
Continue turning the dial until the blade begins to get sharper.
Once the blade has reached the desired level of sharpness, turn off the machine. You can repeat these steps if necessary.
Once you’ve mastered the art of sharpening, you can start using your kitchen knives like never before!
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s Damascus Steel?
Damascus steel has become one of the most popular types of stainless steel used in kitchen knives today.
It was originally developed in Syria and it was well known for a long time as one of the finest steels.
However, it wasn’t until recently that people started discovering the incredible benefits of this type of steel.
Today, there are different kinds of Damascus steel available, including Japanese, European, American, and Chinese.
What’s A Japanese Knife?
Japanese knives are considered among the highest quality kitchen knives available today.
Unlike Western knives, which tend to be heavier and thicker, Japanese knives are lighter and thinner.
These knives made of Japanese steel usually feature a thin profile and a sleek design.
Most Japanese knives come with an ivory colored wooden handle. Due to the craftsmanship, Japanese kitchen knives are expensive.
Is Blue Or White Steel Better?
Blue steel is often associated with high-quality kitchen knives. While white steel tends to be more affordable, it isn’t necessarily inferior to blue steel.
White steel is still widely used in many cheap kitchen knives. However, if you want a high-end kitchen knife, you should definitely consider buying a blue steel knife instead.
Is Swedish Steel Better Than German?
Swedish steel is considered to be the best steel for kitchen knives. There are two main reasons why: firstly, it’s very strong; secondly, it’s relatively easy to work with.
German steel is often used in cheaper kitchen knives because it’s easier to find than Swedish steel.
However, if you want a top-notch kitchen knife, you should go for Swedish steel.
Is 440 Steel Good For A Knife?
Yes, 440 stainless steel is commonly found in kitchen knives. This type of steel is quite hard and durable.
It’s also resistant to corrosion and rusting. In fact, it’s so tough that some chefs use it to cut through bones.
This type of steel is also ideal for kitchen knives because it doesn’t stain easily.
Kitchen knives have been around for centuries. They’re an essential part of any home cook’s arsenal, as well as a professional kitchen.
Whether you’re looking for a chef’s knife or a paring knife, there are plenty of options out there.
If you’re new to cooking, then check out our kitchen knife guide above and learn how to properly care for your kitchen knives.
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