There is no doubt that a knife is one of the most essential utensils to have in any kitchen, regardless of the cook’s experience level. Over the last few years, ceramic knives have seen a surge of popularity and have even replaced trusty old steel knives for some folks.
But are they really a proper substitute for steel knives? Or are the two one and the same?
This ceramic vs. steel knife comparison guide will be exploring the characteristics, merits, and demerits of both steel knives and ceramic knives, so that you can choose the one that fits your needs best.
The ceramic used in making ceramic knives is actually powdered and pressed zirconia (zirconium dioxide). It measures at a high 8.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness for minerals. This hardness lends ceramic knives their extreme sharpness and precision when cutting through food.
They also stay sharp for much longer than regular steel knives and do not rust or conduct electricity.
Ceramic knives also are able to resist acids and other caustic substances, making them all the more long-lasting. They are also less porous than steel knives, which means that they do not retain the smell of the food that they cut through, and will be sufficiently clean when washed with just warm water.
Pros of Ceramic Knives
Now that we know about the individual properties of steel knives and ceramic knives, let us go into each of their pros and cons and see how they compare to each other overall. We shall begin by looking at the merits of ceramic knives.
Ceramic knives are known to be about half as light as steel knives, on average. This makes them very easy to handle.
- Extremely Sharp
After diamonds, ceramic is the hardest material out there. That, paired with the fact of the ceramic knife’s blade being extremely thin, makes for a knife that cuts through cold butter as if it were hot butter.
- Great for Precise Cutting
Again, the thinness and sharpness of a ceramic knife allow for it to make the process of cutting through fruits and vegetables very precise. So, if you are looking to cut your food intricately, a ceramic knife would be the way to go.
- No Rust, No Lingering Food Smells
If it is not metal, then it will not rust. That is one thing that one need not worry about regarding ceramic knives. Smells of food such as onions or garlic also do not linger on ceramic knives.
Cons of Ceramic Knives
All that said, ceramic knives are not without any flaws.
- They Chip Easily
Ceramic knives, while hard and sharp, do tend to be quite brittle and will chip easily. This is why they are unable to replace a professional chef’s knives. Ceramic knives could also break if you drop them on the hard ground accidentally, so that is something to take into consideration.
- Sharpening Services Not Largely Available
Due to their unique level of sharpness, second only to diamonds, you may have to seek out a professional sharpener to sharpen your ceramic knives, and not be able to do it at home by yourself.
- May Make You Tired
Because of how lightweight ceramic knives are, you may find that you are having to exert more energy whilst cutting with it, than what you would have had to exert with a heavier steel knife.
Steel knives definitely come in a greater variety than ceramic knives, as they are available in alloy steel, tool steel, semi-stainless steel, and stainless steel materials. They are more readily available for purchase and have been perfected over their long history to be more fool-proof than the recently trendy ceramic knives.
However, not all steel knives are made the same, whereas any ceramic knife will cut through food just as cleanly as the next one.
And steel knives also retain food smells and are prone to rust and corrosion. Though, they are definitely easier to sharpen than ceramic knives, which usually require a professional sharpener due to the unique material that they are made of.
Pros of Steel Knives
Steel knives have survived and evolved for a long time, and for a good reason. Below are some of the qualities of steel knives that have made them so trustworthy and popular in the culinary world.
- Largely Available
In many places in the world, a cooking knife can only be made of steel. Steel knives are available anywhere in the world and can be purchased from within a wide range of prices.
- Easy to Sharpen
Due to their easy availability, steel knives can also be sharpened more easily than niche ceramic knives. In fact, most people sharpen their steel knives at home using a whetstone.
Because they measure lower on the hardness scale than ceramic knives, they are not as brittle. A steel knife would most likely survive a fall from a moderately tall building. They also do not chip.
- Functional Variety
While ceramic knives come in a lot of color options, steel knives come in a variety of functions. There are steel knives available for specific tasks to perform in the kitchen, such as butter knives, paring knives, chef’s knives, boning knives, and many more.
Cons of Steel Knives
As reliable as steel knives are, they, too, have demerits which one may want to take into account.
- Prone to Wear
Though not as breakable as ceramic knives, steel knives are more prone to wear and tear over time. Whereas a ceramic knife will stay sharp and smooth for much longer than a steel knife. Steel knives also rust.
- Need Semi-Regular Sharpening
Again, as ceramic knives stay sharp for longer, steel knives do require a bit of sharpening annually in order to keep them working well. However, getting them to be sharp again is not as much of a hassle, as is the same for ceramic knives.
Ceramic Knives vs. Steel Knives: Which One to Go for?
Now that you know the pros and cons of both steel knives and ceramic knives, which one is really the better option? The answer to that depends entirely upon what type of cook you are.
Steel knives, when sharpened regularly, will last you for decades. Whereas you could shatter a ceramic knife quite easily if you drop it on the kitchen floor the day after you buy it.
Ceramic knives are definitely the easier option as they are versatile enough for the average kitchen and also do not cost a lot of money.
That said, steel knives are much more reliable overall and are available at a variety of prices. At the end of the day, you should go for the knife which has the qualities that you, as an individual, value the most in a kitchen knife.