There is much debate around the question of whether hand forged or ceramic knives are the best fit for the kitchen. When searching for the perfect kitchen knife, the selling points tend to depend on the knife's ease of use, edge retention, and longevity. The below evaluation of ceramic and handmade knives sheds light on what each of these types of blades bring to the table, and thus, which of the two is the most valuable purchase.
The differences between ceramic and handmade knives are inherent, going back all the way to the production process of each. Handmade knives are usually made of steel and go through a labour intensive forging process. The blade undergoes hammering, sanding and bevelling until the bladesmith is satisfied with its shape.
The making of ceramic knives is also rigorous, but unlike handmade steel blades, they are usually mass-made in factories. Unfortunately, often the best possible materials aren’t utilised in their making, which in turn results in poor quality ceramic knives making their way into the marketplace. This is a direct contrast to the craft and thoughtfulness that goes into the production of hand forged blades.
Handmade steel knives are known for their strength and weightiness. The predominant advantage of this is that when cooking, less human effort is required. Rather, the knife happily bears the brunt of the hard work. The strength of the blades means that they can be used to cut just about anything, including the toughest of meats, bones included.
Ceramic blades are a lightweight alternative, often weighing half of that of steel knives. At first, their lightness gives off the impression that they are easy to use. Whilst this is true to an extent, when it comes to tough items such as meats and frozen foods, they’re generally ineffective, and even likely to break.
Plus, the lighter the knife, the more effort its owner needs to put into the cutting process.
Both ceramic and handmade steel knives are considered to be ‘hard’. This hardness is a direct result of the materials that they are made from. Handmade steel knives have a high carbon content. The more carbon that makes up a knife, the harder that knife will be. As a result, the blade’s longevity increases.
Often made from zirconium oxide, ceramic blades are also extremely hard. Whilst this hardness contributes to their undeniable sharpness, it also is exactly what makes them so brittle and fragile. Therefore, it’s important to use ceramic knives with extra care. Mishandling them just slightly can easily result in breakages and chips. As a result, they are far less versatile than handmade steel blades.
On the other hand, ceramic blades are known for their incredible sharpness, and when used flawlessly, are too known for the sustainability of their sharpness. This can position them as an ideal blade when fine cutting is required.
Hand made steels are sharp too, though a little less so than ceramic blades. Whilst their edge retention is impressive, ceramic blades tend to stay sharper for longer should their fragile nature not first become problematic. Nonetheless, the well-balanced weightiness and subsequential ease of control of handmade steels means that they are just as capable of extreme precision.
In addition to this, it’s inevitable that the day will arrive when a knife requires sharpening. Fortunately, sharpening handmade steel knives is an easy and quick process; they can be sharpened time and time again from the comfort of one’s home, and doing so requires just a pull through sharpener, rod, or whetstone.
The process for ceramic knives couldn’t be more different. Their fragile nature means that sharpening them from home, a process that requires a diamond edge, could very easily damage them. Instead, the best bet is to offload the responsibility of sharpening to a professional resharpening service. Hence ultimately, the maintenance of ceramic blades becomes a costly and time consuming process.
Ceramic knives are made from non-reactive materials and therefore do not rust, period. Handmade steel knives are reactive meaning that when the blade meets oxygen or water, rusting occurs. However, this rust is avoidable through the following methods.
First, handmade steels develop a patina, a protective layer over the blade, which is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also works to prevent further corrosion and rust of the blade.
Moreover, how the knife is stored is important. It should be stored out of moisture’s way, in cool, dry conditions.
Finally, how the blade is cleaned is fundamental too. It should be wiped down with a clean cloth whilst cooking and afterwards, washed in soapy water, and hand dried with a clean cloth.
Essentially, it’s imperative that it’s exposure to moisture is diminished as much as possible.
Whilst low quality ceramic blades can be found on the market, they often have a significantly high price tag. Handmade steel knives are the more budget friendly option, with zero risk to their quality and integrity.
Overall, handmade steel knives take the gold as the most valuable type of kitchen knife. They are strong, versatile, precise, and well priced.
Whilst ceramic knives deserve praise for the precision, sharpness, and wondrous ability to remain rust-free, they are far less flexible and resilient than hand made steels, whilst inconveniently retaining a higher price tag.