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Ceramic vs. Stainless Steel Knives

miami beach personal chef and catering

A question often asked by our cooking class students is: “Which knife is the best”.  Our answer is “No one knife is the “best” one for everyone”. The reason is the knife has to feel comfortable in your hand. Go to a specialty cooking store and ask to hold the chef’s knives.  

The one that feels best in your friend’s hand may not feel the most comfortable in yours. The reason is hand size, strength and dexterity. The most important thing is the knife must be well balanced and have some weight to it. The knife is supposed to do the work, not you.

When it comes to ceramic vs. stainless steel that can be tough. I don’t think I have ever seen a ceramic knife in a professional kitchen, but that does not take away the positive attributes about ceramic knives.

Ceramic knives are very sharp. Ceramic knives are produced from very hard ceramic, known as zirconium dioxide. This material is very hard that’s why they stay sharp for longer and don’t require frequent sharpening. The down side is they can only be sharpened with a special diamond sharpening tool.

Stainless knives when used frequently require honing (not sharpening). Honing is done with a “steel”. It is the long thin rod of metal with ridges on it. Honing realigns the edge and should be done for every 1 1/2 to 2 hours of kitchen use.  Sharpening can also be done with a steel, but one encrusted with diamonds. Sharpening grinds down and take some of the steel away. Sharpening should not be necessary more than once or twice per year. Upside is you can easily do both at home.

Ceramic knives some say are more hygienic as the pores are smaller. They are also made of a non-reactive material and will slow down the oxidation of fruits, vegetables and herbs.  They will not stop the fruits and vegetables from browning, but will help. Oxidation occurs with two enzyme that occur naturally in fruits and vegetables are separated by the cutting action and exposed to air. Stainless steel knives are made with copper and iron and when the blade comes in contact with the enzymes it encourages browning more quickly. Ceramic does not STOP the browning, but does slow it.

A big downside of ceramic is their fragility.  Yes I said they were strong, but not as strong a their stainless cousins. They must NOT be used on plates or glass cutting boards (I am not sure why anyone uses glass cutting boards, but many do). If you should drop them beware, they do chip easily. Also only use them from “softer” foods. Fresh, not frozen as they can chip them also.

Stainless knives are tough and this is why professional chefs use them. They too must be treated with respect in order to last and stay sharp, but are more sturdy.  I feel personally that cutting on glass boards dulls the steel knives and like are creating microscopic shards of glass that you end up eating.

As with all knives if you want to keep an edge NEVER and I mean NEVER wash them in a dishwasher. They will never hold an edge again.

In short, it is up to you. Ceramic are great for fruits and vegetables because of their sharpness and slow oxidation or “rusting” of fruits and vegetables. Stainless steel is more durable and can more easily be maintained in home. The choice is yours. Owning multiple knives is always a good thing...just ask a chef.

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