What is the best blade to use in the kitchen? There are two great options: ceramic knives vs steel. Ceramic blades have some amazing benefits as in fine slicing, but they also come with their own disadvantages. Steel blades can require more maintenance than ceramic ones do, but they are very strong and long-lasting. Which one should you choose? Let’s look at why one might be better than the other…
Are ceramic knives better than steel? Ceramic knives are sharper and lighter than steel. Ceramic knives also stay sharper for longer. They provide light work of fine slicing and decorative cutting, but are not for heavy-duty use as they can break, in which case steel is a better choice.
While superior in a few ways, their hardening makes ceramic knives susceptible to damage with strained use. In this respect, steel knives outperform ceramic in heavy chopping, hacking, prying, and cleaving duties, and fair better from hard knocks.
What to know in a nutshell:
- Steel knives are best for cutting and chopping boned meatless and solid or frozen foods. They have some give when bended.
- Ceramic knives are best for fine slicing of delicate foods, vegetables, fruits, fish, etc.
- Rather than being tempered like steel blades, the zirconia of ceramic knives is hardened by firing in a powerful furnace¹.
- While they have strength and sharpness, ceramic blades have no flexibility; they are rigid, meaning they won’t bend or bounce. So you need to take this into account. They will break if you use them to pry apart frozen foods.
- For boned meats, stick to a a good stainless steel knife, rather than use a ceramic blade.
- The ceramic-coated knives are not made of zirconia, but are rather steel based blades coated with a nonstick covering of some description.
What is the difference between ceramic knives and steel knives?
Ceramic knives are made from zirconia. Steel blades are usually made from carbon steel, stainless steel, or high-carbon alloys.
A ceramic blade has some advantages over its metal counterparts such as being more lightweight than regular knives, which makes for less fatigue when preparing foods. It also won’t chemically react with food.
A disadvantage is that ceramic blades are rigid, they have no give, whereas steel knives do have some flexibility which helps with carving, prying, and parting of hard foods.
Ceramic knives vs steel knives in performance
Initial handling comparison: A ceramic knife feels odd to handle for first time use because they are lightweight compared the steel knives that most of us are used to handling. Ceramic knives feel super lightweight in comparison.
What are ceramic knives best used for? The best ceramic knives make ideal tools for finely slicing boneless meats, fish, fruits and vegetables, and precision work on food items for table decoration or preparing slivers of seafood for sushi or similar delicate foods.
For cutting soft or wet foods, ceramic knives might be the way to go. They work well with green vegetables and tomatoes.
When it comes to chopping blocks of cheese, you will get a better result when using steel blades because they are heavier than ceramics ones which gives more power behind each chop.
Ceramic knives are fragile when it comes to heavy duty work, as I covered in “what not to do with ceramic knives“. They’re not designed to bend, twist, or bounce. You’ll discover this if you happen to drop or throw the knife clumsily around — they can break and chip.
Another difference between ceramic knives and steel ones is that when the ceramic blades do eventually need sharpening, they require a diamond stone as compared to the standard sharpening tool. Ceramic knife sharpeners are easily obtained and not that dear. I cover the different types in my article on how to sharpen ceramic knives.
How to work with ceramic knives
The best way to use ceramic knives, I’ve found, is to avoid placing pressure on the blade as you would with steel knives. You’ll find ceramics work better with light pressure and their edge and blade will likely last longer without the strain. Make sure you have a cutting board with the right hardness.
The thing to note is the distribution of weight — having the weightiness lean more toward the nose of the blade rather than the handle. The best ceramic knives will offer a handle-light design for a good knife balance to work with in preparing food in the kitchen.
Tip: Look for ones with handle and blade molded as one, so you don’t risk the blade separating from the handle — like this ceramic utility knife (which are useful) that’s molded, from Cerahome…
Cerahome has this sturdy ceramic utility knife on offer at Amazon
Are ceramic knives any good?
Yes, ceramic knives are good in that they resist bacterial growth, making them a hygienic choice. Another is that they are made of an eco-friendly material. Plus, ceramic blades are also usually sharper than steel knives and they stay that way longer.
A ceramic blade is made from zirconia, a considerably hard substance, which is why the blade stays sharper for longer. It will retain a cutting edge longer than knives of forged metal.
When steel knives are better
I’d choose a steel knife over ceramic for heavy-duty chopping, slicing of meats containing bones, and for parting or cutting hard produce or frozen foods.
Also, steel is best if you’re needing to use a long knife, e.g., for carving. You could use a ceramic knife, but if you’re wanting a longer blade, a steel blade is better. The longer the blade is in ceramic, the more vulnerable it is to cracks or chips especially if you tend to bend or twist the blade.
Looking for a good quality steel chef knife?
☞ Have a look at this chef knife of quality steel with a Rockwell score of 58-60 at Made In
Final thoughts on a ceramic knife for the kitchen
A ceramic blade is usually more lightweight than metal ones which means less fatigue when working in the kitchen with them.
Getting a ceramic knife will complement any kitchen knife collection as it’s a useful option for delicate food preparation.
In choosing one, I’d recommend starting with a suitable ceramic knife for those fine slicing jobs, possibly a utility size, like the one by Faberware that comes with a sheath, which you can check out at Amazon.
If you prefer a larger blade, as in a chef’s knife, look for the Japanese Santoku style chef knife, like this 5 1/2 inch one by Kyocera that’s available at Amazon, which has a rounded nose and is slightly shorter than the conventional chef’s knife.
It’s about cooking with confidence.