Every chef knows that a sharp and well-kept knife is an essential tool in any kitchen. With a solid blade, you can turn whole, fresh produce into a work of art. Ceramic knives are popular, but questions like “do ceramic knives break easily” are popping up about these knives. Here’s what not to do…
Finding the best knife for your needs can be overwhelming, especially with all the options available. You want to feel confident with your purchase – whether they will last and if they suit your style of cooking.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information.
Are ceramic knives fragile?
Ceramic knives are designed for fine slicing. They perform best under straight-line cutting, without torque or abrupt sideways movement. Made of zirconia, they are strong but at the same time fragile. They can chip or break if used for the wrong purposes or mishandled.
In the rest of this article, I’ll cover why they are toughened, yet fragile, and what to do to make them last.
Ceramic knives are incredibly sharp and keep their sharpness for much longer than metal knives. They are a useful addition in a home kitchen, even though they are ‘delicate’ and this ‘delicateness’ may turn some cooks away.
All about fragile ceramic knives
Ceramic knives are not made from the same material as your ceramic bowls and plates. They are made with zirconium oxide, also known as zirconia.
There are quite a few versions of zirconia, including:
- transformation-toughened zirconia
- blackened zirconia
- partially stabilized zirconia
Each type of ceramic knife has slightly different properties, but all still hold a sharp edge better than any forged stainless-steel knife can.
Zirconia is second to diamond in strength. Forged at high temperatures, the blade is toughened.
The advantage of a ceramic blade is that it won’t rust or become pitted by acidic foods, unlike steel blades. Ceramic knives won’t absorb odors or flavors from the food. As well as an enduring sharp edge, each of these is a considerable advantage to using a ceramic knife in your kitchen.
At the same time, being made of zirconia means ceramic blades are brittle and prone to chipping and breakage.
When do ceramic knives break easily?
The most important and basic rule when it comes to “what not to do with ceramic knives” is to never use them for heavy-duty chopping or prying. Never throw them around, nor mishandle them around hard surfaces.
Never try to pry or lever apart frozen packets with a ceramic knife, for example. Never use these for chopping or cutting boned meat.
Always store them in sleeves or a suitable knife block. Storing them without could damage them where other utensils or surfaces are likely to collide with them.
They are perfect for precision slicing of salad vegetables and impressive presentations of fruits. Fine slicing is where these babies excel.
How to care for your ceramic knife
Properly using, caring and storing your ceramic knives helps keep them performing their best for longer.
When moving, pack them appropriately – you’ll find all you need to know in my article on how to pack ceramic knives for moving.
Here are some of the best ways to care for a ceramic knife…
- Store carefully. Using a butcher block to store your ceramic knife will keep it from getting bumped around in a drawer. This prevents chipping as well as potential cuts from not seeing it. Additionally, you can get a knife sleeve designed explicitly for your knife.
- Wash by hand. Dishwashers often rattle, shake, or have items shift when under the high-water pressure. This can cause your knife to chip, dulling the blade. By washing and drying by hand, you preserve the blade and can store it immediately after use.
- Do not twist or pry. If you have the terrible habit of using a knife to get out an avocado pit or something similar, do not use a ceramic knife. Twisting, wiggling, and prying motions are highly likely to break the blade.
- Do not use on frozen food or bones. Deboning a chicken or cutting through frozen items need lots of pressure or bending of blades. Both will chip or break a ceramic knife.
By following these simple steps, you’ll keep these knives incredibly sharp for a long time.
How to sharpen your ceramic knife
Basically, all knives eventually become dull. Ceramic knives, even under the most exceptional care, will one day need to be sharpened.
They hold their sharpness for so long because they are so tough, and they can only be sharpened by diamonds.
One option is to send them back to the manufacturer to be sharpened when needed. Look into the warranty or manufacturer’s sharpening recommendations as some may provide a free sharpening service.
However, you can sharpen them yourself. There are knife sharpeners with a diamond edge available in the market. For details on how to do this, see my article on the best ways to sharpen ceramic knives.
Another option is to take the knives to someone locally who will sharpen it. Make sure they are experienced in sharpening ceramic knives since they can be easily broken if someone is inexperienced.
Pros and cons of ceramic knives
Ceramic knives are sounding pretty awesome, right? Well, we want to make sure you have a great picture of both the pros and cons of these knives.
Advantages of ceramic knives
Some of the best parts of ceramic knives are:
- Sharpness. Blades will stay sharp around ten times longer than steel counterparts.
- Cleanliness. Ceramic does not stain or transfer ions. Ion transfer among steel knives can oxidize fruit faster. They also do not have pores, preventing bacteria from growing.
- Lightweight. The lack of weight makes these knives very easy to handle.
- Precise. Ceramic knives can be made so thin that they can slice fruits and vegetables incredibly thin as well.
Each of these characteristics makes for a sort-after item in any kitchen.
Disadvantages of ceramic knives
While great tools, here are a few cons of these knives:
- Special sharpening. While sharpening rarely needs to happen, when it does it will need a diamond type of stone.
- Fragile. Ceramic knives are prone to breaking or chipping if not adequately cared for.
- Lack of versatility. These knives should not be used for any jobs that involve twisting, prying, or too much pressure.
- Learning curve. Ceramic knives handle differently than other knives. Because they are so sharp, they tend to cut into wooden cutting boards a bit more than others. So, learning the right amount of pressure your need to cut quickly without the friction of the cutting board may take some getting used to.
- Non-magnetic. While it may not make a difference to many, those with a magnetic knife holder in their kitchen will not be able to store a ceramic knife on it. Also, these knives do not conduct electricity, though that is rarely a purpose for them.
Some of these disadvantages may be a dealbreaker for a few. Nevertheless, the right job requires the right tool. And, if you’re one who is always sharpening a knife to slice that tomato perfectly, then you’ll likely appreciate the enduring sharpness of a ceramic knife.
The best ceramic knives
The most well-known and loved ceramic knives are made by Kyocera in Japan. Made in Kyoto since 1959, these knives are well-manufactured and more durable than cheaper counterparts. They are well balanced and will be sharpened, for free, by Kyocera whenever needed. On top of that, they have an ergonomic handle to help with long chopping days.
For those just starting in the world of knives, you may want to try ceramic coated knives. These knives have metal blades but with a nonstick ceramic coating. A popular choice is this color-coded set of six knives and covers from Cuisinart. They are well-reviewed and will give you a feeling for knives offering easy slicing.
Lastly, if you are thinking of gifting a set of ceramic knives to a friend or loved one, consider these Kikusumi knives. This set comes with three different sizes and a stunning gift box. Kikusumi makes sure their looks match their quality, though. With the intelligent design that went into each knife, Kikusumi is happy to give a lifetime warranty against defects on their knives.
I wrote about the cons to these knives and answered frequently asked questions in my more in-depth reviews of popular ceramic knife sets.
Fragile yet fierce: Ceramic knives
Ceramic knives, when used correctly and stored well, can transform a kitchen. The speed, sharpness, and precision that these knives deliver can keep you going day after day. Great for bartenders, especially, these knives work well for those who find themselves chopping often or needing to be precise.
So, before you garnish that next dish, consider grabbing a ceramic knife to help you along the way. If you take care of these knives, they are sure to take care of your fine slicing skills.