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 to know…
Finding the best knife for your needs can be overwhelming, especially with the many options available. You want to feel confident with your purchase – whether they will last and if they suit your style of cooking.
Do ceramic knives break easily?
Admittedly, yes, ceramic knives can break easily (if you let them). They are amazingly sharp and resist wear because of their incredible hardness. But with this hardness they are delicate, in the sense they are prone to chip or break easily. But you can make them last? Read on for how…
They are designed for fine slicing. They perform best under straight-line cutting, without torque or abrupt sideways movement. Made from zirconia (or zirconium dioxide), they are tough, but at the same time fragile when compared to a metal knife.
They retain sharpness for much longer than steel knives. Similar to ceramic kitchen scissors, they are a useful addition in a home kitchen, even though they are ‘delicate’ — which may turn some cooks away. The following covers what to do so they last.
How fragile are ceramic knives?
The knife blades are not made from the same ceramic material as your ceramic bowls and plates. They are made with zirconium dioxide, also known as zirconium oxide or zirconia. Zirconia is second to diamond in strength. Forged at high temperatures, the blade is toughened. At the same time, being made of zirconia means ceramic blades are brittle and prone to chipping and breakage.
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.
The advantage of a ceramic blade is that it won’t rust or become pitted by acidic foods, unlike steel blades. It also won’t absorb odors or flavors from the food. So as well as an enduring sharp cutting edge, these are many advantages of having one of these in your kitchen.
What not to do with ceramic knives
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. Here are more ways to make them last.
- Avoid rough handling. Don’t throw them down or 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 (boneless meat is okay).
- Always store them in sleeves or a suitable knife block. Storing them without protection could damage their cutting edge where other utensils or surfaces collide with them. I covered this type of care in more detail in my article about right ways of storing sharp knives.
The ceramic blade is 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 Blade
Properly using, caring and storing these special knives will keep them performing their best for longer. When moving, make sure to protect the cutting edge of the knives especially. You’ll find all you need to know on what’s appropriate in my article on how to pack ceramic knives for moving.
Here are more tips
- Store carefully.
Using a knife block (like the one shown below) to store your ceramic knife will keep it from getting bumped around in a drawer. This prevents chipping as well as potential injury from cuts due to not seeing the sharp edge. Additionally, you can get a knife sleeve that’s designed explicitly for the 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 blade to do it. 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 blade.
Soft Touch Knife Block by Kyocera
available at Amazon
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 types, even under the most exceptional care, will one day need to be sharpened. Because they are so tough, they can only be sharpened by diamonds, which are harder than zirconia.
One option is to take the knife to a local knife sharpener who has a diamond sharpening stone. Make sure they are experienced in sharpening ceramic knives since they can be easily broken if someone is inexperienced. With some brands, you can send them back to the manufacturer to be sharpened. Look into the warranty or manufacturer’s sharpening recommendations as some may provide a free sharpening service.
However, you can just as easily sharpen them yourself providing you have a sharpener with diamond stones or wheel. I cover suitable options in my article on how to sharpen ceramic knives.
Kyocera Advanced Diamond Hone Knife Sharpener
available at Amazon
What are the pros and cons of ceramic knives?
Let’s make sure we have a picture of both the pros and cons of these knives. With all great tools, there are advantages and disadvantages.
The ceramic knife advantage
Blades will stay sharp around ten times longer than steel counterparts.
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
The lack of weight makes these knives very easy to handle.
Ceramic blades 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
- Special sharpening.
While sharpening rarely needs to happen, when it does it will need a diamond type of stone.
Ceramic blades 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 types 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. Having a cutting board with the right hardness helps.
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 one 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 you. 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 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. Click here for great examples of Kyocera Japanese ceramic knife sets.
Kyocera Premier Elite Ceramic Chef Knife
available at Amazon
Fragile yet fierce: Ceramic knives
A ceramic knife, 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 slicing 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.