Ceramic, Stainless Steel or Carbon Steel: Which Knife is Best for You?

Here's our sharp look at three top knife options: ceramic, stainless steel and carbon steel.

Set of kitchen knives on a board, top view.Shutterstock / Fortyforks

There’s no doubt that a cook’s most trusty tool is her knife! (Especially when you keep ’em sharp.) But it may come as a surprise to some that all chef’s knifes are not created equal. Many variables determine which type of knife is best, and using the correct one for your task is key. Whether you’re slicing and dicing, chopping onions or de-boning a fish, different knives have different characteristics and picking the best one can be tricky. We’re looking at ceramic, stainless steel and carbon steel to help you chose which type of knife is best.

Stainless Steel

In terms of durability, stainless steel knives are your best bet. As the name implies, these knives don’t rust or stain easily, and therefore may last you longer than some of the other knives. (Even when you make these common mistakes.) Stainless steel is softer than other metals so it’s generally easier to sharpen, but be warned, they may lose their edge more quickly than the others.

If you’re looking for a sturdy, durable and reliable knife that will last you a long time, stainless steel won’t disappoint. These knives are perfect for an avid home cook and are a great all-purpose option. Take it for a test drive when carving up your next roast!

Carbon Steel

For serious home cooks, a carbon steel knife is their ace in the hole. There’s one thing sets this knife apart from the others, and it’s the one quality that chefs value above all: a razor-sharp edge. Carbon steel knives are known to keep their sharp edges longer than most and make chopping, slicing and shaving safer and easier. A sharp knife makes for clean cuts and clean cuts make for an easy dinner (even with this sliced tomato salad). Just be sure to keep your knife clean; carbon steel will stain and even rust if it isn’t washed and dried thoroughly after each use.

Ceramic

For a sharp knife at an affordable price, look no further than ceramic! Sure, ceramic knives are more prone to chipping and scratching than some of the others. But they’re also surprisingly sharp, cheap and functional. They’re ideal for expert slicing and dicing, and give you a precision that the other options may not. They’re also incredibly lightweight and easy to handle.

If you’re looking for an all-purpose meat, fish and vegetable knife, this isn’t for you. But when you need a surprisingly sharp knife for the occasional julienned vegetable salad (like this beauty) then you might consider adding a ceramic knife to your arsenal. Be gentle and make sure to avoid cutting any bones, pits or seeds.

To sum it all up, the best type of knife for you depends on what you’ll be using it for. Here are our picks:

  • Stainless steel: all-purpose chef’s knife that can last for years without staining or chipping
  • Carbon steel: a super sharp, super durable knife that even a veteran chef would envy
  • Ceramic: a sharp, affordable and lightweight knife for occasional knife-skills-bragging-rights

A knife is a totally personal choice, and will vary from cook to cook. Whichever one you chose, make sure to keep it clean, keep it sharp and keep it safe!

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Laura Denby
Laura is a New York-based freelance food writer with a degree in Culinary Arts from the Institute of Culinary Education and a degree in Journalism from Penn State. Her work has appeared in Taste of Home, Chowhound, the Culture Trip and Patch.