Ceramic knives pack plentiful benefits, even trumping their steel counterparts in some cases, but ultimately serve as a complement rather than a replacement for a good set of steel blades. In an era of Wi-Fi-equipped coffee makers, this battle over blades continues because each knife caters to different jobs. As a general rule, steel works best for heavy-duty cutting while ceramic does wonders for straight and soft slicing. Knowing the ins-and-outs, however, helps you make the sharpest choice before breaking out the cutting board.
All in the Blade
Ceramic knives feature lighter-weight blades than their steel brethren, and these blades typically retain their sharp edges longer. Ceramic knives are about 50 percent harder than steel blades and stay sharp roughly 10 times as long, thanks to modern zirconium construction. Due to its thin construction, ceramic is better suited to making particularly thin slices in produce. By contrast, heftier steel sports far better flexibility than brittle ceramic, making it less susceptible to damage even when dropped.
For all their perks, ceramic knives cater mostly to slicing fruits, vegetables, thawed meats and breads. While steel slices and saws through frozen meats, hard cheeses and bones, ceramic -- which is hard but thin and susceptible to serious chipping -- should never be used for these purposes. Boning and prying are the exclusive domain of steel knives. For this reason, ceramic blades usually serve as a complement to steel knives.
When slicing soft foods, ceramic easily bests the competition. Because steel blades are more porous, they often transfer odors and tastes from one food to the next. Denser ceramic, however, only needs a quick rinse to be cleansed of odor and flavor. Ceramic cutlery also lacks the metallic taste that characterizes steel, and because it doesn't contain metal ions, it never oxidizes sliced fruits. This prevents the unsightly browning that sometimes occurs when cutting with steel.
More to Know
Steel knives are a lot friendlier on the bank account than ceramic cutlery, which has only been a part of the kitchen lineup since the mid-1980s. In addition to more cost up front, you'll also need to invest in a specialized sharpener for your ceramic blades. However, ceramic knives don't rust like steel does and they take a lot less scrubbing to wash clean.
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