Thunders Kitchen Info 102:
Second Class: The Pros and Cons of Stainless versus High Carbon Steel Knife Blades! It is a longer post but the info is solid!
What can I say I am inspired by this forum. Here is something else I teach newcomers to the kitchen and even veterans can appreciate the knowledge in the difference between high carbon steel and stainless steel knives!
When it comes to knife blades, there is a laundry list of metals that can be used. Generally speaking there are two classifications in knife blades, stainless or high carbon steel knife blades. Each has their pros and cons and for the most part, you are just trading the shortcomings of one with the the strength of the other. It all comes down to what you are willing to sacrifice on and what you are hoping to get. But which knife blade is stainless and which one is high carbon?
Stainless Steel: Blades generally have at least 12% chromium which does two things for the blade. This makes the blade able to resist rust and corrosion a lot better than high carbon blades but the downside is that stainless steel is generally softer then high carbon knives. This means that although they are relatively easier to sharpen, they also tend to lose their edge just a tad quicker than hard, high carbon blades. So here are the advantages of stainless steel blades.
Durability: Stainless steel knife blades are generally tougher than high carbon blades. Tougher but not necessarily harder. There is an ongoing debate between the definitions of the two because, for a long time, they have been considered synonyms. Stainless steel blades do not rust, chip or stain easily. Technically speaking, stainless steel can still rust but it resists it a lot better than high carbon knives.
Flavour Presentation: Stainless steel knives do not require any protective or non-stick coating so there is less chance of contaminating your food if you do use the knife for food prep. Stainless steel also tends not to leach off it;s metallic properties onto your food.(remember every time you sharpen your knife wash it and dry it so you don’t get small metallic shavings deposited into your food!)Some discerning pallets sometimes can tell the knife was high carbon as it can sometimes leave a slight metallic taste.
Recyclable: Stainless steel is one of the most recyclable materials today. They are on fact almost everywhere metal is used. This means that if you do happen to wreck your knife, which is quite hard to do with stainless steel, you can always have it recycled. It’s a simple way of helping mother earth.
Appearance: Of course, the biggest pull of stainless steel knives is the fact that they look good for a very long time. Less time used in maintaining the knife gives you more time to do what it is you like with it!!!
High Carbon Steel:
Carbon is the hardest element and knife blades made form high carbon steel is no exception. The strength and hardness of the blade makes it ideal for edge retention which means less time required for edge maintaining the blade but since it does not have a drop of chromium, it has very poor resistance capabilities. This means that you need to thoroughly clean the knife after use and make sure you guard it against moisture before you store it! More commonly used on fixed blade knives, high carbon knife blades are known to last throughout the years. I would bet my bottom dollar you’re grand-daddy’s fixed blade knife is made form some sort of high carbon steel, most likely 1095. There are a lot of professional chefs myself included and survivalists that swear to the quality of high carbon steel blades. Here is a list of advantages of this type of blade.
Sharpness: There is simply no matching the sharpness that high carbon knives deliver. This allows superior precision in cutting and requires a lot less effort making the the knife a lot safer.
Affordable: Of course, many factors can relay the cost of any knife. High carbon steel tend to be more affordable then their stainless steel counterparts. I didn’t use the word cheaper because you might get the wrong idea. High carbon steel are cheaper in price not in quality.
Hardness: High carbon steel blades are a lot harder than stainless steel which makes it a lot more dependable on precision cuts. Most blades for hunting knives are made from high carbon specifically for this reason. One may argue that high carbon rusts way easier making it a poor choose for an outdoor environment but that can be easily resolved by proper knife maintenance.
Edge Retention: Because they are harder, they also tend to hold their crazy sharp edge longer. This means that you do not have to worry about sharpening the knife as often and that you will be able to cut through what is required with less issues. One thing is for sure, you can skin a deer way faster with a carbon steel knife that a stainless steel one.
Conclusion: It will come down to what you want, cost, comfort, style and ease of use. All of these things will factor in to what you do with your knife.
Yeah yeah I get it is way more knife info then most people need but hey I have it so I might as well share it,
Cheers and much love,