Ceramics are a rare revolution in culinary-knife technology.
There’s a reason chefs obsessively sharpen their costly, high-carbon steel knives with each use. They lose their edge that quickly.
Ceramic knives are the first knife revolution since stainless steel a half century ago. They are taking over many culinary jobs.
Ceramics are that good, and slice the tie between knives and sharpening steels. Big plus: fewer Band Aids needed in the kitchen.
A good ceramic in consumer use stays sharp for years. In professional use, the ceramic edge lasts 10 times longer than steel.
Ceramics are made by molding zirconium dioxide powder in an electronic process, truly high tech. The blade then is sharpened on a low-tech diamond wheel. Mineral zirconium ranks 8.5 on the hardness scale compared to steel at 7.5 and diamond at 10.
Lucky for us, ceramics now are driven by popularity, and the prices are falling, fast. Knives from respected makers that cost $200 two years ago are in the $35 range. Some three-knife sets are $30. Be aware of wide price fluctuations by comparing prices online. Enjoy.
• No rust or other metal oxidation. Steel knives cause oxidized cuts that turn brown fast, such as with potatoes and apples. It doesn't happen with ceramics. The knives are much lighter than steel and have a different feel.
• Safety. Ceramic blades do not feel sharp or tear flesh like steel. They are safer for children with supervision. They do not conduct electricity. Polypropylene handles are comfortable and slip proof.
• Precision. Ceramics are capable of extremely thin cutting of vegetables and intricate patterns such as creating flowers from tomatoes.
• Sanitation: Ceramics are easier to clean than steel, rinsing off under the tap.
• The blade is brittle. Do not use ceramic for any chore requiring twisting or prying. Use steel instead. As with fine steel, dropping can break the blade.
• Never use on hard items such as bones. Never place in a dishwasher. Store in a knife block, never in a utensil drawer.
• Using a hard cutting surface such as metal or glass will dull the blade. Plastic or wood is mandatory.
• More expensive ceramics come with a lifetime sharpness guarantee. If the knife dulls, send it back to the factory for sharpening. Be aware this may not be “free.” Shipping may be extra, up to $20 per knife.
• Never sharpen ceramics with the usual steel-knife sharpeners. A diamond sharpening wheel or block is required. These run $40 to $60 for electric versions. Some steel sharpeners include ceramic features.
THE KNIFE TYPES
Ceramics are available in nearly all popular knife styles except for cleavers, serrated and boning blades.
Paring: The smallest of knives for precision cuts on small items, and peeling vegetables.
Page 2 of 2 - Steak: Slightly longer than paring for individual settings at the table.
Chef: Wide blade, all purpose, for slicing and chopping larger amounts of food.
Slicing/carving: Thin, long blade for boneless meats.
Santoku: A chef's knife with a curved blade for slicing, dicing and mincing. Also called a sheepsfoot blade. Excellent for fish. Often with blade indentations said to lessen sticking.
Serrated: Ginsu-type, serrated, stainless blades in various styles for a sawlike action. Not good for chopping or dicing.
Bread: Thin, flexible blade usually serrated.
Cleaver: Heavy, wide blade for cutting and chopping large amounts and bones.
Boning: Curved blade for cutting cartilage and small bones.