Today, stainless steel and its various alloys dominate the kitchen knife market. Whether they are from Germany or Japan, you would most likely encounter kitchen knives that are made of stainless steel. For centuries, knife makers across the globe mastered the art of forging stainless steel blades.
But there is a growing interest in ceramic knives which can be a viable alternative to the tried-and-tested stainless steel kitchen knives. Made of zirconia, ceramic kitchen knives are noticeably harder than their stamped steel counterparts. In addition, they retain their sharpness for much longer than steel blades.
However, they are not forever immune to losing their cutting edge. Like steel knives, ceramic knives need to be sharpened too. What makes this difficult is that ceramic knives are brittle and easily broken. Someone who is inexperienced in ceramic blade sharpening may end up with broken pieces of ceramic on the floor.
So how do you keep the blade of your ceramic knife sharp? Learn about using a ceramic knife sharpener by reading on.
What Is a Ceramic Knife?
A ceramic knife is certainly not for everyone. It has many good things going for it, yet it also has a fair share of drawbacks. But what is it anyway? Tested to be harder than most steel knives, ceramic knives are made of zirconium oxide, otherwise known as zirconia. Thanks to this material, this kind of knife resists corrosion and stains.
Aside from that, they retain their cutting edge for much longer too, especially when compared to their stainless steel counterparts. Despite all these benefits, ceramic knives don’t weigh as much as steel ones and this can either be a boon or bane, depending on your personal preferences. Some may prefer heftier knives for better control.
What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Ceramic Knife?
If you’re looking to replace your stainless steel knives with ceramic ones, then you should consider the pros and cons of ceramic knives first. Ceramic knives are not meant to replace your already existing steel knives. Instead, they’re supposed to complement and expand your cutlery collection, giving you more appropriate options for specific situations.
Harder Than Steel
Many people underestimate ceramic knives. What they don’t know is that it’s rated to be harder than most stainless steel knives. Ceramic knives have a rating of 8.5 on the Mohs scale, only 1.5 away from diamonds which have a score of a perfect 10. On the other hand, stainless steel knives score a measly 4.5 on the same scale.
Conventional stainless steel kitchen knives need to be sharpened on a regular basis. In fact, if you use it often for long periods of time, you might need to sharpen them more frequently. If you want to spend less time maintaining your knives, then you might appreciate ceramic knives more as they retain their cutting edge for much longer.
If you work in the kitchen for hours on end, you may frequently feel extremely tired because of the strain that heavy kitchen knives impose on your wrists and shoulders. While a heftier knife may lend you a feeling of control over it, using it for long periods can be bad for your health. As such, ceramic knives, which are significantly lighter than steel knives, can be a viable alternative.
Brittle and Fragile
Despite scoring an impressive 8.5 on the Mohs scale, ceramic knives are widely known to be brittle. As a result, you can’t use ceramic knives when dealing with frozen food such as poultry and meat. Otherwise, you might break your ceramic blade into hundreds of pieces. In addition, improper use of ceramic knives can also result in the blades chipping.
Not a Replacement for Steel
They’re sharp, extremely hard, and last for a long time. But can they replace your set of stainless steel kitchen knives? Unfortunately, like your specialized kitchen knives, ceramic knives can do some jobs better than others. For example, separating bones from meat can be a difficult task to accomplish while using a ceramic knife. So don’t throw your steel knives out just yet!
Difficult to Maintain
Precisely because of their brittleness, ceramic knives are deemed nearly impossible to sharpen by the average person. If you are inexperienced and attempt to sharpen a ceramic knife yourself, you may shatter it by flexing and twisting it too much. As such, you have to consider seeking professional services to have your ceramic knives sharpened and kept in good condition.
Why Are Ceramic Knives Harder to Sharper Than Steel Knives?
Despite their impressive hardness, ceramic knives are very brittle. If you apply pressure to its delicate stress points, you can easily snap it into two. That’s why running them through a sharpening machine or even a manual sharpening stone requires practice and technique. Otherwise, you might end up with a chipped blade which can render your ceramic knife unusable.
How to Sharpen Ceramic Knives?
Sharpening your knives, whether they are stainless steel or ceramic, is inevitable. Time will come when you have to get them out of your knife block and run them through the sharpening stone one by one. For stainless steel knives, sharpening can be a weekly affair. For ceramic knives, however, it can be an entirely different thing altogether.
Since they are extremely hard, ceramic knives need to be sharpened less frequently. You don’t have to do it every week as you would with stainless steel knives. However, sharpening them requires delicate hands. You have to nail down a technique for you to sharpen your ceramic knives without chipping their blades. As such, a ceramic sharpener can be your best friend!
Diamond Sharpening Stone
As you will notice soon enough, the tools suggested here are all coated with diamond material. Since ceramic knives are rated only second to diamonds when it comes to hardness, using any other material for sharpening them will be counterproductive. Diamond is the only material that is harder than zirconia, which means it can resist the sharp cutting edge of ceramic knives.
If you already have a whetstone for your steel knives, you can apply your sharpening techniques to diamond sharpening stones. Since they are extra brittle, you have to apply extra care while you slowly and gently slide the knife against the sharpening stone. There are different configurations for this method, like a rectangular stone lab or a can opener-like tool.
Knife Sharpener Rod
One of the most convenient kitchen tools that you can use to sharpen your knife is a knife sharpener rod. A honing rod consists of two parts: the rod itself and a handle. To use it, you have to hold the ceramic rod knife sharpener by its handle. Next, gently and carefully push the knife against the rod. Do this multiple times until you’re satisfied with the result.
Powered Diamond Sharpener
As you explore the web for an electric knife sharpener, you might have stumbled upon the Kyocera ceramic knife sharpener. Kyocera, a well-known Japanese brand with products in different industries, also specializes in ceramic products, including ceramic knives and knife sharpeners. They have both manual and powered sharpeners that are compatible with ceramic knives.
Their electric diamond sharpener, the DS-38, is specifically designed to sharpen ceramic knives so you don’t have to worry about breaking them accidentally. They are configured for ease of use and speedy sharpening. You neither have to take too long nor find it difficult to maintain your ceramic knives.
Ceramic knives can be a great addition to your cutlery collection. While they can’t replace your stainless steel knives, they can serve as a reliable companion in the kitchen. Their hardness rating is way above that of hardened steel knives. However, the trade-off is that they are extremely brittle in comparison.
Another drawback is how difficult it is to maintain ceramic knives. Thanks to ceramic sharpeners such as an electric sharpener, sharpening ceramic knives becomes a walk in the park!
Everyone knows how extremely brittle ceramic knives are, but you can certainly add a layer of protection with a knife sheath. Check out our buying guide for kitchen sheaths here!