When talking about knives, the first thing that comes to mind is the blade, and with blades comes the material. As high-quality materials may have a significant influence on the overall performance of your knife.
In the knife business, many materials are used to make the blades. However, stainless steel is one of the most popular ones. It’s an alloy with a high percentage of chromium, which helps it make corrosion resistance.
You will see the use of stainless steel in Japanese knives, Ulu knives, and Damascus knives, which indicate its demand in the knife business.
Are they, nevertheless, the ideal solution for your knife blades? Or Should you opt for stainless steel knives?
Let’s answer these questions by understanding the pros and cons of stainless steel knives.
What is Stainless Steel?
Stainless steel, as previously stated, is a corrosion-resistant alloy of iron, chromium, and, in certain cases, nickel and other metals. To be more specific, stainless steels include at least 10.5 percent chromium, less than 1.2 percent carbon, and additional alloying components.
However, it is critical to keep in mind that the higher the chromium concentration in stainless steel, the greater its corrosion resistance capabilities. For example, stainless steel with 11% chromium content is less durable than steel with a 15% chromium concentration.
When you compare other materials with stainless steel, it will show high mechanical qualities at room temperature – after all, it is steel! Moreover, the material combines ductility, elasticity, and hardness in particular. Therefore, stainless steel can be employed in challenging metal forming modes.
So, when it comes to stainless steel knives, you can be certain that they will remain rust-free for a long time. However, if not used correctly, your hunting or culinary item is not completely immune to rusting.
Regarding what type of material is in use for knife building, there will always be advantages and disadvantages based on the characteristics of that particular material. So what are the pros and cons of stainless steel knives? Let’s get a grip on that.
Pros of Stainless Steel Knives?
Many well-known knife manufacturers like Shun, Dalstrong, Yoshihiro use stainless steel as their blade’s build material, as several factors give stainless steel knives an upper hand over other blade materials. For example –
1. Rust and Corrosion Resistance
As you know, stainless steel is more popular for its corrosion resistance capabilities. With a minimum chromium concentration of 10.5 percent, stainless steel is continually protected by a passive layer of chromium oxide that develops naturally on the surface due to chromium’s interaction with oxygen from air or water. When the surface is scraped, it regenerates. This feature contributes to stainless steel’s corrosion resistance functionality.
Most blades, particularly chef knives, are used in moist circumstances that cause them to rust. With stainless steel blades, it’s less likely to wear due to the high chromium content.
Furthermore, stainless steel knives do not contaminate food, making them suitable for both professional and domestic use.
2. Low maintenance
Stainless steel knives require less maintenance due to their corrosion resistance functionality. Furthermore, stainless steel knives may be washed in the dishwasher since they have a smooth and nonstick surface.
3. Edge Retention
The edge retention of a knife simply affects how long it will maintain its sharpness when used frequently. Now, in terms of stainless steel, it’s a material that retains sharpness for an extended period of time, even when used on a daily basis in a professional kitchen. In other words, you don’t have to sharpen your stainless steel knife frequently.
4. Easy to Sharp
Sharpening kitchen knives is a hard and time-consuming task. Rusty blades usually need special effort to remove the rust. On the other hand, stainless steel blades are corrosion resistant and hence do not have this issue.
Also, because of their relatively soft composition, you can easily resharpen your stainless steel knife with the aid of a basic knife sharpener.
5. High Strength
Stainless steel has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than other materials, and its durability and corrosion resistance have transformed it into a force to be reckoned with. It permits the knife to be thinner, making it more economical, powerful, and long-lasting than other blades.
In terms of durability, stainless steel knives tend to work just fine. Essentially, the longevity stems from the fact that they are more rust-resistant and do not chip. Therefore, these knives usually retain their performance for a long time.
Cons Of Stainless Steel Knives?
Along with the benefits, there are a few drawbacks to stainless steel blades. Here are some major disadvantages that you should be aware of before buying.
1. The Sharpness
The primary disadvantages of stainless steel knives are their edge and sharpness. Most will retain an incredible edge and be razor-sharp, but carbon steel is the best slicer in this case. Also, stainless steel knives have a lower hardness compared to carbon steel knives.
2. The rusting issue
As you know, stainless steel knives are corrosion-resistant. However, stainless steel can and does rust by the way, as it’s called stainless, not stain-free.
Depending on the chromium concentration, some stainless steels are more prone to corrosion than others. The more chromium there is in a metal, the less likely it will rust.
Also, rust may form on stainless steel over time if it is not properly maintained. So, you have to be careful with stainless steel knives.
3. The Price
Another disadvantage of purchasing stainless steel knives is that they are more expensive than some of their competitors, who provide the same degree of sharpness. As a result, if you’re on a tight budget, purchasing a stainless steel knife may be out of the question.
What Are The Best Stainless Steel Types For Kitchen Knives?
Stainless steel is not a single phrase since this material comes in a variety of forms that can be used for a number of purposes. But, with so many different types of stainless steel on the market, it’s not always clear which one home cooks should buy.
There are several stainless steel types that home cooks and professional chefs use as their blade material. For example –
The martensitic stainless steel, more commonly known as bottom-end stainless steel or 420 and 420J, is the most common stainless steel used for kitchen knives. This stainless steel type is stain-resistant yet soft and not extremely wear-resistant. It’s durable and sturdy yet loses its edge rapidly.
The VG10 stainless steel is also popular among knife manufacturers. It has one of the highest carbon contents, making it tougher than other stainless steel types. Also, it features superior cutting capabilities and is more durable in terms of rust and corrosion resistance than most other steel varieties.
Another well-known stainless steel is the AUS-10 steel. It has a Rockwell rating of 58/60 HRC which means it can hold a sharp edge for a long time. The edge retention of AUS-10 steel is higher than other varieties because of its hardness, which maintains its sharpness quite well.
However, in terms of sharpness, this stainless steel falls short of VG10 steel.
The Cronidur 30 stainless steel features low carbon and contains nitrogen for corrosion resistance and it keeps the blade sturdy enough. Cronidur 30 is common cutlery steel that works well for outdoor tools and aircraft components.
What’s the Difference Between Carbon Steel and Stainless Steel?
Along with stainless steel, carbon steel is also used in knife making, and they are quite popular among professional chefs. So, what are the core differences? Let’s find out.
Carbon steel is produced by alloying iron with 0.5 to 2.0 percent carbon. Stainless steel, on the other hand, contains chromium in amounts less than 10%. It’s the main difference between these two composites.
Carbon steel is more difficult to work with and has a higher tensile strength. Because of chromium, stainless steel is not that hard.
Carbon steel faces the risk of corroding, whereas stainless steel is resistant to corrosion because of its high chromium percentage.
Carbon steel knives, in general, are sharper, tougher, maintain an edge for longer, and are easier to re-sharpen.
Stainless steel, on the other hand, is less rigid and more flexible than carbon, allowing it to absorb impacts more efficiently without breaking or chipping.
Should You Buy Stainless Steel Knives?
It all boils down to what you intend to do with your knife. Stainless steel knives are more of an entry-level knife for home cooks.
Activities like hunting and fishing are ideal for stainless steel knives. Also, if you live in a humid or snowy environment, stainless steel knives would be a great choice for you, as the knife will withstand the weather and remain effective with little maintenance.
Also, If you want your knife to endure as long as possible and don’t want to bother about keeping it clean and perfect while out on the trail, we recommend stainless steel.
So, when buying a new knife, consider how you work and how much you want to care for your knife while using it.