When shopping for new knives, especially kitchen knives, you may be astounded at the wide variety of different knife materials from which you can choose. These high-tech advancements are usually designed to offer a longer life for the knife, meaning less sharpening for you. The number one determinant of the sharpness of your knife, and how well it maintains this edge over time, is the material used to make the blade. So how do you choose between all of the different kinds of knives? First, you'll need to understand the differences between the various materials used in today's knives.
Carbon steel is an iron allow with carbon. It is a very common blade material that has been used for many years. These tough blades will not bend under pressure. It takes little effort to sharpen or re-sharpen a carbon steel blade knife, making it a good choice if you plan to sharpen your kitchen knives at home. However, tomatoes, citrus fruits, and other foods with a high acid content can discolor the blade, and rusting is possible.
Stainless steel, unlike carbon steel, does not discolor or rust. This iron alloy contains chromium, which makes it impervious to rust. However, this metal is softer, and therefore not able to maintain a very sharp edge like carbon steel. Although easily sharpened, the blade can be worn down quickly, meaning that it will need sharpening more often.
High carbon stainless steel knives are those made of a combination of carbon steel and stainless steel. With the best qualities from each, they are tough and able to hold a very sharp edge, yet do not discolor or rust.
Titanium blades are lightweight and flexible. They are often used to make knives with very thin blades, and are used for tasks such as boning or filleting. Titanium-edged knives hold a sharp edge longer than steel-blade knives.
Ceramic blades are much less resistant to breakage than steel knives. If dropped, they may crack or shatter. On the other hand, they will hold a sharp edge for many times longer than steel knives, and will not rust or discolor. However, ceramic blades must usually be sharpened by a professional, as sharpening them requires special equipment.
Most knives are also advertised as being either stamped or forged. Stamped knives are cut from a thin sheet of metal using a template. Stamped knives are usually inexpensive and lightweight, but they may need frequent sharpening. Forged knives are made by heating the steel and placing it in a mold. Forged knives are denser and heavier than stamped ones. The blade is very hard because of the heat, although it is also more flexible. Forged knives usually require less sharpening than stamped ones.
Finally, you'll want to consider the knife's grind. Grinding is done when first sharpening a blade or after a blade has been significantly damaged. The grind refers to the finished shape of the blade; some grinds are easier to maintain than others. Most kitchen knives are either hollow ground or taper ground. To form a hollow ground knife, a convex shape is removed from both sides of the edge. Hollow ground knives have a very sharp and thin edge, but these edges are fragile, so hollow knives are not meant to withstand heavy use. Flat or taper ground knives, on the other hand, taper smoothly with straight lines all the way to the edge, instead of with a curve. Taper ground knives leave more metal near the edge of the blade than hollow ground knives, meaning that they will withstand heavy use and not need sharpening as often.