If you have the most interest in cooking out of anyone in your family, odds are high that you grew up with people who use stainless steel kitchen knives on a daily basis. They’re so pretty and easy to deal with; they’re not high maintenance like those old, dirty-looking carbon steel blades.
Well… sure. If pretty is the highest priority that you have for a kitchen knife, then sure, go with stainless steel. You’ll be happy with it.
.. until it doesn’t cut tomatoes anymore. Or onions. Or… anything, really.
Why Stainless Steel Knives Suck
There, I said it. Stainless steel kitchen knives suck.
Because they’re low maintenance, pretty, and you can toss them in the dishwasher with about the same ill effect that you get from tossing a carbon steel blade in.
Why Low Maintenance Is A Problem
Stainless steel knife makers claim that their products are low maintenance. And they are, to a certain degree. It’s true that you can leave your knife sitting on the counter wet for a while and not a whole lot will happen to it. You can run it through the dishwasher and while it will suffer and the handle will eventually crack, it’ll take a while for these knives to rust, unlike carbon steel.
The big issue with low maintenance knives is that they encourage laziness. Whether you drop it on the floor, leave it out on the counter, run it through the dishwasher, or just use it regularly, your knife is going to suffer for it in the long run. As you bang it around on things being careless, you’ll shorten the lifespan of the sharpened edge quite a bit, which means you’ll have to sharpen it more often. Stainless steel always needs more sharpening than carbon steel, even if you’re careful.
Where Carbon Steel Shines
Carbon steel can be sharpened to a finer degree than stainless steel can and it will hold the edge for much longer. If you want paper thin onions or potatoes and want to feel like you’re cutting through air as you’re gliding through a piece of chicken, carbon steel it is.
When you get a carbon steel knife, don’t forget to get a bottle of knife oil to go with it, such as BlackCreek Mercantile Knife & Blade Oil. You’ll treat it with this every time you go to put it away. Even cleaning it, though, your knives will still develop a patina over time that won’t ever go away.
As far as storage, you can’t get much better than a solid magnetic knife block or knife strip. Whether you get a countertop magnetic block or a strip that hangs on the wall, these are the best bet for keeping your knives well maintained.
So, grab yourself some carbon steel knives. The next time your mom comes over and complains about your knives being dirty, you can show her just how thin you can slice onions and she can’t.