When looking to purchase a new kitchen knives, it's important to know the different materials knife blades are made of. Blades can be made of ceramic, titanium, multiple types of steel and even plastic. Read on for a run-down on the different materials and their proper uses.
Steel is by far the most common material used. Carbon steel consists primarily of iron and carbon. It is inexpensive and can hold an edge. The downside to carbon steel is that it's prone to rust and discoloration. Carbon steel blades have to be dried and cleaned after every use. Stainless steel consists primarily of iron and is high in chromium. Low-carbon stainless steel is used primarily in the cheaper sets of knives. Low-carbon stainless is often used for serrated knife sets because this type of steel is difficult to sharpen.
High-carbon stainless steel is more expensive so it is usually used in the better knife sets. These blades are able to hold an edge and are not prone to rust or discoloration. They essentially combine the finer points of carbon steel and stainless steel while eliminating the negatives. Many of the higher-end blades add small amounts of other alloys to further increase durability and sharpness.
There are a couple different methods used to manufacture steel blades. The 2 common methods are forging or stamping. Stamped blades are cut from large sheets of steel, and then are heat-treated and sharpened. Forged blades are made from a piece of steel that is pounded into the shape of the blade. Forged blades tend to be on the heavy side in comparison to stamped blades.
Titanium knives are lighter and less prone to wear and tear. They are typically expensive and do not take or hold an edge well. For the money it costs to get a titanium set, you can buy a much better set of high-carbon stainless knives.
Laminated blades combine hard and brittle steel with tougher steel to form a layered blade. A good laminated blade will have hard steel that will hold a sharp edge surrounded by layers of tougher steel. Laminated blades take an extremely sharp edge that typically stays sharp for longer than the other types of metal.
There are a couple types of non-metal blades on the market. Ceramic knives are a relative newcomer to the cutlery world. While it may seem a strange material to make a blade from, ceramic can be sharpened to a fine edge which lasts a long time. They are also corrosion free, but are prone to chipping and breaking if dropped or hit against a hard surface. Plastic knives are another option for those seeking a non-metal blade. Plastic isn't sharp enough to cut much more than fruits and vegetables.
Choose the material that suits your needs best. I'm partial to the high-end laminated blades or the high-carbon steel blades used in Japanese steel. I like the way they cut and they tend to hold an edge well. No matter what material you choose, it's good to go in armed with a little bit of knowledge.