You’ve probably seen these around. Any time I’m walking through a store that sells kitchen ware, over in the corner of the knife section will be that white ceramic knife set. Just looking at them and seeing the word “ceramic” didn’t give me any sense of durability. It would conjure up a vision of when I was in 7th grade pottery class and not-so-perfect anteater found its way from the post-kiln cooling area to the floor. When hard clay meets hard floor…clay loses.
So, I could just envision these ceramic knife sets getting bumped during cooking and shattering on the floor (in anteater fashion). But, then I looked into how ceramic cutlery was made and was pretty impressed.
These knives aren’t necessarily made out of “clay” like you would make a vase, ash tray, or anteater with. Most are made from a much more sophisticated ceramic called zirconium oxide. Once pressed and heated, the zirconium oxide becomes much harder than stainless steel or high carbon steel. That hardness is the root cause behind both the pros and the cons of ceramic knives.
ceramic kitchen knife set cons
With increased hardness comes decreased flexibility. If you drop or twist your stainless steel cooking knife hard enough, it has a little flexibility to it that allows it so bend and absorb the energy. Ceramic knife manufacturers warn to be careful of these situations because a ceramic blade with limited flexibility will be more likely to chip or crack in these circumstances.
Another downfall of increased hardness…sharpening. If you use your santoku ceramic knife frequently, it will dull just like other knives, albeit slower. The problem is, conventional ways used to sharpen metal knives won’t work on ceramic. Some knife sharpeners are made out of ceramics. This is fine for metal knives since metal is softer than ceramic whet stones. But since a ceramic knife and a ceramic knife sharpener are made of the same material the sharpening process won’t work.
Really, through everything I checked out, those are the major cons. I just wanted to get them out of the way before digging into the good stuff.
ceramic kitchen knife set pros
As I mentioned, while hardness is the con of the ceramic blade, it is also the pro!
Since ceramic is harder than metal it will hold its edge 10-15 times longer than metal knives. So, while sharpening is tougher to accomplish, you won’t have to worry about it for awhile.
Being ceramic also means there are no metal ions in the blade. Sometimes when metal blades come into contact with foods that have strong acids or oils they can interact with the metal in a way that transfers a metallic taste to the food. Or it can cause rusting! Neither of these things happen with ceramic knives. So, if you’re slicing into dinner with your ceramic steak knives, your food will taste like it is supposed to and clean up will be easy. Since these oils and acids don’t react with the ceramic knife, you can easily rinse and wipe it clean without need of throwing it in the dishwasher.
Another pro, even though ceramic is harder, it is much lighter and easier to handle.
who makes ceramic knives?
There are many different companies selling ceramic knives, but only a few seem serious about it…or at least that is how it seems to me. Looking online you can randomly come across Keuken ceramic knives or a Wolfgang Puck ceramic knife set. But, there is no official page for Keuken, and the Wolfgang Puck site doesn’t even list ceramic knives in their products…which isn’t that surprising. Products with a celebrity name aren’t usually about being top of the line, but more about being “good enough” for the celebrity to endorse.
Victorinox ceramic knives are available, but their strength and focus still lies in metal. The Home Shopping Network offers the Kitchen Logic 7-piece ceramic knife set, but that is pretty much the only place that offers it with any frequency.
my brand of choice
If you’re looking for a company that specializes in ceramics, Kyocera is probably what you should focus on. Most of the other companies listed seem focused on kitchen tools and cutlery, and they offer a ceramic knife set. Kyocera is a ceramics company, so their focus is on ceramics and not just cutlery.
The Kyocera ceramic knife set comes in smaller numbers than others. You can find a 5, 7 or 9 piece ceramic knife set from some of the brands named above, but the Kyocera 2-piece ceramic knife set is the standard. This Kyocera knife set comes with a 5.5 inch ceramic santoku knife and a 3 inch ceramic paring knife…enough to get most of the cutting jobs done around the kitchen.
There are a few added bonuses that Kyocera kitchen knives have over the competition.
Remember how one of the cons was that you can’t really sharpen ceramic knives on your own? Kyocera will sharpen your knife for you. It costs $10 to cover shipping and handling, but that’s a pretty decent price. Consider that the ceramic knife will stay sharp longer anyway and you have a good service on your hands. They’ll also replace it if it looks like it needs it and hasn’t been abused.
Here is how the sharpening process works:
Kyocera ceramic knives have a lifetime warranty. Again, if you’ve been following their care and use instructions. If they don’t make the model of knife anymore, it will be replaced with an equivalent.
Most ceramic knives I’ve found come in the standard white. Kyocera also creates a knife that goes through a special extra process called hot-isostatic press. This Kyotop ceramic knife is made from black zirconium oxide. Firing the knife twice tightens the molecular bonding and makes an even stronger knife than the standard.
Obviously, if you’re looking for a ceramic knife set I would recommend looking into the ones that seem to fit your tastes and needs. For me, Kyocera is the ceramic knife I’d buy.