The Pros and Cons of Stainless Steel Knives

If you cook anything at all in your kitchen, chances are you have at least one knife (unless you only cook ramen). The amount of cooking and cutting you do is a major factor in making the decision of what the best cooking knives are for you.

stainless steel cutlery

I looked into four main categories of knives to give you an idea of the pros and cons. Three of these categories are for stainless steel knives, the other is carbon steel knives to give you a comparison.

You can find good knives for cooking in each category, but take everything into account before deciding on what you think is the best set of kitchen knives.

super stainless steel kitchen knives

It is rare to see the actual term “super stainless steel”, but if you do see it, consider it a red flag. Another good way to tell if a knife set is super stainless steel is if there is a claim that the knives never need sharpening. And lastly, if the knife set seems extremely affordable, you’re probably dealing with super stainless steel. There ARE some serrated “always sharp” knives out there that are made from better steel, but it is a good sign of super stainless steel.

Super stainless steel is a very hard metal, and very well protected from staining and rusting. Because the metal is so hard, it is extremely difficult to sharpen.

Because it is difficult to sharpen, a set of super stainless steel kitchen knives is very likely to have a serrated, saw-like edge. If you don’t use knives a lot in the kitchen, this might be fine. I have a serrated kitchen knife set that has worked well for a long time.

PROS: easy to keep clean; inexpensive
CONS: hard to sharpen

stainless steel kitchen knives

You’ll probably notice the PROS and CONS switching places as we move through the list.

Stainless steel is slightly softer than super stainless steel, but not much. The PROS and CONS remain the same, although there are minor differences.

Since it is softer, it will hold an edge a little better than super stainless steel, but will still be difficult to sharpen.

Stainless steel kitchen knives can be found in serrated or straight edge.

high carbon stainless steel kitchen knives

Now we’re talking about some high quality cooking knives. These are good knives for cooking because they embrace the best qualities of all categories.

High carbon stainless steel is resistant to rust and stains, just like the prior two categories. This type of steel is a great choice for people who live near the ocean or in humid areas (water+metal=rust).

It also is easier to sharpen and keeps that sharp edge longer. Many professional chefs prefer high carbon stainless steel. More on that in the next section.

Because it embraces the best qualities, it is usually the most expensive. But it is a nice product. I have a Wusthof Grand Prix II and a Global G-16. Both high-carbon stainless steel, and both are fantastic at keeping a sharp edge.

PROS: easy to keep clean and sharp
CONS: expensive

professional carbon steel kitchen knives

Yes, this last category isn’t “stainless,” but professional culinary knives used to be mostly carbon steel. And by “professional” I mean essential cooking knives for chefs who cook for a living. Even though more and more chefs are using high carbon stainless steel knives, I wanted to touch base on carbon steel.

If you’re using knives all the time, the most important thing is going to be sharpness. Carbon steel kitchen knives are the sharpest knives because they hold a sharp edge AND are easy to sharpen on your own. High carbon stainless steel technology gets closer and closer to matching carbon steel in keeping an edge.

The downfall of carbon steel is that it is not stainless at all, and must always be cleaned and dried. Water will rust it and acidic food will stain it if not cleaned. This is a big factor that chefs take into consideration when they’re on the fence between carbon steel and high carbon stainless steel.

PROS: great for keeping the sharpest edge
CONS: stains easily

If you keep all of these factors in mind, and think about your cooking style, you should be able to narrow down your options and pick the best set of kitchen knives for your home.

Unless you’re that ramen guy.