Stainless Vs. Carbon Steel Knife: Which One Is Best For You? - Home Cooking Zone (2023)

Stainless steel knives and carbon steel knives are all the rage today. Many people are die-hard fans of both knife types, but deciding on the perfect knife for you can be a challenging task. So, what are the differences between these knives, and which one is best for you?

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Carbon steel and stainless steel knives are generally high-quality and last you a long time. The carbon steel knife will require more care and maintenance as it's prone to corrosion, but it's easier to sharpen. Stainless steel knives require less maintenance but are more difficult to sharpen.

What are the pros and cons of carbon steel knives? What are the pros and cons of stainless steel knives? How do these two knives differ? We will cover all this information, plus more, in this article, so keep reading!

Carbon Steel Vs. Stainless Steel Knives

If you are a trained chef or an enthusiastic home cook, you need to have quality knives in your kitchen to help you make delicious meals. A sharp and sturdy knife is one of the essential pieces of equipment you need to have in your kitchen.

Knives are a cook's primary tool in the kitchen, so you need to ensure your knives are quality and will last you years to come. Many people don't get the opportunity to experience the preciseness and effortless feel a good-quality knife offers.

If you are determined to experience this for yourself, you need to shop for the higher-end and slightly more expensive knife options.

When looking for good-quality kitchen knives, you should come across carbon knives and stainless steel knives in your search. Both these knives look gorgeous and seem like they could last you years, but which one would suit you and your cooking style best?

To decide which knife will work best for you, you need to know a bit more information on both these knife types. So, let's go through everything you should know about these knives to empower you to make an informed decision.

(Video) Stainless vs Carbon Steel Knives

Information About Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is one of the most fashionable metal types that professional knives are made from. Carbon steel is a steel that has a higher carbon content than most other metal types. The carbon content could be low with carbon steel, about 0.6 to 1% of the material's weight. Making it low carbon steel and, therefore, lower in quality.

A higher carbon content, about 2.5% of the weight of the material, means that the carbon steel is high carbon steel, making it high-quality. Any carbon steel with a higher percentage than 2.5% is a result of powder metallurgy.

This is a technique where carbon steel is made from powder instead of melting metal. This carbon steel type is extremely expensive and highly sought after. The powder metallurgy carbon steel is mostly used in high-end pocket knives and kitchen knives due to its superior properties.

High carbon steel tends to have a higher strength in certain situations than other steel types, so high carbon knives are a favorite in professional kitchens. Carbon steel does require a good deal of care and maintenance to keep it in good condition.

Information About Stainless Steel

All types of steel are a mixture of iron and carbon, with the only difference between their makeup being the amount of carbon in their makeup. So, stainless steel also contains carbon, but at a much lower level than carbon steel.

Stainless steel also has a component in it called chromium. This is a metallic alloy element that has a silvery pigment and sheen. Chromium has resistance to tarnishing and corrosion, and it has a higher melting point than most metals.

The chromium elements in stainless steel react with the oxygen in the air to create a passive layer on the stainless steel, which helps protect it from corrosion. This corrosion resistance is what most people are after in stainless steel knives.

Stainless steel knives are strong and hardy and can take a lot of abuse in the kitchen due to the chromium element they contain in their makeup. The best quality stainless steel knives are 10.5% chromium, with any lower percentage being lower quality stainless steel.

The ideal chromium percentage you should look for in stainless steel knives is about 16%. This will ensure the stainless steel is strong and highly resistant to corrosion and tarnish.

Pros And Cons Of Carbon Steel

Now that you know and understand the difference in the makeup of these two steel types, we can have a look at the pros and cons of both these metals to help you decide which knives will suit you best. We will first look at the benefits and disadvantages of carbon steel knives.

(Video) Knifemaker Explains The Difference Between Chef's Knives | Epicurious

Carbon steel knives are sharper than most other knives, as the carbon steel can easily be sharpened down to a finer point than most other steels. Carbon steel can hold this sharp edge for longer than most other steels. This superior edge retention makes these knives ideal for prolonged use in the kitchen.

Carbon steel is relatively easy to re-sharpen when they become dull from use. So, carbon steel has some nice pros, but there are a few cons that you should know before buying carbon steel knives.

These cons are essential to know as they can affect the food you make and the time you spend in your kitchen. Carbon steel knives are less common and can be more difficult to find in stores. Carbon steel is extremely sensitive to corrosion, especially caused by humidity and water.

Your carbon steel knives will require more regular cleaning and maintenance than other knives. You need to wash your carbon steel knives as soon as you are done using them, as the tiniest trace of food can ruin the knife in hours.

Carbon steel is more likely to break or chip when under pressure or hitting hard surfaces. So, if you drop your carbon steel knife, it will most likely break, and you will need to replace it. When you use a carbon steel knife to cut certain foods, especially acidic foods, it can leave a slight metallic taste on the food.

Pros And Cons Of Stainless Steel

Carbon steel knives have some great advantages, but they also have alarming disadvantages that can scare some people away from buying them. So, let's see how stainless steel knives compare as we go through their pros and cons to see if you can have an easier time with them in your kitchen.

Stainless steel knives are highly resistant to humidity and water due to their composition, which is a reason these knives are so popular. Stainless steel knives are weather-resistant, meaning that these knives can be used in any environment.

So, you can use them outdoors while BBQing or in your kitchen, and the knives will survive with little to no damage. Stainless steel knives are also extremely sharp and have fantastic edge retentions, meaning they will stay sharp for a long time.

Stainless steel is more flexible than other steel types, which allows these knives to absorb impacts effectively. So, if you drop a stainless steel knife, it is less likely to break or chip. Stainless steel knives are more accessible to people as they are sold in many local stores.

Stainless steel knives have some great benefits that can help you in your kitchen, but what are the cons of these knives?

(Video) Carbon Steel Knife Care - Kitchen and Outdoor Knives

If you don't buy a high-quality stainless steel knife, it will not hold its sharpness for as long as you expect it to. Stainless steel knives are more difficult to re-sharpen, often requiring special tools to do so. The tools needed to sharpen stainless steel knives correctly can also be quite expensive.

How Does Carbon Steel Differ From Stainless Steel?

Both stainless steel knives and carbon steel knives have some excellent pros to them that can improve the tools in your kitchen. These pros can help you create some lovely meals filled with flavor.

However, carbon steel and stainless steel knives also have some cons that you should consider when deciding between the two types of knives. The pros and cons of these knives are important to know, but what are the main differences between carbon steel knives and stainless steel knives?

When deciding which type of knife you should buy for your kitchen, there are three main categories you should look at. These are sharpness, wear resistance, and ease of sharpening. These categories are what will decide the best knife for you.

Let's go through these categories and see how these knives compare to each other to make your decision easier.


The first category we will go through is sharpness. Carbon steel and stainless steel can be sharpened as sharp as a razor. These two types of steel can also hold their sharpness for a long time, but which one is superior in this regard?

This is a close category as carbon steel, and stainless steel can hold their edges for a long time. The key distinction is the quality of the knife you buy. If you buy a low carbon steel knife, then it won't hold its sharpness as long as a good quality stainless steel knife.

A high carbon steel knife will hold its edge longer than a low-quality stainless steel knife. However, if you put a high carbon steel knife up against a high-quality stainless steel knife, the stainless steel knife will win, but it will be a close call.

Wear Resistance

Wear resistance is another category you should consider when looking for a knife for your kitchen. The capability of a knife to hold its edge during use is an essential aspect for both amateur and professional cooks.

When you buy a knife, you want it to withstand all the abuse you will throw at it while using it. You need to be able to cut hard vegetables, soft foods, and meats with ease, without the blade dulling.

(Video) Equipment Review: Best Carbon-Steel Chef's Knives & Our Testing Winner

The wear resistance will depend on your cutting speed, applied force, and the food you are cutting with the knife. Professional cooks tend to cut fast, with a good amount of force to get a clean-cut, and they work with many different foods.

Amateur or home cooks don't cut fast and don't apply a large force on the knife. They also tend to stick with the foods they know and like. So, for a professional, carbon steel knives are better as they can handle a large amount of use without wearing them out.

A stainless steel knife will be fine for everyday use at home as it can still handle a good amount of use without wearing it out. However, the winner of this category is the carbon steel knife.

Ease Of Sharpening

You need to think about the ease of sharpening when buying a knife, as you will need to sharpen it at some point. The carbon steel knife takes the cake for this category, as it's relatively easy to sharpen.

The stainless steel knife requires a lot of work to sharpen correctly, and you will likely have to buy specialized equipment to sharpen it to its full potential.

Which Knife Is Best For You?

So, which knife is the best for you? This will greatly depend on personal preference, but we can make a few suggestions to make your life easier.

If you reside in an area with high humidity, and you don't want a knife that requires a lot of maintenance and constant cleaning, a knife you can use and leave in the sink for a day, you should go for a stainless steel knife.

A stainless steel knife will last you a long time and will handle anything you throw at it. You don't need to be as cautious with a stainless steel knife as it's flexible and less likely to break.

If you don't mind caring for and maintaining a knife and want a knife that will retain its edge well during use and is easy to sharpen, you should go for a carbon steel knife. A carbon steel knife will need extra care when in use as it must not fall or it will break, but it will stay sharp for a long time.

Choosing your knife

Stainless steel and carbon steel knives are relatively similar, but they have some differences that can affect your experience. It's important to choose the knife that you can handle and care for correctly to ensure the knife's longevity in your kitchen.

(Video) mora carbon vs stainless

Deciding which knife is perfect for you can be challenging, but the information in this post has hopefully made this decision easier for you. Good luck choosing your knife!


What is the best knife for a home chef? ›

Our Top Chef's Knife Picks
  • Best Overall: Made In 8 Inch Chef Knife and Misen Chef's Knife.
  • Best Budget Knife: Victorinox Fibrox 8-Inch Chef's Knife.
  • Best Value: Hedley & Bennett Chef's Knife.
  • Best for Butchering: Wusthof Classic 8-Inch Chef's Knife.
  • Best Japanese-Made Chef's Knife: Shun Classic Western 8-Inch Chef's Knife.
6 days ago

Is carbon steel better than stainless steel for knives? ›

That's right: carbon steel stays sharper longer than stainless. Second, and this is really important, carbon steel, despite being harder than stainless steel, is way easier to sharpen than stainless. * This is critical because, in my experience, knives that are used frequently simply don't stay very sharp for long.

Why do chefs prefer carbon steel knives? ›

Professional chefs often (but not always!) have a preference for high-carbon steel knives. These knives can be honed to a very sharp edge and are generally more wear resistant than stainless. High-carbon grades hold a finer edge even against tough regular use.

What type of metal is best for kitchen knives? ›

When choosing your first western style chef's knife, we recommend one that is made from high-carbon stainless steel. Other materials can be used to make fine chef's knives, but most quality manufacturers prefer high-carbon stainless steel because it offers a good edge retention, toughness and ease of maintenance.

What are the 3 most important knives in a kitchen? ›

There are only three knives that are crucial in a kitchen: a chef's knife, a paring knife and a serrated knife.

What knives stay sharp the longest? ›

In terms of durability, stainless steel knives are your best bet. As the name implies, these knives don't rust or stain easily, and therefore may last you longer than some of the other knives.

Which is healthier carbon steel or stainless steel? ›

Health And Safety

Since carbon steel has natural non-stick properties if seasoned properly, you can use less oil or fat when cooking, which makes it a healthier option. Also, none of these two materials come with Teflon coating which can be potentially toxic.

What's better carbon or stainless steel? ›

Compared to low-carbon steel, stainless steel offers a massive upgrade in strength, hardness, and most importantly corrosion resistance. High carbon steel offers strength rivaling and sometimes exceeding stainless steel, but is largely a niche material in the manufacturing world.

What disadvantage do carbon steel blades have over stainless steel knives? ›

Another disadvantage is that because carbon steel is so hard, it is more likely to chip and break under extreme pressure or when accidentally hitting hard surfaces. Carbon steel can also leave a slight metallic taste when used to cut food, especially acidic fruits and vegetables.

Do chefs use carbon steel or stainless steel? ›

Professional chefs regularly use carbon steel and stainless steel pans since both do well on a stovetop. Still, each type of pan comes with its own unique strengths.

Is carbon steel good for everyday cooking? ›

Carbon steel cookware is an excellent choice for daily cooking because it's lightweight, easy to use, versatile, and durable—but the advantages don't end there.

What brand knives do most chefs use? ›

  • Wüsthof Gourmet Chef's Knife.
  • Victorinox Fibrox Pro Chef's Knife.
  • Mac MTH-80 Chef's Knife.
  • Shun Classic Hollow-Ground Santoku Knife.
  • Victorinox Fibrox Pro Santoku Knife.
  • Henckels Classic Hollow-Edge Santoku Knife.
  • Wüsthof Gourmet Bread Knife.
  • Henckels Classic Bread Knife.
29 Aug 2022

What kind of knives do chefs use? ›

A chef knife typically has a blade 8-10 inches long and is usually made of high-carbon stainless steel. The most popular type of knife among professional chefs is the chef's knife. A chef's knife is a versatile all-purpose knife that can be used for everything from chopping vegetables to slicing meat.

What type of metal is best for cooking? ›

Iron cookware is hands down the best possible metal for cooking. You can easily do any type of cooking using iron utensils, as they have zero harmful effects. Iron gets heated up uniformly and helps in quickly cooking the food.

What should I look for in a kitchen knife? ›

Stainless steel resists rust and corrosion, while carbon steel can take a better edge. Look for a knife that offers "high-carbon stainless steel" if you want to blend the best of both metals. The best way to get a feel for a knife is to use it, or at the very least, grip the handle in the store.

What is the most versatile cooking knife? ›

That said, there's a reason the basic 6- to 8-inch chef's knife is ubiquitous: It's the most versatile knife. The chef's knife is capable of dicing veggies, slicing meat, smashing garlic, and chopping herbs and nuts.

What is the most commonly used knife in the kitchen? ›

As its name suggests, the chef's knife is one of the most frequently used and versatile tools in the kitchen. Chef's knives are typically between eight and ten inches, although they can be as short as six inches and as long as 14 inches.

What is the 2nd most common knife in the kitchen? ›

2. Paring Knife. A paring knife picks up where a chef's knife leaves off. "Because the average paring knife blade is about 3 1/2 inches long, it's a great tool for any foods that require an attention to detail," McDermott says.

Which knife is best for everything? ›

Chef's Knife

You can use this knife to chop, slice, julienne just about anything, plus carve a roast or break down a watermelon. It should be a strong, but lightweight knife, with a long blade and a handle that fits nicely in your hand.

What is the most all purpose knife? ›

A sharp knife is more precise, and there's less of a chance of the blade slipping off your food and into your finger. Of all the pieces in a cutlery set, the chef's knife is the most versatile and gets the most use.

What knife length is best? ›

Size It Up: While professional chefs wield 12-inch blades with abandon, home cooks should get a knife with a blade around 8 inches in length. Residential-kitchen counters, nonindustrial cutting boards, and civilian muscles can't handle anything much bigger than that.

What can you not cook in carbon steel? ›

It is not ideal to cook acidic foods in any of your carbon steel pans. Acidic items like citrus, wine, and vinegar can strip away the patina that you've built up in your pan. Carbon steel is made of 99% iron as well, so it's reactive, and we recommend cooking your acidic ingredients in a stainless clad pan.

Why do chefs prefer stainless steel? ›

Chefs, professional cooks, and restaurants use stainless steel cookware. They prefer it because it's practically indestructible. The construction and material offer superior heat distribution, and when used properly, a stainless steel pan can keep food from sticking.

Which is better steel or stainless steel for cooking? ›

Stainless steel is non leachable which makes it safe for cooking, without compromising flavour and taste of dishes. Unlike other metals, stainless steel does not easily corrode when exposed to certain acidic foods.

Why is stainless steel more expensive than carbon steel? ›

Although different grades have varying costs, stainless steels are generally more expensive than carbon steels. This is due mostly to the addition of a variety of alloying elements in stainless steel, including chromium, nickel, manganese, and others.

Is carbon steel as safe as stainless steel? ›

If you're looking for a non-toxic, healthy cooking option, Carbon Steel is an excellent option. We take cookware safety seriously, so you can rest assured that all of our cookware, from Stainless Clad to Carbon Steel, is 100% safe and trusted by the world's best restaurants and thousands of home kitchens.

Why carbon steel is the best? ›

What Makes Carbon Steel So Tough? Carbon steel has carbon content; at up to 2.1% of the metal's weight. The carbon component is the ingredient that makes the steel stronger. Other materials are used in small amounts to enhance specific characteristics, like rust resistance without diminishing the strength of the alloy.

What can you not use a carbon steel knife with? ›

Red rust can develop quickly if a Carbon Steel knife is neglected or misused (like letting it sit in water). Any rust should be removed immediately before pitting can begin, but avoid using harsh scrubbers such as steel wool — these will scratch your blade which will make your blade rust easier.

What are the disadvantages of stainless steel? ›

4 Cons of Stainless Steel Appliances
  • Stainless Steel Appliances Tend to be More Expensive. ...
  • They May Require Frequent Cleaning. ...
  • Stainless Steel Appliances Could Clash With Some Styles. ...
  • They Are Sometimes Non-Magnetic.
15 Dec 2020

Can stainless steel knife be sharpened? ›

Modern stainless steel is very hard and, when sharpened properly, will hold a good edge for a very long time. When sharpening a knife you must have a high quality sharpener that features a rough stock removal surface (preferably diamond abrasive) and a finishing surface of hard stone or ceramic abrasive.

Is stainless steel the healthiest to cook with? ›

Stainless steel is not only a top-quality and durable metal, it is also the safest option for use in your home. Stainless steel emits no toxins and does not react with ingredients. What's more you can say goodbye to preparing your pans with oil or butter as CRISTEL's high-end stainless steel non-stick cookware.

How often should you oil carbon steel knives? ›

Even the smallest amount of moisture in the air is enough to cause rust to form on the blade. To prevent this, oil or wax should be applied to the blade and any fittings every two to three weeks of use, and the knife should be cleaned and dried after each use.

Do chefs use carbon steel? ›

Even if you've never heard of a carbon-steel skillet, you've almost certainly eaten a meal made in one. Restaurant chefs use these pans for all kinds of tasks, from searing steak to sautéing onions to cooking eggs. French omelet and crêpe pans are made of carbon steel, as are the woks used in Chinese restaurants.

Is stainless steel good for everyday cooking? ›

Versatility: You can cook pretty much anything with stainless steel. Unlike cast iron, stainless steel is nonreactive, which means acidic foods like tomato sauce and wine are good to go. It can also be used on the stove (including induction), grill, and in the oven.

Do you need to season carbon steel every time? ›

Just like cast iron, carbon steel needs to be seasoned—this is the process that polymerizes fats heated in the pan and bonds them to the cooking surface, forming a coating that protects against rust and helps food release more easily.

What knife does Gordon Ramsay use? ›

In Gordon Ramsay's Fox TV series Hell's Kitchen, the contestants use Henckels knives, and on his online cooking course, Gordon uses Wüsthof. Both are two of the top knife manufacturers globally, and they're known for their quality products.

What is the most popular type of knife? ›

The Most Popular Types of Kitchen Knives and Their Uses
  1. Chef's Knife. Buy: Victorinox Fibrox Pro 8-Inch Chef's Knife on Amazon. ...
  2. Santoku Knife. Buy: DALSTRONG 7-Inch Gladiator Series Santoku Knife on Amazon. ...
  3. Carving Knife/Slicing Knife. ...
  4. Bread Knife. ...
  5. Utility Knife. ...
  6. Boning Knife. ...
  7. Paring Knife. ...
  8. Meat Cleaver/ Butcher Knife.

What is the main knife a chef uses? ›

A chef's knife (also called a French knife) has a broad, tapered shape and a fine sharp edge. Its blade ranges in length from 6 to 12 inches and measures at least 1-1/2 inches at the widest point. It is designed so it rocks on a cutting board as it cuts food.

Which metal is not good for cooking? ›

Aluminium heats very quickly and easily reacts with acidic vegetables and foods, so it is advisable to avoid cooking in such utensils.

Which is the healthiest metal to eat? ›

Copper or brass reacts with sour food, salt and lemon which can be harmful for the body. Therefore, they are not recommended to eat or cook in. Whereas, Kansa or Bronze does not react with sour acidic food hence, it is the best metal to eat and cook in.

What is the healthiest metal? ›

One of the safest and healthiest metals for cooking is titanium, a chemical element and metal that's found in the Earth's crust. Titanium cookware safety relies mostly on the fact that this metal is incredibly durable and resistant to corrosion.

How much should I pay for a good set of kitchen knives? ›

Budget knives can get the job done and they're basically worry-free. On the other hand, spending more will get you one that will last forever and is probably a work of art, too. Still, our cutting board experts agree that the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle, around $50 to $100.

What knives does Gordon Ramsay use at home? ›

Gordon Ramsay uses both Wüsthof and Henckels branded knives; the brands are known for quality products, and they are two of the best knife manufacturers in the world. Wüstoff has been making knives since 1814, and Henckels has been around since 1895.

What knives to real chefs use? ›

What are the most important kitchen knives?
  • A large chef's knife for chopping vegetables and other tougher foods such as meat, herbs or nuts.
  • A santoku knife for chopping, slicing and dicing. ...
  • A small paring knife for peeling or dicing.
  • A utility knife for cutting fruit, sandwiches and softer foods.
20 Apr 2022

What knife do most professional chefs use? ›

The most popular type of knife among professional chefs is the chef's knife. A chef's knife is a versatile all-purpose knife that can be used for everything from chopping vegetables to slicing meat. The blade is usually between eight and ten inches long and is made of high-carbon stainless steel.

How do I choose a good kitchen knife? ›

Stainless steel resists rust and corrosion, while carbon steel can take a better edge. Look for a knife that offers "high-carbon stainless steel" if you want to blend the best of both metals. The best way to get a feel for a knife is to use it, or at the very least, grip the handle in the store.

Does Gordon Ramsay use stainless steel? ›

“HexClad's intriguing look and design and its hybrid technology caught my eye about a year ago,” Gordon Ramsay says on HexClad's website. “I use the pans at home, and the combination of stainless steel and nonstick functionality is amazing. It's highly versatile and cooks exceptionally well.

What was Anthony Bourdain's favorite knife? ›

He wanted home cooks to forget about all those big blocks full of expensive knives they'd never need and just get one really good chef's knife: the Global G-2 Chef's Knife. According to The Daily Meal, Bourdain is still sticking with that recommendation.

What knife do Navy SEALs use? ›


They specifically designed the Ontario 497 Mark 3 Navy Fixed Blade Knife to handle the elements. During operations, Navy SEALs need to rely on their equipment to get the job done. The Mark 3 has several features that make it ideal for special operations.


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