Are Ceramic Knives Any Good?

ceramic knives

Ceramic knives are becoming commonplace in households across America, but some people are skeptical of them.  They were advertised as being the knives that remain sharp forever, never needing a whetstone.  However, they quickly gained a reputation for their brittle nature.

So, are ceramic knives good?  The tl;dr version is that ceramic knives are good, but your expectations have to be reasonable.  They can break easily, are notoriously difficult to sharpen (and, yes, they can lose their edge), and shouldn’t be used for anything outside of the preparation of food.

That being said, they’re great for cutting through everything food from meat to vegetables.  Ceramic knives are also good for beginners when it comes to cutlery, and they’re plenty sharp despite not being made from steel.  In fact, I would wager that they’re just as sharp as many steel cutlery knives on the market.  In other words, you are getting a good knife, so long as you know what you can reasonably expect them to be able to tolerate.

The Good Stuff

Even if some knife enthusiasts hate ceramic knives, they aren’t as bad as all that.  They have some positives that, for some, might offset the negatives.  There are things to like about ceramic knives, especially if you aren’t the type who wants to mess with sharpening knives and such.

Ceramic Knives Stay Sharp for a Long Time

Cutting Food with Ceramic KnivesCeramic knives can sustain their sharpness more than 10x longer than stainless steel blades, which are the other popular type of steel for cutlery.  This is great for cooks and chefs because sharpening stainless steel blades is a pain, and they often dull quickly.  Not having to regularly sharpen yours – especially one that you use often – is a definite plus.

This is anecdotal, but I’ve heard from people that their ceramic knives cut through food better than steel, including tough meats.  I put one of my own ceramic knives to the test and found that after cutting up three whole chickens, my steel knife was losing its edge while my ceramic knife was still going strong.

Now I have a bunch of fried chicken, though, and had to find the secret to reheating it…

Oh, and don’t forget that they actually are sharp.  Some people think that their edge isn’t comparable to a sharpened steel knife, but the better ceramic knives are actually quite sharp.  You can easily slice through soft fruits and vegetables without bruising them and make some razor-thin slices.  I’ve never had a problem with my ceramic knives not being sharp enough to easily slice through whatever food items I need them to.

Ceramic Knives are Lightweight

Ceramic Knives are LightweightCeramic knives weigh less than stainless steel knives.  Why does that matter?  Because when you’re cooking, it’s possible that you’ll have to hold and maneuver your knife for a long time, and steel knives can put a strain on your hands and wrists.  Ceramic knives are so light, you can use them for much longer before you feel like your hand is going to fall off.

If you live in a cold climate like me, these knives are excellent.  I do most of my own cooking in the winter, both because it’s too cold to want to drive out somewhere and because a good, hearty meal is just called for when the snows have made leaving the house an onerous task.

I don’t want to spend too long having to chop up dense food with a stainless steel blade.

Ceramic Knives Won't Rust

rusty knifeThe only other purpose I’ve seen ceramic knives used for other than food prep is diving knives for scuba divers.  I don’t own a ceramic dive knife myself, but it makes sense that maybe I should consider it.  After all, ceramic is non-corrosive, so the knife is rust-proof.  This is great if you have knives in places where they might be dipped in water a lot, like a kitchen or the ocean.

Never fear, your ceramic knife will have that white sheen that makes it look like it as invented by Apple forever!

Ceramic Knives are Non-Porous

Ceramic material is completely non-porous, but what good is that?

For one, it means that it won’t stain.  Remember when I said that it would be that white color for all time?  That’s because, by being non-porous, ceramic knives won’t be affected by acidity.  This is partially what makes them great for cutting and slicing fruits.

This also means that they won’t gather any odor on their blades.  For some, this isn’t a big deal, but others don’t want their knife to still smell like that grapefruit they were just cutting when they turn to cut into a piece of pork.  Just rinsing the knife off in the sink will be enough to get rid of any smells that have left their residue on the blade.

The Bad Stuff

All blade materials have their downsides.  For a rundown of some of these materials and why they have downsides, see this page on knife steels.  Needless to say, ceramic knives are no different.  They have different downsides than a steel knife does, but you need to be aware of them before deciding you want one for your kitchen or next scuba adventure.

Dishwashers and Ceramic Knives Don't Mix

Ceramic knives don’t rust, but that doesn’t mean they can be washed in the dishwasher.

What you’re going to learn quickly about ceramic knives, if you buy one, is that they’re very brittle.  So brittle, the high-powered wash can crack or chip them.  That doesn’t stop many brands from claiming that they’re dishwasher safe, and maybe your knife can survive a cycle in the dishwasher, but most people should hand-wash their ceramic knives.

Your hands will be far more gentle than a dishwasher, provided you don’t drop them.

Ceramic Knives are Incredibly Fragile

ceramic knives are fragileCeramic knives are incredibly hard, which is what allows them to be sharp for so long.  However, that hardness comes with a cost in durability, also known as toughness by knife enthusiasts. 

Your steel knife won’t chip if you decide to cut up meat one day and then cut through a rope or other dense material the next, and your steel knife won’t break if dropped on the floor from just the right angle.

Ceramic knives are meant for the kitchen; excessive force is a definite no-no with them.  Even cutting against ceramic plates, steel surfaces, or the counter can chip it.  In fact, I’ve even managed to chip one because a piece of green pepper was stuck to the blade and I gave it a good shake.  I accidentally banged the tip on a bowl as I did and the darn thing chipped.

This is the biggest downside to ceramic knives, so you have to be careful to not be rough at all with them.  Luckily, they aren’t quite as brittle as some people make them out to be.  I’ve never had my Kyocera knives break when dropped (happened twice), anyway.  I don’t know if they’re just a better brand or if they have to land at just the right angle to break.

Basically, your ceramic knife will be a fragile thing, so play nice and gentle with it.

Ceramic Knives are Impossible to Sharpen

The hardness of ceramic knives comes with another cost: the ability to easily sharpen them.  Soft steel has to be sharpened more often, but it’s not difficult to do.  Hard steel retains its edge a little longer, but sharpening them is more time-consuming.

But ceramic keeps its edge 10x longer than steel.  That doesn’t mean it’ll never lose its edge, though, and when it does, you’ll never be able to sharpen it.

I take that back.  It is possible to sharpen a ceramic knife, but you have to have diamond tools in order to do so.  Most people aren’t going to keep those in their repertoire, so when the knife finally loses its sharpness, you’ll either have to dispose of it or cough up the money for a sharpening tool you’ll only use on one knife.

Better to get diamond sharpening tools if you have a whole set of ceramic knives instead of just one.

Now, there’s one other kind of new ceramic called elastic ceramic that’s purported to be easier to sharpen, but I’ve never used one of these knives, so I can’t tell you if it lives up to the hype or not. 

That's The Lowdown on Ceramic Knives

As you can see, they have their pros and cons like all knives do.  Whether you buy one (or a set) or not comes down to what you want a knife for and what kind of abuse you can expect it to take.  Ceramic knives are just another kind of knife; one that is extremely brittle but also very, very hard.

If you like ceramic knives or hate them, sound off in the comments!  Am I the only one who thinks they’re not so bad if you set reasonable expectations?

Interested in Ceramic Knives?

If you're interested in ceramic knives, I suggest you check out Kyocera's knives. I wouldn't start with a whole set if you've never owned one before, but you can grab one here and see how you like it before you decide whether or not they're for you.
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