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I've seen this question and obviously carbon steel (not stainless) knives look quite bad without extra care (picture from the linked to question)

not neat at all

Now my question is - why face the trouble? Why would I prefer a carbon steel kitchen knife over a stainless steel one?

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4 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Carbon steel is more malleable and less brittle than stainless steel. This means that it is easier to hone on a knife steel, to maintain an extremely sharp edge.

Some folks feel that the benefit of that sharp edge–for example, in easily slicing tomatoes, and other very fast prep tasks–is worth the compromise of more persnickety maintenance.

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Carbon steel is, as you've mentioned, a lot harder to maintain than stainless steel. However, carbon steel is a harder metal than stainless steel, meaning that it will be less vulnerable to the physical stress of everyday use and will hold an edge longer than stainless steel. As such, carbon steel knives are generally regarded as better for heavy or extended use in busy kitchens, as the chefs won't have to stop and hone their blades quite as often throughout the day. Stainless steel knives, on the other hand, are much more resistant to staining and corrosion, but they are harder to sharpen and will require more frequent sharpening overall than carbon steel knives.

Each material has its pros and cons. In the end, you're really just trading one shortcoming for another—extra cleaning with carbon steel and extra sharpening with stainless steel—so the choice really just depends on what the knife will most often be used to do. If you frequently do a lot of hard chopping or slicing, investing in at least one quality carbon steel knife for heavy-duty applications may be a good idea. But if you're at home just cooking for your yourself or your family and will usually only need the knife for basic tasks and low-impact cuts, stainless steel will probably do just fine in most situations.

You can find more information on common knife materials in the following article:

http://www.jesrestaurantequipment.com/jesrestaurantequipmentblog/knife-guide-chefs-knives/

Hope that helps, and good luck with any future knife shopping!

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Unless you're considering going into Sushi preparation where a razor sharp edge to your knife is required I'd stick to the easy to maintain stainless steel knives.

Carbon steel knives are primarily intended (but not exclusively) for sushi preparation. The Japanese are fanatical about sushi hence the whole carbon steel knife industry surrounding it.

No surprise that the majority of the best carbon steel knives originate from Japan.

Stick with stainless steel which is fine for all kitchen uses apart form sushi preparation.

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Not entirely accurate I'd say... I have a Chinese cleaver (such as the one in the picture in the original question) which is Carbon steel. I also can't think of very many cases where a sharp knife wouldn't be better. Though the maintenance is the biggest tradeoff –  talon8 Jan 11 '13 at 18:47
    
@talon8 I said primarily intended (but not exclusively). Carbon steel knives and the associated hassle of looking after them is not required by your average home cook, unless you're doing sushi. I stand by what I've stated. –  spiceyokooko Jan 11 '13 at 21:18
    
I was disagreeing with your statement about them being "primarily intended for" sushi. –  talon8 Jan 12 '13 at 4:44
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Carbon steel is much cheaper than stainless steel although that isn't the only reason.

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