Kitchen Knives – The Skinny on Stainless Steel
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By S Sharp 

Of all of the types of steel being used for kitchen knives none is more common than Stainless Steel. A word of caution not all stainless are created equal. A better understanding of them is important when considering buying kitchen knives.

Generally steel is considered stainless if it contains at least 12% Chromium. The amount of Chromium is a debatable point some say 10.5% is enough for a steel to be stainless but when looking at most better quality stainless steels 12% – 14% seems to be the norm. That said Chromium is not the only element crucial to here. The quality of a kitchen knife varies considerably with the type of steel that the knife is made from. Many knives that are simply called stainless contain virtually no Carbon. Carbon is the element that allows steel to be hardened, hard steel will hold an edge better than soft steel thus providing better edge holding. Low Carbon Stainless typically has less than 0.03% Carbon, these tends to be used on inexpensive kitchen knives and other kitchen cutlery. They do not hold a very good edge and require frequent sharpening. Some telltale signs are highly shinny blades, often they are very thin and flexible knives, and commonly have serrated blades such as those seen on a bread knife.

High Carbon Stainless Steel knives are ones that have between 0.1% and 1.0% Carbon as well as the needed amount of Chromium. They can be hardened through heat treating and will hold a good edge, requiring knife sharpening much less often. Typically these steels will also contain a combination of Molybdenum and Vanadium. Molybdenum is an element that increases a knife’s toughness while Vanadium helps maintain a sharp knife edge for a longer period of time. High Carbon Stainless kitchen knives tend to have thicker blades and be less flexible. These kitchen knives tend to be more expensive as high carbon stainless is more costly to use. Instead of buying an entire knife set buying kitchen knives individually can allow a person to acquire better knives over time. Some examples of High Carbon Stainless Steels are 440-C, ATS-34, VG10, and S30V.

When buying kitchen knives try to look for knives that are labeled as being high carbon stainless rather than simply stating stainless steel. Although never a guarantee typically high carbon stainless steels will be used on more expensive kitchen knives. Looking for knives with thicker blades that taper to a thin point may also be an indicator that the knife may be of better quality steel.

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