By Matthew Yglesias
On the subject of knives, not long ago I got my hands on a Kyocera chef’s knife made not of flimsy steel but of super-hard ceramic. Ceramic is what the stuff they sharpen steel knives is made of. Ceramic is so hard, that to sharpen a ceramic knife you need to send it to Japan where they have a special machine that sharpens it with diamonds. But of course it’s so hard and so sharp that you rarely ever need to sharpen it.
Now, for the cons. The leading experts say you can get by with only three kitchen knives. You need an all-purpose chef’s knife. You need an itty-bitty paring knife for delicate work. And you need a big ol’ serrated knife for bread and such.
If you want to try to live that kind of monastic existence, you can’t go ceramic for your chef’s knife. Ceramic is prone to shattering if, for example, dropped or some such. Consequently, you’re not supposed to use it to smash cloves of garlic. And you’re not supposed to use it for boning or other procedures that involve twisting the knife or prying anything. And that’s stuff you need to do! So you need a steel chef’s knife.
But if you’re going above three, you should really consider ceramic as an option. For slicing vegetables and meat, it just can’t be beat. The issue isn’t so much that your ceramic knife is sharper than the sharpest steel knife—the sharpest steel knife is plenty sharp. The issue is that your ceramic knife is a lot sharper than the steel knife you actually have. Real professionals, I’m sure, stick with more ambidextrous steel and just make sure to keep it at tip-top sharpness. But if you’re honest with yourself, you know that you’re probably not doing this. Those machines you can buy don’t work all that well, you’re probably not so skilled with the sharpening rod, and you’re not getting it sharpened by a professional on a regular basis. Under the circumstances, adding a little ceramic to your arsenal is a very practical move.
But caveat slicer! A ceramic knife is a good deal sharper and lighter than the knife you’re using now. It moves a bit differently. Make sure not to cut yourself.