Which Steel is Best for Kitchen Knives?

Posted by Jeremy Watson on

What's the best steel for Japanese kitchen knives?

When shopping for a new kitchen knives, the sheer number of steel types, each with its own pros and cons can make choosing a knife overwhelming.  We put together this quick guide with some basic info on the characteristics of the more popular steel types to help you make a decision. 

Photo @jakkonoise

Carbon vs. Stainless Steel

The first thing you should consider is whether or not you are comfortable with carbon steel.  Professional cooks love carbon steel knives because they are easy to sharpen and have the potential to get very sharp, but they require a bit more care and attention than stainless steel knives.  Carbon steel needs to be kept very dry and wiped regularly while in use.  This is especially true when cutting acidic foods.  If this is not something you can commit to doing, there are plenty of stainless steels available.

Preferred Chef Knife Steel for Beginners

The next factors to consider are budget and comfort with sharpening. For beginners and those looking to spend a bit less, there are still plenty of options for Japanese-made knives.  If you are looking for affordable, stain-resistant steel that is easy to sharpen we recommend looking at blades made from VG10,  Molybdenum or Inox steel.  These steels are not the hardest available, but they will consistently hold a good edge and can be sharpened without a high level of technical skill.  Some great examples of knives using these steels are Sakai Takayuki 33 LayerSakai Takayuki 45 LayerChubo Inox and Misono Molybdenum. 

High Carbon White Steel Kitchen Knife Blades

Once you have a higher level of comfort with sharpening and a bit more budget to spend, you might choose carbon blades made from White Steel.  White Steel is a pure steel favored by blacksmiths because it responds well to different types of forging, creating a great end product.    Popular White Steel options include Kagekiyo White #2 and Sakai TakayukiWhite Kurouchi.

Blue Steel and Aogami Super Kitchen Knife Blades

Moving on to blue steels, Blue #2 is a bit tougher, meaning it is less prone to edge damage and known for superior edge retention.  Aogami Super is a high-performance Blue Steel, that is a bit more stain resistant and offers the best edge retention of the group.  Examples of Aogami Super forging can be found in our Takeda and Shibata AS collections. 

Powdered Steel Kitchen Knife Blades

In recent years blacksmiths have developed new techniques for forging powdered steel blends that were first developed for use in industrial machinery. Powdered steels are some of the hardest available and offer the highest edge retention at the same hardness as Aogami or higher.  But with this high a level of hardness comes more challenges with sharpening.  Powdered steels are some of the best steels for kitchen knives, but it’s important that users have a solid undestanding of sharpening to maintain and get the best performance out of the blades.   For great options for powdered steel knives, check out our Kazan HAP40 and Takamura R2 lines.  

Please feel free to get in touch with any questions.


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