When you’re looking to get a new set of knives for the kitchen, the easiest thing to do is pop over to the nearest home department store and pick up whatever they have. But buying a set of no-name knives quickly lead to you having a set of knives that are no longer sharp or are rusting long before they were meant to.
The next best option is to choose stainless steel, as most people are well acquainted with stainless steel and its rust-resistant properties. But what many may not realise is that there is a third option: carbon steel.
Choosing between the two can seem a bit pointless, but these two types of steel can accommodate you and your cooking style, especially after a long session of online betting, and choosing the right one can make all the difference. So what is the difference between stainless and carbon?
Steel is the generic name for an entire family of metal alloys, each with dozens of different applications although for the average user, stainless and carbon tend to be the most well known. Stainless steel is made up of iron, carbon, and 10.5% chromium.
The chromium is the key here: it’s the stuff that reacts directly with oxygen to create a passive layer that protects the steel from corrosion. This protection means that stainless steels tend to function much more adequately in an environment where water is commonly found, which is fairly often in most kitchens.
The downside to stainless steel is that it tends to dull far quicker than carbon steel, meaning that you will need to sharpen it more frequently.
Like stainless, carbon steel consists of iron and carbon, and about 10.5% of other alloys. Carbon tends to be extremely hard, meaning that the knives that are produced using carbon steel are better suited to those that find themselves having to cut through more difficult materials. This also means that carbon steel knives tend to retain their sharpness a lot longer than stainless steel, and don’t need to be sharpened quite as much.
There are two downsides to carbon steel, however. The first is that because carbon knives are generally harder than their stainless counterparts, they tend to be more brittle, and can break more easily under pressure.
They also don’t retain the same resistance to corrosion and will rust much faster than stainless if left in a wet environment for too long.
What to Choose, Then?
At the end of the day, choosing between carbon and stainless steel is entirely up to you and the recipes that you require tools to create.
Stainless steel loses its sharpness quicker, but is much more resistant to corrosion, and due to their flexibility, they don’t tend to break as often, especially at the tip.
Carbon, on the other hand, remains sharper for longer, and is a much studier option for cutting harder materials, such as thick meat. Carbon will fall victim to corrosion faster, which can end up costing more.
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