Just as you would cook with the best quality ingredients you should cook with the best quality tools. Take pride and care in your tools and knives, and they will take care of you. Always use them for their intended purpose, and if you feel like you shouldn’t do something with your knife, then simply don’t do it—they are not hammers to hack at coconuts, plastic containers or bones.
People often ask “Which is better, carbon steel or stainless steel knives?” This is a relative question, and is not a matter of which one is better, but rather a question of preference.
Japanese carbon knives are prone to surface rust and usually form a patina. This patina, which is a light layer of oxidization, can be cultivated, or the blade can be polished. Fine abrasives like silver polishing creams can be used to polish a carbon blade. These use a silica compound. The ‘mud’ from a fine grit sharpening stone collected onto a rag can also be used to polish the blade.
Depending on the alloy, carbon knives will rust at varying rates. It is important to wipe the blade dry during heavy use and after washing. If rust forms it is important to remove it quickly. Avoid heavy abrasives like metal scouring pads or the abrasive side of a sponge which can deeply scratch the carbon blade and create a place for water to sit which will promote heavy rust and potentially leave permanent damage.
Never put the knife through a dishwasher. This can damage the handle or make the blade come loose. For carbon knives, it is recommended to use a light coat of Tsubaki oil, mineral oil or any oil that will not go rancid.
For steel to be considered stainless, it must have a minimum of 13% chromium. Whatever the alloy, stainless steels can all rust with the right conditions. Typically, stainless knives require less care since they don't easily rust. Once again, never put any knife into a dishwasher. The high heat and water jetting conditions will wreak havoc on the blade and handle.
Commonly asked questions about edge retention and frequency of sharpening are relative questions. More accurately, let’s look at how the knife is being handled. Is the cutting surface a hard plastic or softer wood? Is the knife being used more for vegetables or for fish and meat butchery? What is the HR Rockwell hardness of the blade? Is the blade edge being maintained properly and on a regular schedule? Is the chosen edge angle a wider European or thinner Japanese edge angle? Is the sharpening stone of good quality? Is the sharpening stone itself being taken care of and flattened? Each of these points is important to the overall care and edge retention of your cutlery.
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