What’s the Best Steel for Kitchen Knives

With the professional culinary world continuing to go ga-ga with the handmade kitchen blades, steel remains the choicest pick for the blade material. After all, stainless steel can keep up its sleep appearance while the sharpness remains longer compared to other materials. 

Even though it is said that beauty is skin-deep, the true appeal of a stainless steel knife lies in cutting much deeper than the shimmering surface. But there are loads of choices among steels and it becomes challenging to select the best one. Let’s take a look at some apparent decisions and find the best steel for kitchen knives.

 

 

Most popular steels for kitchen knives

There is a difference between admiring steel for knives and being knowledgeable about them. Without the desired expertise on these materials, you will not be able to select the best steel for your kitchen blades. Each type has its own set of properties and attributes that make it different from the others. Here go some of the most coveted steel types:

 

AUS 6

  • Origin: Japan
  • Series: AUS
  • Type: Stainless steel
  • Hardness: HRC 55-57

The first variant is not that common among premium kitchen knives. It is one of the cheapest options and doesn’t hold the sharpness in the edge for long. Its attributes can be compared to 420 series steel. Owing to this reason, the AUS 6 steel is generally used in the construction of cheap knives.

 

AUS 8

  • Origin: Japan
  • Series: AUS
  • Type: Stainless steel
  • Hardness: HRC 57- 59

The second variant is commonly found in kitchen knives. Some of the most sought-after characteristics of this type of steel are hardness, corrosion resistance, and affordability. It’s used for mid-range Japanese knives and the users are generally very satisfied with the knives made from AUS 8 steel because of the low maintenance it requires and a lasting sharpness.

 

AUS 10

  • Origin: Japan
  • Series: AUS
  • Type: Stainless steel
  • Hardness: HRC 58- 60

AUS 10 is the best steel type in the AUS series and its features and harness match those of the Japanese VG 10 steel. But the difference lies in the fact that it is not quite hard and also a bit delicate. Like its previous version, like the AUS 8, this steel type is primarily used for middle-range Japanese knives. In some cases, you may see the steel type mentioned in the knife as AUS 10V. The V demarcates that the steel used in the process has been vacuum treated, improving the durability and performance of the knife.

 

 

VG 1

  • Origin: Japan
  • Series: VG
  • Type: Stainless steel
  • Hardness: HRC 58- 60

This one is the original version of the VG 1 series and has served to be the most common choice for the construction of Japanese steel knives. As a result, it came to be known as Japanese Super Steel. As it goes with the AUS 10, VG 1 has about 1 percent carbon along with 14 percent chromium. Even though this kind of steel is very hard, it tends to become chipped and get rusted when you don’t maintain it properly. As a result, it soon got replaced with the much better alternative VG 10.

 

VG 10

  • Origin: Japan
  • Series: VG
  • Type: Stainless steel
  • Hardness: HRC 60-62

As it is already mentioned, VG 10 has wholly overtaken the position of its predecessor, the VG 1. Among the top-notch Japanese Super Steel, it’s the standard choice for producing high-end Japanese kitchen knives. Some of the most common features of this steel comprise durability, edge retention, and of course, very sharp edges. It is made of a perfect balance of 0.2 percent vanadium, 0.5 percent manganese, 1 percent carbon, 1.5 percent cobalt, 1 percent molybdenum, and 15 percent chromium. The fine quality steel thus produced makes it much easier to sharpen, and the edge keeps it up for the maximum duration. It is often used with other stainless steel variants that help in the corrosion resistance of the blade.

 

VG MAX

  • Origin: Japan
  • Series: VG
  • Type: Stainless steel
  • Hardness: HRC 60- 62

This is the latest addition in this series and is based on its previous version, the VG 10. It comes with more carbon for boosting its strength, chromium for improving corrosion resistance. It has more percentage of vanadium and tungsten, which enhances the grain of the steel. The blades, therefore, become highly sharp, as you can see in the sharpness level.

 

 

Krupp 4116

  • Origin: Germany
  • Series: NA
  • Type: Stainless steel
  • Hardness: HRC 54- 57

The steel gets its name from the brand Thyssen-Krupp, and it’s mostly used in German knives. It contains around 0.5 percent carbon which doesn’t make it as hard as its Japanese counterparts. However, with the 15 percent chromium, this steel becomes better stain-resistant than Japanese knives. The positive aspects of this steel lie in its heavy-duty and low maintenance. It offers a good a perfect balance of toughness, edge retention, rust resistance, and cost. That’s the reason this type of steel is widely used in many German knives.

 

420J Stainless

  • Origin: Japan
  • Series: 400
  • Type: Stainless steel
  • Hardness: HRC 50-ish

This is not amongst the top-performing steel for knives and thus, it is not used widely in kitchen blades. But the reasons why it is still in use are corrosion resistance and affordability. You can find this steel type in most cheap knives and even though you can sharp the blades easily, it won’t retain the sharpness for long.

 

440C/ 440A

  • Origin: China or US
  • Series: 400
  • Type: Stainless steel
  • Hardness: HRC 50-55

Both of these are variants of stainless steel which are used in affordable range knives. They are highly corrosion resistant owing to the copious amounts of chromium that goes into it. Apart from this, it doesn’t have any additional features. These two steel types don’t make good knives and you can find better alternatives within the same price range.

 

Shirogami/ White Steel

  • Origin: Japan
  • Series: White Paper Steel
  • Type: Carbon steel
  • Hardness: HRC 60- 65

This type of steel can be classified under two categories, White Steel 1 and 2. The first variant is the strongest of all and comes with a hardness level of 65+. It also comes with full carbon content which lets the edges maintain the sharpness for a long. But the problem with White Steel 1 is that it is not much resistant to corrosion. On the flip side, the White Steel 2comes with a mid-range hardness with a hardness level of about 60- 61.

 

 

Steel Types

As pointed out, there are loads of steel types used in the process of manufacturing kitchen knives. Having an insight into the various types of steel will help you discern the right kind of steel for the kitchen blade so that you can select the best steel for kitchen knives. There are primarily three categories of steel used for knives, and they are described below:

 

1. Stainless steel

This is the primary choice for kitchen knives. It calls for a minimum amount of skill, knowledge, and maintenance to keep your culinary belongings in a top-notch position. But make sure that the steel you choose contains at least 10 percent chromium to be considered stainless and makes it resistant to rust and corrosion. This is the reason behind its overflowing popularity, as you will never want a kitchen blade that would rust so easily.

 

2. Powder Stainless Steel

Even though powder stainless steel contains chromium which gives it the stainless trait, there are specific differences. The stainless is in powder form, which proffers an ultra-fine grain structure. It is also referred to as powder metallurgy and coupled with a high-carbon content, the powder steel is tough and comes up to 64-65 on the HRC scale. According to a class of users, this type of steel is the most suited for knives owing to its super sharp edges and thin blades. On the contrary, they can easily chip on ingredients like bones and frozen stuff when you don't handle the knives correctly. This is why the power of stainless steel is not suited for the use of average homemakers.

 

3. Carbon Steel

As the name goes, carbon steel contains vast amounts of carbon. But carbon steel corroded quickly and will catch rust when it is not adequately cared for. Carbon steel usage is even more critical than powder steel, and it should be handled very carefully by professional chefs only. Many top-level sushi knives are made of carbon steel.

 

 

Steel Alloy Additives/ Elements

Whether you consider German or Japanese knives, there are two fundamental elements of knives: carbon and iron. Iron cannot proffer desired hardness to the knives for which steel is added to make it more durable, harder, and wear-resistant. Understanding these elements and additives is crucial to see how each affects the knives' general attributes.

 

Chromium

To be called stainless steel, it must contain at least 12 percent chromium. This helps the blade to shield oxygen interactions and corrosion. Chromium is also essential for enhancing the wear resistance of the knife blades.

 

Manganese

It helps in making the steel much harder and enhances the tensile strength of the knife. On the flip side, it is also responsible for making the knife more brittle and gives way to chipping.

 

Molybdenum

This material can make the blade tough, especially when you have to cut hot ingredients.

 

Nickel

This element is responsible for adding toughness to the kitchen knives. It's worth mentioning that toughness refers to the ability of the steel to resist cracking or chipping when you are cutting a heavy item.

 

Cobalt

Much like carbon, cobalt also does a lot to improve the strength of the knife blade so that it can easily cut through a variety of ingredients and foods.

 

 

Japanese Steel Vs. German Steel

Since Japanese knives are far harder than German steel, you may believe that Japanese knives are much better than their counterparts. But it's worth mentioning that hardness brings along brittleness, and the harder your knife will be, the more brittle it can become. While it's great to have hard steel for your knives, having a brittle knife can chip easily when you cut through hard objects like bone.

This is the reason why German steel offers a unique balance between durability, hardness, and resistance to wear and corrosion. This steel takes up less carbon along with other crucial elements. Moreover, the knives made of German steel are sharped to a shallow angle which means they have to be sharpened from time to time. Also, they are very durable against wear and tear and have robust functionality.

 

Knife Steel Comparison: Which Is Best?

If you consider opting for a Japanese knife, you can go for an AUS 10 or VG MAX steel for your kitchen blades. Both of these variants make the best steel for kitchen knives and are thus considered the standard choice. On the other hand, if you are going for German knives, you can choose between 4116 Krupp or X50CRMoV15. Even though they are not the same, yet they deliver a top-level performance for the kitchen knives. Consider these options if you are looking for rust-free and heavy-duty instruments.

 

 

The Bottom Line

When you go shopping for knives with all the knowledge of different kinds of steel, you will see that no perfect steel makes an excellent knife. They are all a balance among various features like durability, hardness, wear and corrosion resistance, appearance, and cost.

Thus, the best steel for kitchen knives boils down to the user who's using it. One of the most common considerations is striking a balance between pricing and performance. And you should factor in how you will use it and how much you can shell out to make a successful purchase.

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What’s the Best Steel for Kitchen Knives

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What’s the Best Steel for Kitchen Knives

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