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Carbon VS Stainless

Fri Aug 17, 2012 4:05 pm

Please help! i work with two older, more experienced cooks. i prefer high carbon knives, but they can't agree on the pros/cons of stainless v. high carbon. i thought i knew, but their conflicting opinions have me confused as hell. Please explain the difference, the kitchen depends on it!
dylan

Re: Carbon VS Stainless

Fri Aug 17, 2012 6:31 pm

Ok... I'll be the first one to venture into this very deep topic!

My "personal opinion" its that its all a balancing act...

I personally prefer the feel in cutting, sharpness that it attains and enjoy overall sharpening of High carbon steel

But there I also like the convenience of stainless.. in certain occasions like when the amount of work Is just overwhelming then stainless is my preference.

Now having said that there is somewhat of a middle ground with semi-stainless like our ever-so-popular Konosuke HD or AEBL that are a pleasure to sharpen and can attain very high sharpness... kirenaga is at a premium as well.... I still haven't made up my mind in that regard either way.

Now there is supposed to be a HD2 coming out... anyone willing to venture some data?

I guess as time progresses I move towards Carbon... it depends on the task at hand (when I cook japanese I always go carbon). Still, I have much to learn and have been known to change my mind!

Re: Carbon VS Stainless

Sat Aug 18, 2012 2:13 pm

High carbon is usually a term used for stainless, no?

Re: Carbon VS Stainless

Sat Aug 18, 2012 5:31 pm

Not really....

Carbon or high carbon content is a term for knives that have a high carbon content... These tend to attain a sharper edge but the price you pay is that it rusts easily. Stainless (this is really not completely true as all metal oxidizes at some point) has other elements in the composition, the most common of them is Chromium, Manganese, Nickel, etc., which makes it more resilient to rusting but at a cost... They normally cant attain such a sharp edge... Some say retention as well.

NOTE: This is a very controversial topic so I will just leave it there.

Thats why I mentioned in my previous post that there tends to be an ever increasing middle ground that everyone is looking for where we might find the advantages of High Carbon and stainless.

Valhala or the perfect nife must have the perfect combinaton of edge retention, toughness, kirenaga or ability to retain that edge for long periods of time, grind, profile, ratio, weight, looks, balance, etc. etc. (there are many considerations).

In my opinion some of the best craftsmenand metal masters (Devin T. Among them) are working on finding this perfect steel composition that satisfies our ever increasing demand for the perfect knife. Thats why I mentioned AEB-L in my previous post..

I know I probably got something wrong... Someone willing to venture? :P

Re: Carbon VS Stainless

Sat Aug 18, 2012 11:19 pm

I debunk this stuff all day. It is a common issue.

Carbon used to be better than stainless. Chromium(which makes steel stainless) has a tendency to form it's own carbides, which are big and soft, unlike Iron Carbides, which are hard(and what you want). You can think of it like well-heat treated steel is a cream sauce and you want a nice even, uniform structure(small grain size, very evenly distributed). Chromium is Lemon Juice. It'll curdle, right? Unless you put stuff in it to control the curdling, like fat, flour, white wine, etc(this is the same as the role for Alloying Elements in steels).

The point is, about 15 years ago, Crucible made s30v, the first steel ever developed JUST for knives. Ever since then, stainless has really caught up with carbon. High end, well-treated stainless behaves almost just like carbon, but won't rust.

At this point in the explanation, I usually hand them a knife and a vegetable. The only thing that will settle this in their minds is putting a great stainless in their hands and having them use it.

Re: Carbon VS Stainless

Sat Aug 18, 2012 11:53 pm

I agree with Eamon. Stainless way back when used to be regarded as poor in edge holding and edge taking. Companies started calling their steels "high carbon stainless steels" since people wanted more carbon for better edge taking/holding. But they often don't say what grade steel they use and what they consider "high" carbon. Now we have lots of stainless steels that perform very nicely, take and hold great edges, etc. But for me, I love the blue/purple patina I get from slicing proteins!!! CPM-154, AEB-L/13C26, some of the Carpenter steels, etc are great examples of newer stainless steels that perform very well and have a very fine grain structure, which is important in edge holding. If I am cooking at home, I generally tend to use carbon Nakiri's and carbon gyuto's since I can take the time and care for the carbon blades properly. If I am cooking at a friends house or helping out with a Game Dinner or something, I bring a carbon or two for myself and a few stainless knives for others to use, along with several good cutting boards!! I can't believe how many people want to cut on a glass cutting board, ceramic plate, or right on a stainless steel table!!

Eamon, I love that analogy!!!

Re: Carbon VS Stainless

Sun Aug 19, 2012 5:26 pm

In your opinion Is there a Stainless steel or particular knife that performs (mainly sharpness) just as well as white carbon? Say... A Carter?

Re: Carbon VS Stainless

Sun Aug 19, 2012 6:11 pm

In your opinion Is there a Stainless steel or particular knife that performs (mainly sharpness) just as well as white carbon? Say... A Carter?

Murray Carter doesn't make stainless knives, they are either white or blue super clad in stainless.

Some stainless steels to consider are AEB-L, CPM154, S35VN. Some makers/brands to consider are Pierre Rodrigue, Devin Thomas, Butch Harner, Mario Ingoglia, Marko Tsourkan, Will Catcheside, Mike Davis, Delbert Ealy and, of course, Mark Richmond's line of knives made for him by Lamson-Goodnow.
Last edited by Rick on Sun Aug 19, 2012 6:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Carbon VS Stainless

Sun Aug 19, 2012 6:17 pm

Yes I know... I apologize, I might need to frase it another way... Is there a stainless steel knife that performs just as well as a carbon steel knife that is considered one of the sharpest in its class (like a white steel Carter)?

I would like to know so I can try it!

Thanks

Re: Carbon VS Stainless

Sun Aug 19, 2012 6:29 pm

Yes I know... I apologize, I might need to frase it another way... Is there a stainless steel knife that performs just as well as a carbon steel knife that is considered one of the sharpest in its class (like a white steel Carter)?

I would like to know so I can try it!

Thanks


Sorry, I misread your post.

Sharpness, despite the myths surrounding it, is a function of the person sharpening the knife, not the steel it is made from. The steel, and its heat treatment determine how long the edge will last and how easy it is to bring the edge back to that level of sharpness. Then, to make it even more confusing, the geometry of the blade enters into how the performance of the knife is perceived.

To answer you, I have a Butch Harner nakiri and a Pierre Rodrigue gyuto that are equal to my Carter gyuto. There are likely many others that also equal a Carter.
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