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Ceramic knives: A culinary arts fad or a favorite with chefs of every kind?

by Olivia DeWolfe
CulinaryEd Columnist
February 9, 2011

A set of ceramic knives.Once believed to be merely a fad, ceramic knives continue to hold their appeal in the field of culinary arts. Many chefs, both home- and professional, use them. Considered to be at least five times stronger than stainless steel, ceramic knives are made from an extremely durable substance called zirconium oxide. Some of the finer attributes, according to those who prefer them, are that they stay sharp for much longer than metal knives, do not affect the taste of food and do not harbor bacteria. They are also lightweight, perfectly balanced, and stain- and rust-proof.

Ceramic knives are made from ceramic powder placed in a mold and subjected to very intense pressure. The mold is then fired in a kiln similar to the way that traditional pottery is made. However, the ceramic knifes are formed under controlled temperatures. The final step involves honing the blade with a diamond wheel to create its sharpness.

One of the more popular ceramic knife companies, Kyocera, is set to more than double its annual shipments by 2014, an indication of the stability of this decades-old trend. In addition, Oprah Winfrey included ceramic knives in her Ultimate Favorite Things list for 2010. This was based on her experience using a set sent to her from Food Network chef Ming Tsai (they reportedly came from his own signature series).

Not everyone feels so warmly about these new-fangled kitchen tools. Some say they should be considered a supplement to other sets, be those other sets stainless steel, high-carbon stainless steel or titanium. Others completely dismiss ceramic knives as trendy gadgets.

The drawbacks of ceramic knives include their inflexibility (they can break under stress, aren't good for boning, and can't be used to pry), and the fact that they must be sharpened with a diamond tool and used on a cutting board. They can easily scratch counter tops and the enamel on dinner plates.

Professional chefs know the importance of staying aware of innovations in the culinary arts world. Ceramic knives are a subject worth exploring.

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