High Carbon Steel in the Kitchen

January 15, 2015



Knife wielding celebrity chefs across the country are shunning stainless steel and touting American-made high carbon steel. Such knives are forged only by a few boutique blacksmith shops in the US and Canada, and they’re capable of cutting wind and making shadows bleed.

Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But, you get the idea.

High carbon steel, as the name suggests, is comprised of more carbon than stainless steel. Also, it is made with a lesser percentage of chromium, which is used in stainless steel to prevent corrosion. This makes for a harder metal that is less likely to be penetrated and capable of being sharpened more easily to an edge.

A sharper knife in the kitchen means more finely chopped ingredients, and that means more flavorful food.

Some claim high carbon steel is unsightly because it lacks the shiny, mirror-like look of stainless steel. But, don’t tell that to the blacksmiths at Neilson Mountain Hollow (PA), Middleton Made Knives (SC), and Cariboo Blades (BC). The hand-made hardware coming off their anvils is borderline sublime. Some have acid etchings and boiled mustard finishes that could pique Crocodile Dundee’s interest. Slap that between a handle made from an elk antler, cocobola or winewood, and you got a blade capable of shaming Excalibur.

In particular, the high carbon steel knives produced by Cariboo Blades, according to their website, are made with a low carbon footprint. The company gathers material for their knives from old sawmill blades, and recasts them into metallic Mona Lisas at a facility powered entirely by solar panels.

However, high carbon steel has its faults. The lack of chromium in the metal’s make-up means that it must be regularly lubricated to prevent corrosion. In addition, it means that high carbon steel knives are not as tough as stainless steels knives and will fracture more easily when bent to the side.

Nevertheless, a non-corrosive knife is about as real as professional wrestling, and there is probably no better place to have a knife that needs to be pampered than in the kitchen. Simply rub that high carbon steel knife with cooking oil every night after use, and she’ll love you for the rest of your life.



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