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Test Drive: Ceramic Knives

Fine Cooking Issue 80
Photo: Scott Phillips
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Perhaps you’ve seen ceramic knives and wondered if you should get one. I have, too, and to answer the question, I recently tried out Kyocera’s 6-1/4-inch chef’s knife as well as the 5-1/2-inch santoku knife, using them for everything from slicing tomatoes to chopping herbs.

Although the white blades have a disarming, plastic-like appearance, these knives are incredibly sharp and precise. And while they didn’t excel at every task, when they were good, they were very, very good.

For straightforward slicing and dicing, these small Japanese knives outperformed my stainlesssteel chef’s knife. The thin ceramic blades made it a breeze to finely dice onions, bell peppers, and even small shallots; carve steak; and slice squishy, ripe tomatoes— the ultimate test of a knife’s sharpness. Cutting a filet of salmon was so effortless that my dreams of becoming a sushi master were momentarily rekindled. Just as impressive, the knives held their edge with little sign of dulling, despite frequent use.

Do use a ceramic knife for slicing and dicing fruits, vegetables, and boneless meats.

Don’t use a ceramic knife for carving, prying, boning, cutting frozen foods, or slicing cheese.

For bulky items, though, I wasn’t comfortable with the delicacy of the ceramic blades. When dicing raw beets, potatoes, and squash, I missed the sturdiness and heft of my regular chef’s knife. And when chopping herbs and mincing garlic, I couldn’t achieve the rocking motion I’m accustomed to. Also, the blades are fragile—I accidentally dropped one of the knives and its tip snapped off.

After putting the knives to the test, it became clear that a ceramic knife should complement my steel knives, not replace them. I’ll be reaching for my ceramic knife any time a recipe calls for something fi nely diced or thinly sliced.

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