Carbon Steel Knife

The Carbon Steel Knife: A Blend of Tradition and Performance

In the vast panorama of kitchen blades, the carbon steel knife stands as a testament to enduring craftsmanship and superior performance. Heralded by many chefs for its unparalleled sharpness and edge retention, this knife bears a legacy that spans centuries, connecting ancient blacksmithing traditions to contemporary culinary artistry. This blog delves into the allure of the carbon steel knife, exploring its rich history, maintenance nuances, and the reasons behind its resurgence in modern kitchens. Join us as we slice through myths and facts, unveiling the true essence of this remarkable tool.

Is Carbon Steel Good for Knives?

Carbon steel provides an edge in sharpness and durability over stainless steel, making it a common choice for chefs. Because of the higher carbon count in the steel, the blade is harder and sharper, making carbon steel great for all types of knives.

Carbon steel is used for all types of knives, from Japanese chef knives to paring knives, and even switchblades.

What are the Pros and Cons of Carbon Steel Knives?

Pros of Carbon Steel Knives:

  • Carbon Steel blades maintain a razor-sharp edge even after thousands of cuts. 
  • These knives stand up to pretty much anything. They're tough, durable, and won't let you down.
  • Affordability - carbon steel knives provide better performance without breaking the bank. 

Cons of Carbon Steel Knives:

  • Carbon steel blades are prone to rust when exposed to moisture for a prolonged time. 
  • Requires consistent maintenance, including rubbing with oil and sharpening.
  • Potential slight carbon due to the molecules in the steel reacting with certain acidic foods like lemons can cause the surface of the steel to oxidize and darken.

For those willing to spend time caring for their carbon steel knife, the cons are few and far between.

The Beauty Of Carbon Steel

If you are looking for a knife that is versatile and ready for any occasion, carbon steel is the perfect choice. The beauty of carbon steel is in its high carbon count (usually up to 2% of its weight), allowing for longer blades (such as swords or all-purpose chef knives) to have a strong and balanced blade composition.

Many knives are advertised as "high carbon steel", but this simply means they contain a high percentage of carbon and may not necessarily classify as carbon steel knives. The critical factor that confirms a knife as carbon steel is the absence of chromium, as the lack of chromium causes the carbon to oxidize and react with its components. 

However, this doesn't mean the knife must contain 0% chromium. For instance, some steels carbon steels (like aogami) contain up to 0.8% chromium. Contrastingly, a typical stainless contains more than 10% chromium.

The Problem With Carbon Steel

For all the beauty and benefits that carbon steel knives offer, there are some drawbacks. Unlike stainless steel, high-carbon steel is prone to discoloration and rust without adequate care and treatment. These blades must remain dry when not in use. 

Additionally, cutting certain foods with carbon steel requires extra care, as acidic and salty foods can lead to corrosion.

Over time, carbon steel will develop a natural patina, which is a protective layer on your blade that occurs during oxidation between the carbon atoms and acidic or salty food. Even though the patina causes minor discoloration, it protects your knife against corrosion or rust. 

With that being said, there are some general protocols to follow when cutting salt food with a carbon steel knife.

Cutting Food with Salt

There are some general protocols to follow when you are cutting salt foods.

First, never leave a carbon steel cleaver or knife sitting in salty food for extended periods. The quicker you can clean off the salt and other potentially damaging substances, the better. Salt can cause the carbon steel to corrode, therefore, rinse and dry your knife thoroughly immediately after use.

Second, check the type of cooking board you are using. Certain cutting boards or surfaces can damage the blade due to its hardness. Avoid glass, granite, or marble cutting boards if you have a carbon steel knife. These materials have less resistance and can dull or even damage the sharp edge of your knife. Instead, opt for wooden, bamboo, or food-grade plastic cutting boards.

Finally, remember to store your knife in a dry location without any moisture, heat, or humidity, as these elements cause the carbon to rust over time.

Best High-Carbon Steel Knife

The best high-carbon steel knife is the hand-forged 8" Chef's Knife from The Cooking Guild. Composed of 1095 High carbon steel, this blade is perfectly balanced and has a full tang design.

What we love about the hand-forged 8" Chef's Knife is the sharpness. With its incredible edge retention properties, it slices through cuts of meat, herbs, and vegetables with ease.

Best of all, it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. So you can try it for yourself, and if you don’t like it, return it for free.

What To Look For In A Carbon Steel Knife

When buying a carbon steel knife, the first thing you can do is check to ensure it has less than 0.09% chromium and a high carbon count in the mineral composition. If it has more chromium than this, it is not a Carbon Steel Knife.

Pay close attention to the craftsmanship and the knife's balance. A well-made carbon steel knife should feel comfortable, with the weight evenly distributed. Most carbon steel knives also have a full tang. Full tang knives, where the metal extends through the entire handle, are of the highest quality due to their strength. 

Examine the hardness of the steel. A rating of 56-58 on the Rockwell scale is a suitable hardness rating for a balance of edge retention and durability. Anything harder may make the knife brittle. 

Lastly, consider the grip and knife handle Ensure it is comfortable and has a good grip. Ideal handle materials would be a wood handle or composite handle.

Reasons To Choose A Carbon Steel

Carbon steel knives are a top pick for many cooks. Why? They sharpen easily, hold their edge for a long time, and are known for strength. Plus, with proper care, they can last years. If you want a reliable knife for your kitchen tasks, carbon steel is a great choice!

Carbon Steels Are Usually Tougher.

Compared to stainless steel, carbon steel is tougher, stemming from its excellent strength-to-weight ratio. Carbon is amongst the strongest and most durable types of steel, making the material essential in various applications, including construction and automotive industries.

Carbon Steels Develops A Patina To Protect Itself

One of the most distinguishable features of a carbon steel knife is a patina. Patinas develop when food oxidizes with the carbon inside the blade, creating a discoloration effect. This layer protects the knife from exposure to rust and is aesthetically pleasing.

Carbon Steels Are Usually Cheaper.

Compared to other materials, carbon steels are generally cheaper. Their affordability, coupled with their toughness makes them an economical choice for budget-conscious consumers. They offer outstanding value for the money without compromising on quality or performance.

Carbon Steels Are Much Easier To Forge

Carbon steel has a lower melting pot than stainless or Damascus, making it significantly easier to work with. Blacksmiths can quickly turn carbon into all types of designs, equipment, and cutlery. 

Carbon Steels Can Be Found All Around You.

Carbon steels are ubiquitous. They form the exterior of structures, machines, and appliances, including buildings, bridges, utensils, and kitchen knives. Carbon steel's wide-ranging applications make it an integral part of modern life.

Carbon Steels Are Easy To Sharpen.

One of the best attributes of carbon steels is that they are easy to sharpen. This characteristic makes them a preferred choice for knives and other cutting tools. The ease of maintenance means less effort is needed to keep them in optimal performing conditions.

Carbon Steel And Flint Can Create A Spark.

Carbon steel and flint can create a spark, a primitive method of fire-starting. This usability in survival situations explains why carbon steel is often used in outdoor tools and equipment.

It is Easier To Make Damascus Steel With Carbon Steels.

Carbon steel's forge-friendly properties make it easier to create Damascus steel, making carbon steel a popular choice for santoku knives, boning knives, and bread knife makers and blacksmiths.

Carbon Steels Are Readily Available

There is probably something in front of you that contains carbon steel. Whether it is a vehicle, a piece of jewelry, or a nail on your wall, carbon steel is everywhere. Because of this, carbon steel is consistently produced and readily available for affordable prices.

Carbon Steel Is Old School

Carbon steel is the classic, high-end steel that has been around for centuries. Its sharpness and durability are a testament to reliability, and it holds up as well today as it did when it was first created. 


Do you have questions about carbon steel knives? You're not alone! Many people wonder why these knives are popular, how to look after them, or what makes them special. In this section, we'll answer common questions to help everyone, from regular folks to cooks, get to know these knives better. If you're thinking about getting one or just curious, keep reading! You can also checkout the care guide in each knife box! 

What is The Difference Between Carbon Steel And Stainless Steel Knives?

The difference between carbon steel and stainless steel knives is the mineral composition.

Carbon steel knives contain a higher carbon content, which makes them sharper, more durable, and easier to sharpen. However, they are also more prone to rust and stains.

Stainless steel knives contain more chromium, nickel, and other alloys, making them less likely to rust or discolor. However, they are typically less sharp, less durable, and harder to sharpen than carbon steel knives. 

Additionally, carbon steel can react with certain acidic foods, leading to a metallic taste, while stainless steel does not have this issue. 

How Fast Does Carbon Steel Rust?

Carbon steel can rust as quickly as under an hour. But in most cases, it will take a bit longer than this. The rusting occurs due to excess humidity (70 - 80%) or moisture on the blade. 

Ensuring that your carbon steel knife is stored in a dry and cool place is essential for preventing rust. 

How Often Should You Oil Carbon Steel Knives?

Oiling your carbon steel blade is one of the most essential care tips. Similar to creating a protective layer on a cast iron pan, the oil protects the knife from external elements such as salt, acid, and water.

How often you use the oil depends on how often you use the blade. If you are using a carbon steel knife every day, we recommend applying oil at least every other week. If you are using the carbon steel blade occasionally, once a month should be enough oil.

How Do You Prevent Carbon Steel Knives From Rusting?

Carbon steel knives are prone to rusting, and ample care is required. First, ensure your carbon steel knives are thoroughly rinsed and dried. Additionally, ensure you are storing them in a dry location.

Finally, be mindful when cutting acidic or salty foods. These minerals can oxidize the materials in the blade, causing unintended discoloration and rust.

What is The Best Way To Sharpen Carbon Steel Knives?

Knife sharpening is a critical care component for carbon steel knives. The most effective way to sharpen a carbon steel knife is by utilizing a honing rod or a whetstone. A honing rod aligns the edge without removing much material. 

If the blade is dull, a whetstone is preferred. Add water or oil to the whetstone, hold the knife at a 20-degree angle, and rake it across the stone from heel to tip. Repeat until sharp, then switch to the finer grit side of the stone for a polished edge. 

Lastly, always sharpen along the edge and not against it. Regular maintenance ensures optimum efficiency and lengthens the knife's lifespan.

Can You Rust A Stainless Steel Knife? 

Yes, while stainless steel is highly resistant to rust, under certain conditions, such as exposure to saltwater or acidic materials for extended periods, even stainless steel knives can develop rust. Regular maintenance is key to preventing this.