Steel type overview for kitchen knives

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This is a list of the most popular steel types for kitchen knives. I have not tried all steel types but the majority has been tested, used, and resharpened with a whetstone by myself. Everything that I have personally used and resharpened with a whetstone will be marked with an ”*”. The ratings of the knives that I have personally used is based on my opinion and testing. Every Sharpness rating after the steel types with an “*” marked is based on the sharpness after resharpening it with a whetstone. It is not a sharpness rating out of the box. The HRC is based on success rates by the manufacturer/ blacksmith. This means that for some steel-type they can reach a higher HRC but they don’t sell them anymore because of the failure rate (which would have increased the blade price).


Steel TypeRockwell (HRC)SharpnessEasy To SharpenEdge RetentionDurabilityRust Resistance
STAINLESS
VG10*60-613/53/5 3/5 3/5High
VG-MAX*613/53/5 3/5 3/5High
VG1*60-613/53/5 3/5 3/5Medium
R2/SG2*63-644/53/5 4/5 3/5High
AUS10*60-613/54/5 3/5 3.5/5High
AUS8*58-592/54/5 2/5 4/5High
X50CrMoV15 (German Steel)*57-582/54/5 2/5 4/5High
Cromova 18*582/54/52/54/5High
High Carbon
Shirogami White #1*63-65+5/54/53/51/5Very Low
Shirogami White #2*62-634/54/55/51/5Very Low
Aogami Blue #1654/54/54/52/5Very Low
Aogami Blue #2*63-654/54/55/52/5Low
Aogami Blue Super*63-644/54/55/53/5Low
COMPARISION
Wusthof (X50CrMoV15)*583/53/52/54/5High
Global Sai (Cromova 18)*58-593/52/52/54/5High
Zwilling Pro S (Friodur ice-hardened steel)*573/53/52/54/5High
Victorinox (Stainless Steel)*563/53/51/55/5High
Miyabi MC63 (Rebranded R2/SG2)*634/53/54/53/5High

*Based on personal experience after resharpening it with a whetstone.

STAINLESS

Stainless steel is exactly as the word says it is. It ”stains” ”less”, great rust resistance, and can be exposed to water for a long period of time. Some stainless steel can be put in the dishwasher without rusting, however, this is inadvisable since it is not good for the steel and the edge. Long exposure to a salty water bath will rust no matter how good the stainless properties are.

List of popular stainless steel types:

  • VG10
  • VG-Max
  • AUS10
  • AUS8
  • VG1
  • R2/SG2
  • MC63 (Miyabi)
  • Cromova18 (Global)
  • X50CrMoV15 (Wusthof)
  • Friodur (Zwilling)

Japanese Stainless Steel

When it comes to Japanese steel and knives most people are afraid of the brittleness of the knives. They don’t want to chip or break the knife and usually don’t know how to sharpen the knives. Unlike the High Carbon, Japanese made knives those stainless steel types from Japan are very suitable for the domestic cook. Most domestic cook can now buy a precut boneless chicken thigh or other kinds of meat. They don’t have to debone anymore and therefore the Japanese stainless steel is a great knife for them. Unlike the Japnese high carbon, the knife stains less and is less brittle than a high carbon knife. As long as you follow the following guideline then you should be good, don’t twist the blade to break food open, don’t go through frozen food, cheese, hard bread, and bones. You will benefit from a noticeable longer edge retention and better sharpness.

List of Japanese stainless steel:

  • VG10
  • VG-Max
  • AUS10
  • AUS8
  • VG1
  • R2/SG2
  • MC63 (Miyabi)

Japanese High Carbon steel

The high carbon steel is recommended for people that know the ins and out’s of the steel-type. So ideally a knife enthusiast/nerd since they know what they can and can’t do with those knives. But with the western customers flocking to the Japnese knives they are starting to make high carbon knives catered to the western market and not only the Japanese professional cooks. If you know how to sharpen your knives with a whetstone then you are ready for a new adventure. The Japanese high carbon steel needs more attention and can’t be exposed to water since it will rust. For most busy home cooks with kids, this steel is not recommended.

Note: I’m not a knife seller but I do find it important to advise people that are looking for a Japanese knife, therefore, I will be honest and advice people that don’t know much about the Japanese steel-types but want a Japanese knife to go for the stainless steel options instead of high carbon. It is just an advice and only you can decide if you can handle it or not.

If you have some questions or want some help use the comment section below this page or visit my YouTube channel.

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8 Comments

  1. Hi
    I would like to buy an 8 “- 8.5” chef’s knife from Ali Express, for home kitchen use.
    Depending on all your tests and experience which company and knife you recommend me to purchase.
    Thanks
    Koby

    1. I recommend the following knives:

      Chef Knife: Xinzuo German Steel 1.4116 210mm: https://bit.ly/2PeGxMh
      Gyuto (Japanese Chef’s Knife) – Xinzuo 440C 210mm: https://bit.ly/3hW2Bbo

      Chef Knife AUS10 Damascus pattern – Keemake: https://bit.ly/2HtwsXk
      Bunka, a cross between Santoku, Gyuto, Nakiri from Keemake: https://bit.ly/30ostUD

      There might be confusion about those two branded knives, according to the seller they are both made by the same manufacturer. Keemake is a sub-brand from Sunnceko. I have tested both knives and currently, I prefer the Keemake version over the Sunnecko.

      Hope that this helps,

      ChefPanko

  2. Hi Chef,

    I saw the following description of a knife in Amazon that’s also advertised as stainless steel.

    “Full tang precision forged from a single piece of ice tempered and proprietary liquid nitrogen cooled blade, high-carbon, Japanese 7Cr17mov steel at 58 Rockwell hardness”

    Based on your posts, I am confused with the description above. (japanese but 7cr17mov, high-carbon but stainless) can you tell me what’s wrong with it? or if it makes sense? thanks!

    1. 7cr17 is a good steel nothing wrong with it.
      All the marketing terms however is quite fun to see.

      they said it is forged they are not lying, they are forged but how are they forged?
      Old school forging manual hammering multiple layers of steel or stamped and then heat-treated (modern forging by machines) etc.

      Machines or manual does not really matter, the machines can even produce a better quility/consistency at a lower price than a hand-forged knife from a Japanese artisan.

      So in short Full-Tang means a western handle or it is hidden (a handle that goes all the way to the end of the handle).
      Forged from a single piece (”modern forging” so a stamped or a piece that they heat-treat which is a forging process).
      Ice tempered and proprietary liquid nitrogen cooled blade (they cool the blade to lock in a certain Rockwell).

      If they say it is HRC58 then they are telling you they can consistently lock-in that hardness and that is what you get.
      If they say HRC58 +/-1 it means they aim for 58 but they can’t lock it for every single knife, therefore, you can either get 57 or 58 or 59.
      +/-1 or +/-2 is something you will see on Cr steel type (since manufacturers, where they get their steel, is unknown).

      ”Japanese” is something every seller wants to use since Japanese knife sells better than Chinese made knives.
      They will often give the knife a Japanese sounding name…

      It is basically the seller that is misleading with advertising/text and prices are sometimes extremely high for what you get (usually resellers).
      Some Chinese branded knives have their official Amazon store where the inventory is in an Amazon warehouse. (you are protected by amazon warranty).

      So double-check if Amazon ships it from their warehouse or the seller ships it from their own warehouse and not using amazon warehouse.

  3. Thanks you!! As a follow-up, what do you make of high-carbon 7cr17 steel? i looked at the components of 7cr17 and the carbon doesn’t reach .9% which from my research is what you consider high-carbon. and having high-carbon can’t be advertised as stainless steel (as what the public knows about stainless steel).

    they have a photo of their product showing carbon content of .58, that means it’s not high-carbon right? and as you mentioned, homecooks shouldn’t be looking at high-carbon steel anyway.

    but yeah, the product is fulfilled by amazon so i can return if if i’m not happy. just wondering if the price is appropriate for its quality. 70 USD for a 6-pc (chef, santoku, bread, paring, utility, carving).

    1. 7cr17 has good rust resistance so that is not a problem.
      What I consider High Carbon are the following:
      Shirogami White #1/#2
      Aogami #1/#2
      Aogami Super

      It is the combination of steel that gives a certain knife it hardness purity and rust resistance layers:
      Carbon (C): Increase edge retention (the more ”C” the higher the Rockwell).
      Chromium (Cr): Corrosion resistance (minimal 13% so that we can call it ”stainless”)
      Molybdenum (Mo): Preventing brittleness
      Vanadium (V): A combination of wear, toughness, strength and allows the blade to take a sharp edge.
      Cobalt (Co): Increase strength and hardness (and good for quenching in higher temp)
      (There are more but they all compliment each other or do the same thing)

      A carbon of 0.58 is not high carbon so that is another misleading text that they used on their amazon page.
      While I mainly advise home cooks to get stainless steel instead of high carbon so knives with a Rockwell of 61 should be fine too (if they know what not to do with it like going through chicken bones/ frozen food etc).

      So let’s say AUS10 60HRC:
      C: 0.96
      Cr: 14.9
      Mo: 0.9
      V: 0.10

      Now VG10 60HRC:
      C: 0.95
      Cr: 14.5
      Mo: 0.8
      V: 0.20
      Co: 1.3

      Despite the lower C in the VG10 is has similar edge retention and sharpness and most likely even sharper than AU10.
      Because the added Co in the VG10 which allows for higher quenching.
      Cr in VG10 is lower than AUS10 but both are above 13 so both have excellent rust resistance.
      The AUS10 has a higher Mo than the VG10 making the knife stronger against chipping vs VG10.
      Due to the less V, the VG10 can take a sharper edge than the AUS10 despite the higher carbon.

      Despite having a higher C the rest is what makes a knife steel composition important.

      In the above scenario, the VG10 will take a sharper edge while having similar edge retention.
      The AUS10 on the other hand will be more durable while having a Similar Rockwell as the VG10.

      Of course how the manufacturer heat treat plays a role in overall quility while both (AUS10 and VG10) have a higher carbon content than 0.9 they are both excellent in rust resistance and therefore are still considered stainless.

      But back to the knives, you are looking at for $70 it is quite reasonable, however.
      Chef knife and Santoku – you most likely just need one of them and not both.
      Bread knife optional if you eat a lot of hard bread otherwise not needed (a serrated paring knife for $1 would be fine too if you just don’t eat hard breads like a baguette every day).
      Paring knife or Utility, the paring knife is most likely the only one you need (peeling apple skin for example).
      Carving knife in Europe (Netherlands) we pretty much don’t use them but I heard that in the USA you guys have a lot of family gathering events like thanksgiving so that might be worth it?

      But normally you just need a Chef’s knife or Santoku, and a paring knife for pretty much 90% of the kitchen task.

      I tested a few 7cr17 the Rockwell is around 57 (never had one that came close to 58).
      One of the knives with 7cr17 felt like 56 but most of them were 57.

      If you get that set from China the price + shipping is around $40.

      The 7cr17 Chef knife that I own costs around $12, Santoku the same price ($24 total).
      Paring knife $6, Utility $7, Carving $7 ($20)
      Bread knife $9

      Total: 7cr17 set if bought separately with free shipping is $53
      Bought in the same set $40 to $50 (free shipping).

      So you are paying approx $20 more for amazon warranty and faster delivery time since buying from China takes (2 weeks minimum and up to 8 weeks 60-day money-back guarantee).
      And you also avoid potential import tax since it ships within the USA.

      Worth it or not that is something only you can decide for me personally I would only choose one Chef’s knife or a Santoku but not both.
      And as for a paring knife, I like the brand Victorinox paring knife for around $9.

      1. Amazing!!! Thank you very much for the explanation and the recommendation. I just want to replace the set that we have which is the popular tomodachi (colorful knives) which we got from Costco years ago. I find it losing its sharpness quickly that I have to sharpen a knife every week or so. Maybe you can do a review of it since it’s so popular for home use? just a suggestion 😛

        1. Unfortunately, there is no Costco in my country, sometimes I wish we had the stores that I see all the time online and on tv shows, movies, etc. 🙁

          Things like Costco, Chipotle, White Castle, Wendy’s and so many more things I wanna visit or try. And due to the current situation world wide my plan to go to California got canceled too. (We do have Five Guys and Papa Johns now!)

          I looked at the knives and I think the Rockwell should be 54 since they don’t specify it. So in that case the 7cr17 should stay longer sharp. But 54 HRC is a fun steel type you can easily bring the sharpness back but needs more maintenance since the sharpness decreases too fast.

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