Rockwell Hardness (HRC) & Steel Types

There are multiple steel types, and each steel type has its own name and composition. One of the metrics to make it easier to indicate edge retention is the Rockwell rating. In general, you can say the higher the Rockwell, the longer the edge retention. But the higher the Rockwell, the more brittle the knife will be. The same can be said for a lower Rockwell. The lower the Rockwell, the faster the knife will get dull, but you get a more durable knife.

Info: The steel composition, thickness, and knife style have a major role in some metrics. A Rockwell rating is just one indication to make it easier for customers to grasp what the knife can do.

HRC, RC, or Rockwell

Here is a brief overview of the Rockwell Hardness:

  • 52-54 HRC: Cheap chef’s knives, mostly very cheap 8 euro (10 dollars). It needs to be sharpened every time we are done with a task.
  • 54-56 HRC: Better than cheap knives. Mostly for home cooks and not for the professional kitchen. Chinese bone cleavers use this kind of hardness. It needs to sharpen a few times a day if used in a professional kitchen.
  • 56-58 HRC: Easy to sharpen and used in a professional kitchen. Mostly german knives or better quality Chinese vegetable/bone cleavers use this kind of hardness.
  • 58-60 HRC: Better quality kitchen knives like Japanese knives. They stay longer sharp but are harder to sharpen.
  • 60-62 HRC: The knives remain sharp for a long time but have more risk of becoming brittle. Harder to sharpen, and quality depends on the production. Mostly used in Japanese knives.
  • 63-66 HRC: Needs cleaning after each use and more prone to breaking and becoming brittle. Some steel types with this high HRC need a wet towel wipe before each slice.

Info: Of course, these are just guidelines. The manufacturer, steel type, and knives are made a huge role in the quality. We also have powdered steel which can reach a Rockwell beyond 66 and are still stainless.

Steel types

We can go deep into each steel type, but we only need to know three types: stainless, high-carbon, and powdered steel. Each steel type has its pro and cons depending on the purpose of the knife.

Stainless Steel

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.

Japanese High Carbon steel

High Carbon steel is the preferred choice of Japanese chefs because it has a High Carbon content, and therefore it can be hardened above 60+ HRC. They are easy to resharpen and can take a very clean and sharp edge. However, they need a lot of maintenance and care, or they will rust.

Info: High Carbon is the preferred choice of Japanese chefs because it has a High Carbon content, and therefore it can be hardened above 60+ HRC. They are easy to resharpen and can take a very clean and sharp edge, however.

Powdered Steel

With modern science, we now have Powdered steels; they can be hardened above 66 on the Rockwell Scale and have excellent corrosion resistance. They can stay longer sharp than High Carbon steels, but sharpening is slightly harder.

Steel Composition

It is the combination of steel that gives a certain knife it hardness purity and rust resistance layers:

  • Carbon (C): Increase edge retention, but also makes the steel more brittle (the more ”C,” the higher the Rockwell).
  • Chromium (Cr): Corrosion resistance (minimal 13% so that we can call it ”stainless”)
  • Manganese (Mn): improves steel structure and increases the possibility for higher hardening of steel.
  • Vanadium (V): A combination of wear, toughness, strength and allows the blade to take a sharp edge for a longer period.
  • Molybdenum (Mo): Preventing brittleness.
  • Silicon (Si): increases the positive effects of carbon (C). It increases the hardness and the power of steel.
  • Cobalt (Co): Increase strength and hardness (and good for quenching in higher temp).
  • Tungsten (W): Increases the wear resistance of steel.

(There are more but they all compliment each other or do the same thing)


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 it has similar edge retention and sharpness and most likely even sharper than AUS10.
Because the added Co in the VG10 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 added V, in the AUS10 the AUS10 is more durable and can hold the edge longer than the VG10.

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.

Note: Example of steel composition and mixtures, for exact measurements see the manufacturers description

For more comparision you can visit ”steel type” overview page.

You can leave your questions in the comment section below.

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  1. Hello!! Chef Panko, lately I have been very interested in the topic of quality knives, and researching the topic, the truth is that there are many factors to take into account when investing in a quality knife. Your content on the YouTube channel and in this forum has been very helpful to me during this time and has helped me have a basic idea about what a knife should have and I thank you very much for the work you do. Keep it up!!
    Now, the issue I am here to talk about is that, despite all this knowledge, I still have some doubts about which options would be the most viable to make my first ”good” investment, since in practice I have zero experience .
    To put it in context, I’m looking for a chef’s knife and a paring knife, and in the case of the chef’s knife I wouldn’t know which type of steel to go for first, AUS10, VG10, or a Chinese 10Cr15MoV like the chef’s knives come with. your latest reviews. In fact, I would like to know if currently the 10Cr15MoV that the knives in your video come with, for example, are good options: ”Xinzuo’s 2023 Knife Collection: First Impressions of the New Series” ( (Both the first knife with the damascus pattern in X and the copper one) (would the copper in this case oxidize with use?)

    And I wouldn’t know whether to go for a knife from this brand since I don’t know if it has good edge retention and can last for many years, or if there isn’t much difference between a gyutoh (I’m afraid that it could break by breaking a garlic by its thinness and hardness) or if it is better to go for something more western like a whustof ikon classic.

    In summary, 10Cr15MoV, 9Cr18MoV, 12Cr18MoV steels are worth it or it is better to go for another type of metal at first.

    I hope this post is not too difficult to answer, the truth is that it would help me much more than this forum and the videos on the channel already do.
    Greetings and thanks in advance!!!

    1. Hi Manuel,

      Thank you for the comment. The first step would be to look at what knife style will suit your cutting style the best.

      But it seems like you already have set your eyes on the Chef’s knife. the question there would be what is your primary cutting motion the motion that you would be using the most during prep work? That will determine what kind of chef’s knife profile you would go for, like a rounder belly for rocking or a more straight profile, etc. This first step I find more important than looking at what kind of core steel a knife has.

      As for the X pattern 110 alternating layers of 10Cr15CoMov + 9Cr18CoMoV. This results in a coreless knife where the pattern has been put on each other over and over again. This result in a finer steel carbide where the carbide grains is smaller and is more finely and evenly spread compared to just a Single core construction of only 10Cr15CoMoV. In theory, this alone should make the knife cutting edge more durable and will have a sharper performance despite sharing the same Rockwell hardness. However, for the Hezhen & Xinzuo knives, I have not gotten back any lab testing results back.

      Takefu for example has a lab testing result with their alternating layered construction of the Japanese VG10 and VG1 which can be found on their website here: Takefu Coreless Steel.

      While their test showed a 150% improved cutting performance, an independent sharpening company did the same test and they only got a better cutting performance between 120/130% with their review samples of the Japanese VG1 and VG10. (which is still an improvement of just the Japanese VG10).

      As for the copper-infused Damascus, it is a knife I have not fully tested yet and the first impression video is basically all I know. I will do a full test and ask Xinzuo a few extra questions but that will take a while as I’m preparing to finish 13+ reviews for this year before I can test the copper-infused version. The same applies to the 12Cr steel that is being used on there, I have not tried that type of steel so I can’t give you an opinion on it.

      That being said how a steel performs highly depends on the manufacturer/brands. In the past, my experience with Chinese-made knives was extremely mixed and even leaned more toward the negative side. But that is 4/5+ years ago but seeing more reputable Chinese brands stepping up the heat treatment like Xinzuo/Hezhen. Wich is one of the select few that were consistently good with the heat treatment (knife design is sometimes questionable which I will push them to do better on newer series).

      10Cr15CoMov from Xinzuo is good, but be careful with others as I have experienced before.

      In terms of knife breaking if used normally, it won’t affect the knives. Unless you start hammering every single day then a breaking point might happen. It is a bit of what you want, want something durable that is built like a tank? Then a Wusthof or Zwilling classic Chef’s knife will do perfectly.

      But thinness comes with a shaper performance overall, it is a kitchen knife as long as you use it for kitchen tasks I would not worry too much about the edge. But if you start hacking into cans and twisting it like a screwdriver then I don’t recommend the harder Rockwell knives or thinner knives. And I don’t advise having through bones with those knives as it is still a chef’s knife, not a cleaver.

      Xinzuo/Hezhen is a brand that has been consistent so far that I can recommend them but I value comfort over brand or where the knives are made. For a knife that will be comfortable for you, you need to know what you plan to cook most of the time and how you use it (primary cutting motion). Based on that you can find a knife style that suits you before looking at all the other aspects like the hardness, steel types, etc.
      (Since I don’t know what you have set your eyes on a chef’s knife, I simply can’t think with you if it is the right decision or not). A paring knife is always advisable so that I don’t need to guide anyone as I agree everyone should have a paring knife they are very handy and you don’t need an expensive one.

      10Cr10CoMoV from a reputable brand like Xinzuo/Hezhen I can Recommend. Other brands The Dongsun 10Cr15CoMoV were good too. I would not worry much about that.

      The question still is the same why do you want a chef’s knife? What is your primary cutting style? What do you plan to cut most of the time? For example you want to use it on bones well a cleaver is a better solution than a Chef’s knife (crazy example but a Santoku might be better for example a Nakiri etc.).

      Hope that this answers some of your questions.

    1. I’m sorry to hear that you found the article in question to be biased or focused on less important aspects of the knife. Your feedback is valuable, and I genuinely appreciate your perspective. To improve the quality of my articles and ensure they remain unbiased, I’d like to understand your specific concerns better.

      Could you please provide more details on what aspects of the article led you to perceive it as Asian propaganda? Identifying the specific content or points that raised this concern would be immensely helpful in my efforts to enhance the articles.

      I have written over 100 pages on various knife-related topics, and constructive feedback like yours helps me make meaningful improvements. Without a clear understanding of the issue you’ve raised, it’s challenging for me to pinpoint where I might have gone wrong.

      Your input matters, and I encourage you to share any specific feedback or suggestions you may have. You can either comment here or use the contact form to send me an email. Once again, I apologize for any misinterpretation or discomfort caused, and I look forward to hearing from you.

      Thank you for taking the time to voice your thoughts; it’s through discussions like these that I can continue to refine the content on the website.

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