Ceramic knives have become popular for their many advantages. Being immune to the wear than can be caused by acids, they are completely stainless, making them ideal for cutting things such as citrus fruits. In addition, ceramic knives are very light and can be washed in the dishwasher unlike steel knives.
Ceramic knives are also lauded as being able to retain their sharp edges for longer than your average kitchen knife. Whilst this may be the case, ceramic knives do eventually suffer the same fate as all other knives. So, what happens when the blade begins to dull?
Ceramic knives are by their very nature far more brittle than metal knives, which means that they often suffer from nicks and chips more than steel knives. This also means that traditional sharpening methods cannot be applied to ceramic knives without running the risk of snapping them. This begs the question, is it possible to sharpen ceramic knives, or are they destined to fall into disuse?
Can They Be Sharpened?
Against all odds, it is indeed possible to sharpen ceramic knives. Whilst sharpening methods may not be capable of restoring their fresh-out-the-box former glory, they can certainly be utilised to extend the life-expectancy of a knife.
However, sharpening a ceramic knife doesn’t come without its difficulties. We will take a look at these here.
When it comes to sharpening a ceramic knife, there are some unique challenges you are likely to face:
- Technique – Due to ceramic’s tendency to snap, placing pressure on the blade is a big no-no. This is why you’ll need to adopt a different technique when sharpening a ceramic blade on a stone versus a steel blade. For ceramic knives, rather than holding the block steady with one hand and the knife handle in the other, it is advisable to use your first hand to guide the blade along the stone. this will give it the support it needs to withstand the pressure without snapping. Just be very careful to keep your fingers well away from the blade itself.
- Knowing When to Stop – The second challenge when it comes to sharpening a ceramic knife is knowing when to stop. With a steel knife, you can tell when it’s time to switch sides as a result of the burr that forms. As ceramic is not a ductile material, this is not the case with ceramic knives, which can make it very difficult to know where you’re at. This means that high levels of precision are required to get it right. It is always best to under-sharpen rather than over-sharpen, so you may need to test the knife at stages along the way.
- Don’t Be Fooled – Be wary that ceramic sharpening rods are not capable of sharpening ceramics, as they are only the same strength and not stronger. These should be used only to sharpen metal knives whose strength is lower than ceramic.
If you’re wary of the pitfalls of sharpening your ceramic knives, one of the best ways that you can ensure that they are sharpened to perfection without running the risk of damage is to take them to a professional. Although this may be expensive, it saves you having to buy specialised sharpening equipment and it reduces the chances of ending up with no knives at all due to breakages.
However, this method is not ideal as it involves taking your knives to a professional sharpener, which not only takes time but also means you’ll have to wait to get them back. If you want to complete the task yourself in the comfort of your own home, then here’s a look at your options.
Diamond stone is by far the most common and effective means by which to sharpen a ceramic blade. As ceramic is a far harder material than steel, diamond is the only material hard enough to sharpen it effectively and efficiently.
When using a diamond sharpening stone, you should begin with one that has a low grit level, or a coarser surface, in order to tackle any chips. You should then work up to a finer grit level, with a smoother surface to refine the blade.
Are There Any Other Alternatives?
If you’re unsure about purchasing a diamond stone especially for your ceramic knives, then there are some alternatives out there, which could double-up as sharpeners for the rest of your knives too:
- Knife Sharpener – Some knife sharpening devices come with diamond stone add-ons, making them suitable for use with ceramic knives.
- Electric Sharpeners – Some electric sharpeners are capable of sharpening ceramic knives, but it is imperative to check that they are compatible before trying, as many simply aren’t up to the job. You will need a sharpener with abrasives strong enough to handle ceramic, i.e. diamond abrasives.
- Sharpening Stones – It is possible to sharpen a ceramic knife with the more traditional water stones used for steel knives. However, you will not obtain the same effect as using a diamond stone, which means a less effective and shorter-lived result.
Maintaining Your Ceramic Knife
One of the best ways you can minimise the need for sharpening and extend the lifespan of your ceramic knife is to maintain it properly. There are a number of things you should avoid when it comes to ceramics.
- Glass Boards – Glass cutting boards have a higher probably of leading to chips or breakages in your knives. This is why wooden chopping boards are much kinder on ceramics.
- Dishwashers – Dishwashers should also be avoided. Although ceramic knives are technically “dishwasher safe”, it is risky business as debris may fly at them during the wash cycle causing breakages.
- Tough Foods – In addition, you should not attempt to cut very tough or frozen foods with a ceramic knife as this may again result in breakages.
- Manhandling – Proper care should be taken when handling ceramic knives. Dropping or tossing a ceramic knife should especially be avoided, as this is more than likely to result in it breaking; for this reason, ceramics should also be stored somewhere safe away from other utensils.
Are They Worth It?
Whilst ceramic knives certainly can last a lot longer than steel before they need sharpening, they will eventually become dull. When it comes down to it, the difficulty that is met when the time comes for sharpening a ceramic knife is simply not worth it for many people. Unless you are willing and able to take on the challenge, then you may be best sticking to traditional steel knives.