Carbon vs Stainless Steel Knives

What type of steel should you choose? Both types have advantages and disadvantages.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is an alloy containing a high percentage of the element chromium, which gives its main characteristic, corrosion resistance!

The main reason stainless steel is so popular, is because its composition makes it very resistant to water and humidity. This weather resistance means that a stainless knife can be used essentially in any environment, from snow to jungles and even underwater!

As far as sharpness and edge retention are concerned, stainless steel can hold a razor sharp edge for a long time.

This type of steel is also less hard and more flexible than carbon, which allows it to absorb impacts more effectively without breaking or chipping.

The main cons of stainless steel lie in its edge and sharpness. Most will hold an amazing edge and can be razor sharp, but when it comes to the ultimate slicers, carbon steel wins.

Stainless steel also takes much longer to re-sharpen, making more difficult to maintain a good edge when out in the wild without a professional sharpening system.


Carbon Steel

Carbon steel has, as the name implies, a high carbon content. This results in a very hard steel with superior sharpness and edge retention!

In general, carbon steel knives are sharper, harder, hold an edge for longer and are easier to re-sharpen.

Keep in mind that although this is the norm, I am generalising a little here and that some high-end stainless steels can rival carbon. At the same time though, these knives won’t hold an edge for as long because of the hardness of carbon steel.

The superior edge retention makes them ideal for prolonged use in the wild, as they will be a breeze to keep sharp and effective!

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Carbon steel is terribly sensitive to corrosion caused by water and humidity. How fast a carbon knife will rust depends on the quality of the steel, but they all require regular cleaning and maintenance to remain effective.

Even things like fruit juice or traces of food can ruin a blade in a matter of hours/days, so it’s important to make sure your knives are clean before you store them in their sheath!

It’s because of this weakness that many carbon steel outdoor and survival knives have a black protective coating. This coating shields the steel but not the edge, and will eventually wear off with heavy use.

Another disadvantage is that because carbon steel is so hard, it is more likely to chip and break under extreme pressure or when accidentally hitting hard surfaces.

Carbon steel can also leave a slight metallic taste when used to cut food, especially acidic fruits and vegetables.

So what should you steel you choose?

It depends on how you will use the knife and which features are important to you.
Regardless of what you choose, all the steel I use maintains a very high quality.