Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Kyocera advanced ceramic blades

About a year or two ago, I saw an amazing episode of "How it's Made" regarding the world's greatest knives. They elected Kyocera advanced ceramic blades, and showed us just how they are made.

I was more than stunned. I had no idea that there was any such thing as a ceramic knife. I had no idea Kyocera made knives. I knew them only as the manufacturer of my then-present cell phone. I was amazed that these blades (that looked like white plastic disposable knives) were actually the sharpest things on earth this side of a laser beam. I could not believe steel had been surpassed by another material. It was all stunning.

Kyocera blades are made from cubic zirconia. You may know this substance as fake diamond; the stuff they make fake jewelery out of. Don't let that turn you off. Whilst cubic ziroconia may not fit your cultural prejudices regarding high-quality jewelery, it is an absolutely superb industrial material. Specifically you can make pretty outrageous knives out this stuff.

Cubic zirconia, when refined in a proper manufacturing process, is the second hardest material known to mankind. It is second only to real diamond. You can only sharpen these blades with real diamond. They will cut through steel sharpeners.

You can put an absurdly fine edge on these blades. They are more than a match for surgical scalpels. They are almost a match for the (extremely fragile) cracked obsidian blades ancient man used to use during the stone age. Those remain the sharpest edged tools man has ever used, but they last 10 minutes and they are gone. Kyocera edges last a very, very long time. I have been putting mine into a dish washer for almost 2 years now, and they still cut like straight razors.

There are more things to love about these ceramic blades. They are utterly non-reactive. They never absorb or carry the flavors of the items you cut. A simple wash and wipe and the substance is utterly gone. The pores are just too microscopic for infiltration. Unlike steel blades, no shards or particles will get in your food. Acid and base does nothing to cubic zirconia, unlike steel. This means you get the flavor of your food, and nothing more.

I don't know what it was about that short documentary, but it was pretty overwhelming. I was not that into gourmet cooking at the time. However, I was convinced beyond conviction that these were the greatest knives yet made by man. I had to own some. I grit my teeth, gulped hard, and spent a few hundred dollars on

It didn't take long for me to realize I made the right choice. The blades were pure murder; ungodly sharp right out of the box. The interesting thing is that I have never cut myself with one of these knives. I used to (accidentally) cut myself every now and again with steel blades. I think that is because of the force and effort it took to cut with steel Ronco blades. It takes little effort to slice anything with a Kyocera. I never struggle with anything, ergo there are no thrashing efforts. Everything is now an easy stroke.

With all this in the rear view mirror, I have been stunned that I have never seen any chef on the Food Network work with or advocate ceramic blades. They like big heavy steel blades. Alton Brown strongly endorses Shun, which is an amazing Damascus steel blade made in Japan. Tyler Florence seems to do it all with a single 7 inch Chef's knife from God knows who.

Lately I have been learning why this is so. Kyocera Ceramic blades are unbelievably light. I like this. I am used to it. Master Chef's don't like that. They are trained from day #1 of school to use a fast rocking motion in their prep. This technique is entirely predicated on using the weight of your blade to execute that cut. They like heavy blades. Within reason, they heavier the better.

Heavy blades make it easy to cut things like carrots. I stick carrots in the food processor, or I use a Kyocera mandolin slicer. It is a question of approach. There are different approaches.

Just to see how the other half lives, and to try the amazing Damascus steel Shun makes, I bought Alton Brown's signature weapon. It is a damn nice knife. I can rock with it like crazy. With that said it is not as sharp as my Kyoceras.

Just two days ago, when I was slicing up some pancetta for Bolognese sauce, the Shun got pretty tiresome. As the pancetta warmed, it became harder and harder to cut with the Shun. I could have done it, but I got frustrated. I reached for my Kyocera meat cleaver. The job got done quick. Believe me, that 1/2 pound of pancetta was diced inside 1 minutes.

I think I will get another Shun or two. I want the Ken Onion 7 inch Santuko, and I know where I can get it at a steep discount. I may get the Chef's knife also. That would be the ideal rocker.

To you guys at the Food Network: Give Kyocera a shot. It has been scientifically proven that these are the hardest and sharpest blades.

I bought mine in black.