How Consumer Reports evaluates low-maintenance knives

Consumer Reports News: August 30, 2011 10:23 AM

Our latest report on kitchen knives includes several low-maintenance options that supposedly stay sharp longer than traditional steel knives. That would eliminate, or at least reduce, the hassle and expense of sharpening your knives, a routine maintenance requirement with fine-edge metal blades. But are the sharpness claims for real? We decided to find out.

Five low-maintenance options appear in our current Ratings of 55 knife sets. Two are made from ceramic, a relatively new knife material that’s found in many kitchen supply stores. Kyocera, among the biggest names in ceramic knives (shown), says its "advanced ceramic blades offer superior edge retention, holding their edge at least 10 times longer than other professional cutlery, including high carbon steel." We also tested ceramic knives by Laguna, which says that, in addition to staying sharp, its "non-metallic material doesn’t transfer food odor."

Then we added a trio of metal knife sets whose serrated edges are supposed to retain their sharpness longer than straight-edged knives. For example, the J.A. Henckels International Eversharp Pro knives "feature a micro-serrated edge that never needs sharpening." Other low-maintenance metal models are by Cutco and JC Penney.

All fives knife sets underwent our usual battery of performance tests. That included dicing carrots to measure how much pressure was needed and how precise the cuts were; slicing ham to check for thinness and evenness; and cutting up raw sausage to look for the cleanest edge. But then we sent the low-maintenance knives to an outside lab that has built its reputation measuring the sharpness and edge retention of knives.

Results were decidedly mixed. One ceramic scored an excellent, while the other scored a poor. Among metal knives, one model was deemed excellent, one very good, and one poor. We've footnoted the poor-scoring models in our Ratings, since their overall score was heavily affected by their inability to remain sharp. If you're looking for truly low-maintenance knives, you'll want to keep this footnote top of mind.

Daniel DiClerico

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