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View Full Version : Pro chef's-to-be, please don't be put-off by carbon steel!



macmiddlebrooks
06-25-2012, 02:06 PM
I answered a "what knife to buy" post on another forum with my recommendation...(a white#2 gyuto) and the general response both from the poster and others was basically "carbon requires too much maintenance". I'd like to go on the record as saying carbon knives don't really require a "great" deal of care, only a tiny bit more than stainless. When I first get one, it gets a hot vinegar bath for a couple hours. This helps bring down the reactivity a bit and turns the steel gray. Then I take it to work and use it for everything. The steel will still be reactive at first, but if I'm mindful of drying it with a towel every once-in-a-while, all that's occuring is the foundation of a beautiful patina. The patina will continue to evolve indefinately, sometimes being partially erased by very acidic foods, then being built back up by raw meat, ect. So don't let carbon's scare you away, new members to the kitchen knife-nut world...I work in a pro kitchen and don't use anything but white #2 knives and I'll never go back to the shiny stuff :). Oh yes, and after a week or two of steady use, the steel becomes very stable and you may fully enjoy the ridiculously sharp edges that one can achieve with a carbon knife. Also, sharpening on the stones will feel so buttery smooth....there's something about it that just feels right to me.

Eamon Burke
06-25-2012, 02:15 PM
Yep. Basic knife safety and hygiene dictates behavior that makes the difference between carbon and stainless nothing more than aesthetic.

VoodooMajik
06-25-2012, 03:45 PM
I love using my Carbons, but I find it you don't force a base patina on the knife it can be VERY reactive for a little while till things start to take hold. I love the way different steels behave differently. Dirty Fijiwara Carbon Steel has gone deep grey, cleaner steels have blues, purples. Love the character that develops.

I feel being "forced" to keep your knife clean will help encourage a cleaner work space and reduce any cross contamination risks and health hazards. Nothing wrong with good habits, nothing to be scared of. Not for the minimal amount of work involved

labor of love
06-25-2012, 03:59 PM
hot vinegar bath? ill have to try that sometime. i usually just let my carbons form their patinas naturally. i do agree white 2 gets a bad rap from time to time for no good reason.

foreleft
06-25-2012, 06:06 PM
After reading a bit here (and looking at the pictures in the patina thread) I think I've pretty much changed my mind and will be getting the White #2 version of the Gesshin Ginga instead of the stainless whenever they become available again.

SpikeC
06-25-2012, 06:19 PM
I have had a hard time understanding the idea that a carbon knife was high maintenance because I have always wiped my knives down as I use them. Why would you leave crud on your tools?

shankster
06-25-2012, 06:42 PM
I have had a hard time understanding the idea that a carbon knife was high maintenance because I have always wiped my knives down as I use them. Why would you leave crud on your tools?

Not all pro kitchens are created equally.I work in a busy catering/production kitchen where I don't always have the time or luxury to baby my knives(run to the oven/stove/fridge etc etc..)
I've made the switch to SS and semi stainless(Kono Swedish& HD)and I won't look back.thank you very much.. :)

labor of love
06-25-2012, 07:29 PM
i dont know...ive worked in pretty busy places too and i use mainly carbon. if your busy on the line with pushing out alot of tickets then yeah get a semi stainless/stainless petty but in my experience gyuto work has never really been to busy to wipe down.or if its that bad just use stainless clad carbon. the only reason i ever give stainless the time of day is because the nicer ones have great edge retention.this is a little off topic but lately ive been thinking about how that zakuri 240 blue 1 gyuto for only $180 has got to be the best deal and would make a great first carbon knife?

SpikeC
06-25-2012, 07:57 PM
I wonder what cooks did before SS?

labor of love
06-25-2012, 07:58 PM
and theres nothing wrong at all with that gesshin ginga stainless! aeb-l and 1927c are my 2 favorite stainless steels. that gesshin is about as good as stainless gets without spending alot more $$$

chinacats
06-25-2012, 09:04 PM
I wonder what cooks did before SS?

+1
Exactly...

brainsausage
06-25-2012, 09:23 PM
I wonder what cooks did before SS?

S'funny, I was thinking the exact same thing when a certain maker of swiss cheese style chef knives was extolling the virtues of stainless, and poo-pooing carbon as unsanitary...

shankster
06-25-2012, 09:28 PM
I wonder what cooks did before SS?

Never mind SS..What did cooks do before Birki's????

turbochef422
06-25-2012, 09:59 PM
I work for a very busy caterer with a store front that's an Eatery while doing residential and corporate and in-flight catering and love my carbon knives. I've never had a problem keeping them clean.

Vertigo
06-25-2012, 10:25 PM
Peak summer season I'll do a 500 cover brunch between 8am and 2pm, and have no problems keeping my carbons clean. High volume is no excuse for poor sanitation.

labor of love
06-25-2012, 11:32 PM
has stainless steel cutlery contributed to a rise in unsanitary knives? now that i think about it...maybe all kitchen noobs should start off with carbon, because carbon dont lie either its clean or it isnt. once you develop those cleanly habits then maybe you should graduate to stainless.

sachem allison
06-25-2012, 11:56 PM
has stainless steel cutlery contributed to a rise in unsanitary knives? now that i think about it...maybe all kitchen noobs should start off with carbon, because carbon dont lie either its clean or it isnt. once you develop those cleanly habits then maybe you should graduate to stainless.

I think, so. When I first started in this business I worked with alot of old school chefs and our kitchen, knives and our selves were impeccably clean all the time. Our knives were always wiped down and our boards too. The floors were swept and the pots shiny. Now I walk into a kitchen and the stainless knives are crusted with food and the boards too. Everything gets swept onto the floor and the pots are disgusting and greasy. I now have most of my guys out fitted with J-knives and now they are asking me to show them how to sharpen. The feel of the kitchen is better, as there is a sense of pride in ownership. It may sound odd, but I think stainless steel and plastic has caused more food born illness then wooden boards and carbon steel. If you are constantly cleaning and wiping, pathogens don't have a chance to breed. Plastic and stainless gives people the false belief that they have more time and can clean up later. Just my opinion and observations.

GlassEye
06-26-2012, 12:09 AM
It may sound odd, but I think stainless steel and plastic has caused more food born illness then wooden boards and carbon steel. If you are constantly cleaning and wiping, pathogens don't have a chance to breed. Plastic and stainless gives people the false belief that they have more time and can clean up later. Just my opinion and observations.
I agree with you on this.

shankster
06-26-2012, 12:47 AM
Knives don't kill people,people kill people.....

Don't blame the tool,blame the tool using the tool.

kalaeb
06-26-2012, 01:40 AM
has stainless steel cutlery contributed to a rise in unsanitary knives? now that i think about it...maybe all kitchen noobs should start off with carbon, because carbon dont lie either its clean or it isnt. once you develop those cleanly habits then maybe you should graduate to stainless.

+1,

obtuse
06-26-2012, 02:42 AM
+1 carbon steel has really thought me to take care of my knives and keep them clean and dry.

SpikeC
06-26-2012, 02:31 PM
I had dinner at a trendy restaurant recently that had an open kitchen, and I was aghast at how filthy the floor was in there. I was surprised that the cooks weren't falling down right and left. I won't be going back.

Adamm
06-26-2012, 03:48 PM
I use pretty much all carbon knives, After i patiana them i have no issues...

shankster
06-26-2012, 04:33 PM
I had dinner at a trendy restaurant recently that had an open kitchen, and I was aghast at how filthy the floor was in there. I was surprised that the cooks weren't falling down right and left. I won't be going back.

Did you happen to notice if they were using carbon or SS knives..??

Crothcipt
06-26-2012, 06:38 PM
I had dinner at a trendy restaurant recently that had an open kitchen, and I was aghast at how filthy the floor was in there. I was surprised that the cooks weren't falling down right and left. I won't be going back.

most show kitchens will have tons of cr@p on the floor. But usually they kick it under the counter or what ever, so it will still look descent as people look on. The show kitchen I worked at we would spray down the floor every night.

Lucretia
06-26-2012, 06:49 PM
The first knife I ever bought for myself was a carbon "Old Hickory". I sure didn't know how to take care of a knife, and didn't know anything about the different steels--it was just something cheap. I don't remember ever having any major problems with it. It was always the easiest thing to "sharpen"--back when I thought a honing rod was used for sharpening. I still have it--decades of abuse later, it's in good enough shape that it might even get new shoes at some point.

SameGuy
06-26-2012, 07:10 PM
most show kitchens will have tons of cr@p on the floor. But usually they kick it under the counter or what ever, so it will still look descent as people look on. The show kitchen I worked at we would spray down the floor every night.
Don't forget, to lay folk like me, eyes are on the magic and not the back-office stuff.

SpikeC
06-26-2012, 08:46 PM
Did you happen to notice if they were using carbon or SS knives..??

I didn't notice because the floor was so incredibly gross!

JanusInTheGarden
06-26-2012, 11:13 PM
I work in an open kitchen, using the only j-knives on the line. The place grosses me out but its widely considered one of the best restaurants in town. Depresses me really, about to jetset off to school though.

tk59
06-28-2012, 12:51 AM
I like carbon steel for most things but I haven't found one that doesn't discolor my mangos yet. :) I definitely gravitate to the semi-stainless stuff.

Dusty
06-28-2012, 08:21 AM
I like carbon steel for most things but I haven't found one that doesn't discolor my mangos yet. :) I definitely gravitate to the semi-stainless stuff.

+1. Reactivity, not care is the reason I use a lot of semi ss. Do still love carbon though.

oivind_dahle
06-28-2012, 08:30 AM
What do you think about steak forks in carbon?

tk59
06-28-2012, 06:16 PM
What do you think about steak forks in carbon?Okay, I can't help it. I need to know why. Patina? Ease of sharpening?