How much does steel type play into your choice for a blade?

Joined Jul 28, 2018
Outside of the obvious things like stainless for citrus and old-school carbon steel for sharper edges do y'all have any recommendations for steel types when it comes to utility uses such as parting out quarters, deboning, cutting meats, cutting vegetables, et cetera?

When it comes to boning are y'all expecting more flexibility or hardness? Been looking at a lot of different blades recently and have been thinking about upgrading from the mercer/dexter stamped stainless to something a little bit more sophisticated when it comes to finer preparations.
Joined Dec 18, 2010
Kind suggestion: To get a head-start on getting your answer... Read any one of the trillions of what-knife-do-I-want threads for this answer discussed constantly. Many very profound opinions. Perhaps one will resonate with you.
Joined Oct 9, 2008
On the assumption that...
  • you are willing to sharpen carefully and often
  • you have some sense of how to get advantage out of a ludicrously sharp edge
  • you're not unduly worried about others misusing and abusing your knives
... I would go for white #2 steel in pretty much every case.

I am not a professional cook, but I have found stainless increasingly unsatisfactory for everything except pure brutality, and even there, it's largely a matter of having better technique. Discoloration I find to be a non-issue: so long as you wipe with a damp cloth immediately after cutting very acidic foods, a decent patina does the work.

Blue steel (aogami) has some advantages, but they're balanced against the considerably greater difficulty of sharpening when and if you find yourself with problems, as well as the somewhat greater tendency to micro-chipping.

Yellow steel is simply unusable in a high-pressure or high-demand environment. It just won't stand up to a beating. It's probably fine where it belongs, in undemanding (but carbon-friendly) home kitchens, but I hate the knives I have and never use them.

I confess that I haven't used white #1 steel, but if you had that kind of money I suspect this conversation would be running differently.

All that said, the range of quality and design in white #2 steel is vast: having chosen my steel, I still have a ridiculous number of choices to make.
Joined May 29, 2013
Above a certain level (better quality Japanese blades, either stainless or carbon, rather than mass-market European, Asian or First World manufacture), I'd rather recommend concentrating on sharpening gear and sharpening skills than on steel types. That, IMHO, has a much more significant impact on the quality of performance.

Also, you have to consider heat treatment and other quality control issues before making any generic assumptions.

Joined Nov 15, 2012
There are lots of knives of equal quality that to me would be equally good cutters, so then it does comes down to the steel and what it has to offer, as well as the intangibles of course (which mean less to me). Very recent posts give some philosophies here, and once you understand the differences it all comes down to personal preferences.

I believe that where "knife-nuts" are concerned, white #2 arguably has the largest following of any one steel, because it does so many things so well. Loss of edge retention compared to other prestige steels is offset somewhat by how easy it is to touch up, as Chris intimated.
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Joined Oct 9, 2008
You know, I didn't spot in the original point that the OP is talking specifically about boning.

For boning, DEFINITELY you'd prefer flexibility--mostly because hardness is bad. Japanese boning knives can actually be a difficulty here, because the steel is generally so hard by comparison to Western knives, and so it has a nasty tendency to chip when you touch it to bone. This is why the deba, designed for fish butchery, has a peculiarly-shaped edge: that clamshell grind reinforces the edge against the damage inflicted by fish bones--and even then, if you do much fish butchery, you're going to be re-sharpening the thing constantly anyway.
Joined Jul 13, 2012
Also with a boning knife you need to be able to touch it up on the fly. You don't have the luxury of breaking out stones when you are breaking down an animal. The heat treat on boning knives is generally softer than most others for that reason. I prefer carbon for boning as it's an easy touch up.

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