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Aug 23, 2006 03:50 PM

Sabatier Carbone Steel.

Is the "Sabatier Au Carbonne" truely a carbon steel knife? I bought one last night without doing my homework and I'm now worried that I'm getting a knife that isn't the true carbon steel I was looking for.

Can someone who has experience with this particular knife give me a rundown of the pros and cons? Thanks.

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  1. Probably, but it'll be obvious. Carbon steel discolors if you look at it, much less use it and worse, rusts all too easily.;) But Sabatier is sort of akin to a franchise - "Sabatier" knives are made by several companies - so it's hard to no for sure without looking at it. If it's a newer knife (20 yrs or less), it's more likely to be high carbon stainless, though; plain carbon steel isn't very popular these days for obvious reasons...

    1. The original comment has been removed
      1. To answer your question, I called PCD (Professional Cutlery Direct, my source for Sabatier in this country) who assured me that "Sabatier au Carbonne" is indeed 100% high-carbon steel. Sabatier has several factories in France and they do produce more than one type of knife. Some are a combination high-carbon stainless steel.

        Everything MikeG says is true, up to a point. Yes, the knife will rust if you do not dry it. Yes, the knife will discolor if you cut something acidic.

        However, a high-carbon steel knife is a joy to own and a knife that will last for many, many years if you take care of it. My two favorites, purchased in France in 1962, are still going strong! I've added to my collection over the years and lovelovelove these knives. Are these picture perfect? Not by any stretch of the imagination but I'll happily trade counter-top beauty for the ability to put a razor sharp edge on them every time I pick one up to use.

        Never put this knife in a dishwasher and banish anyone who does. Get new children if you must, but wash these knives by hand and dry them immediately. If non-staining is important to you, wash the knife immediately after slicing lemons or better yet, get a stainless steel knife for that chore.


        1 Reply
        1. re: Sherri

          Sherri, you're a gem. Thanks for putting my mind at ease.

        2. I've had two carbon-steel Sabatier knives for over 40 years. Yes they do discolor, but they maintain an edge better than any Wusthof. Just keep them sharpened and make sure you dry them well. You can bring them to an old-school knife sharpener who will grind the knife to bring back the original shine.

          1. With all due respect, this discussion is nonsensical. All steel is "carbon steel." The definition of "steel" is that it's an alloy of iron and carbon. Without carbon, iron can't generally be hardened sufficiently to hold an edge. The question isn't whether the steel has carbon in it (it does) but rather the amount of carbon and the presence or absence of other alloys (such as chromium and nickel) that are added to affect performance and/or give the steel other properties, such as rust resistance. Often times, adding these elements in sufficient quantities to impart stain resistance impairs hardenability and edge retention. (Many stainless steels are actually in the range of 20 percent chromium.) This gets very complicated because sometimes the same elements that produce stain resistance (e.g., chromium) in large amounts actually improve edge retention in smaller amounts. It is simply not the case that simple steel (iron and carbon), which is often what is used, for example, in Japanese blades, always makes a better blade than more complex steels that contain things like chromium, vanadium, molybdenum, tungsten, nickle, silicon, etc. To increase the complexity even further, the type of steel is only one piece of the puzzle in terms of ultimate knife performance; how it is heat treated is hugely important. Many mass produced blades use air hardening steels, because those materials are much easier to heat treat, requiring less human skill and resulting in fewer lost blades from cracking, breaking, etc. during heat treatment. Often, air hardening steels don't perform as well as water or oil hardening steels that are heat treated by someone who knows what they're doing.

            Anyway, more than I'm sure most of you wanted to know about knife metallurgy, but once you get into this, you see that a great deal of the terminology the big knife companies use to describe their products is marketing lingo rather than actual useful description. Just my opinion, but I think, if you want the absolute best performing kitchen blade you can own, you should visit your local custom knife shows and find an experienced knifemaker who can make and heat treat a blade just for you. In terms of edge retention, weight, balance, and overall beauty, a handmade custom knife will almost always exceed something that comes out of a big factory. And, often, a hand made custom kitchen knife won't cost materially more than a high-end factory knife, because there aren't three middlemen between you and the maker who need to earn a 100% markup.

            I'll get off my soapbox now. (Sorry.)

            4 Replies
            1. re: David Kahn

              Good information, and I really don't disagree with any of it - but the term "carbon steel" as it's usually used - and certainly with reference to kitchen knives - refers to steel that's alloyed with just carbon and no other elements in sufficient amounts to affect its properties. But your larger point is absolutely correct - there's a lot more to knife quality than simply "carbon" vs. "stainless." Most of my good quality forged stainless blades hold their edge much better than my best 40-yr. old Sabatiers, though they admittedly are a bit more difficult to resharpen. And I have some off-brand Sabatiers, purchased in the full foolishness of youth, that steadfastly refuse to take or hold an edge no matter how much effort I expend in trying to correct things. Why I keep them I'll never understand.

              1. re: David Kahn

                I agree with FlyFish--good information, useful to have. And I'll keep my eyes open for a custom knife show around the SF Bay Area. Meanwhile, though, what I want in the kitchen is a knife that will *take* a very sharp edge and *keep* it for a reasonable length of time. I don't mind doing my own sharpening (though I'd be grateful for advice on what "grit" stone[s] to buy) and I certainly don't mind drying the knives right after washing; I have two "carbon steel" (i.e. not stainless) knives now, a 10-inch and a 6-inch, that I dry carefully. But I'd like a few more, and I'm just not ready to spend $600 (or more) for some of the works of art I've seen on Japanese cutlery web sites. Any suggestions?

                1. re: rootlesscosmo

                  Not all Japanese knives are that expensive. Check out the Tojiro knives
                  They're made out of the powdered steel most are raving about. I've heard some great things about these, but don't own one myself (I've been on a wait list for 8 months for some Murray Carter customs).

                  1. re: rootlesscosmo

                    MAC is a Japanese manufacturer that makes excellent knives in many varieties and price points. My parents bout a cheap set 30 years ago and still use them. Never chipped, never stained. Also get recs from Charlie Trotter and Thomas Keller. I find that they tend to use complex alloys instead of straight carbon steel.