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How To Care For Your Knives: A Basic Guide

Published by: Chef Matty Riedel • Updated: October 26, 2023

Knife care is an often overlooked topic in the kitchen. Every cook invests in a quality set of knives for various kitchen prep duties. It makes sense that you would want them to maintain their quality and last a long time.

To ensure your kitchen knives work like they are supposed to, one should know how to take care of them properly. Proper maintenance will not only increase the knives’ longevity but will also minimise any risk of injury.

This article will guide you through some basics of how to care for your knives and get the best use out of them.

How To Care For Your Knives?

Most home cooks do not have a multitude of knives in their kitchen. They make do with the necessary number of quality knives. However, in order to maintain their quality, it is important to know what to do and what not to do to ensure they last.

Sharpen Your Knives

When it comes to taking care of your knives, this is the most important aspect. You must not neglect to sharpen your knives. Dull knives make work in the kitchen tedious and more dangerous. 

In fact, a sharp knife is not as dangerous as a dull one. When working with a dull knife, application of more pressure is required. This additional pressure increases the risk of the knife slipping and cutting you.

There are several sharpening methods you can delve into. Your choices range from an electric sharpener to a whetstone. It may seem daunting to learn how to sharpen a dull knife using a whetstone. However, it is quite easy to get the hang of.

If you are using a dull knife because you are intimidated by the sharpening process, reach out to a professional. It will save you from the stress of having to use a blunt knife. You will save time in the kitchen and your fingers in the process!

You will only need to sharpen your knives once or twice every 12 months.

Hone Your Knives

Honing is also just as important as sharpening. This knife maintenance method helps realign the edge of the knife, whereas sharpening grinds away the knife material to reshape and create a new edge.

How To Care For Your Knives: keep them sharp

Honing allows you to maintain an already sharp edge. With repeated use, the thin edge tends to fold over itself. When you hone the blade, it helps uncurl the edge and push it back into alignment.

Though everyone may not be comfortable with sharpening, honing is an easier skill to learn. A honing rod or steel is typically used to align a knife’s edge.]

It is best to hone your knives before each use. It will help you slice through some tough-skinned veggies.

Make Use Of A Cutting Board

Once your knives are sharpened and perfectly aligned, you are ready to get to work. However, the surface on which you will be slicing and chopping up items is also a major factor to take into consideration for the longevity of your knife and its sharpness.

Always make use of a cutting board. Your cutting board must be made out of bamboo, wood, or plastic. The board’s material must not be harder than your knife. Glass cutting boards are a big no-no, as is using your marble or granite or any other countertop as a chopping board.

Plastic boards are easier to clean. Bamboo should be your final choice as it is the hardest material among the three mentioned. The best type of cutting board for your knife is one made out of softwood.

Clean Your Knives The Right Way

Another aspect where knives undergo terrible abuse in the kitchen is the cleaning part. Do not toss your knives in the dishwasher. With all the rattling and banging around once it goes in there, the blade of your knife will become dull and may even get damaged.

The proper way to clean your precious set of knives is to hand wash them. All you will need is some soap and hot water. It will allow you properly clean the blade and ensure there is nothing stuck between the handle and the blade.

How To Care For Your Knives: hand wash your knives after use

Knives should be washed immediately after use. If you leave them dirty for long, you put them at the risk of getting acted upon by chemicals, acid, or water from the food. This can eventually damage your blade.

Once the knives are clean, wipe them dry immediately instead of letting them air dry. This will minimise the risk of rust.

Rust Protection

Besides following the basic cleaning process, you must also keep in mind that rust is the biggest enemy of knives. In order to ensure your knives are safe from it, you will need to ensure that there is an impenetrable barrier between the blade and the air.

Oil, more specifically, knife oil, acts as this barrier to protect knives against the ravages of rust. If you lightly coat the blades of your knives with oil after you have cleaned and dried them, it will prevent corrosion and rust.

Oiling also helps keep moving parts of a knife well lubricated. In the case of folding knives, metal-on-metal contact is damaging to the blade. Proper lubrication will reduce friction and keep things moving smoothly.

There are plenty of blade oils to pick from. Most products are capable of doing the trick. You can try any oil and see what works best for you. However, try not to use olive oil as it has a tendency of going rancid. 

Sunflower or canola oil are great picks. Just a few drops of the selected oil will do the trick. Make sure not to overdo it.

If your kitchen knife set features high carbon steel knives, you should oil them frequently. They are more prone to corrosion than other knife metals.

Store Your Knives Properly

The last step in taking care of your knives is to ensure you are storing them properly. Do not just shove your knives into a drawer that already packs other kitchen utensils. This is damaging to the blade and unsafe for you if you decide to rummage around.

How To Care For Your Knives: a magnetic strip is a great tool

Put your knives on display in a safe manner with a magnetic strip secured to your wall. Your knives will simply stick onto the strip without clashing with each other.

You can also use wooden knife blocks. You can place them in your working space, so it is easier to grab a blade as you work. Place the knives upside-down in the slot to ensure the blades’ sharp edges are not taking the entire weight.

In case you do not have multiple knives, you may not need a dedicated knife block or magnetic strip. You can opt for a knife guard to protect the blade of your knife before you place them in the drawer. This way, you will not have to worry about damaging the blade or cutting yourself accidentally.

How To Care For Your Knives: The Bottom Line

When it comes to taking care of your knives, it is important to know the do’s and don’ts to avoid getting the dull end of a knife.

Knife care involves multiple measures to ensure its quality is maintained and you get the best use out of it for the longest of times.

All you have to do is sharpen and hone them, clean and dry them properly, oil them from time to time, and store them in a proper manner to enjoy clean slices each time.

Chef and Restaurant Owner Matty Riedel
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