I remember getting my first good knife. It is a Wusthof Classic Santoku and I still have it after 10 years. In fact, it is my everyday knife and I even bring it with me on vacation.
There is something about using high quality knives – it makes cooking even more enjoyable.
My first knife had some tough times back when I didn’t know how to care for a knife but now I have a routine to keep my knives sharp and that will keep them in top shape for a long time to come.
These are things to keep in mind every time you use your knives.
- Always use a cutting board. You should never cut on granite, glass, or metal – they are all very tough on your blades. The best cutting boards are made of wood where the end grain is used. I have a couple of them and they are much better to cut on than cutting boards where you cut against the grain. It is hard to explain until you try it, but some people say end grain boards are “faster”. If you don’t have an end grain cutting board, then the next best thing is plastic or composite. Either of those are great to cut meats on since you can wash them in the dishwasher afterwards.
[amazon asin=B000TZ0IQC&template=iframe image] [amazon asin=B000CBOTQ8&template=iframe image]
- Always wash your knives by hand. Some of my friends have ruined their beautiful knives through the laziness of using a dishwasher. It is sad. It isn’t necessarily the washing cycle that damages the knife – It is the fact that the blade will bump into other things in the dishwasher. Here is what I do: As soon as I finish using the knife, I place it next to the sink but not in it. I clean it immediately after I finish the food prep. I don’t put the knife in the sink since it may get covered by soapy water which would be dangerous or other things may be placed in the sink which could bump or scratch up the blade.
- Always hand dry your knives. If you followed the previous step, then drying the knife takes 30 seconds. That is a small price to pay to keep the knife blade from hitting any other utensils. This is an easy one to skip but it really only takes a few minutes.
- Always use a honing steel before each use. The honing steel is often misunderstood. First, what is it? A honing (or sharpening) steel is used to hone a knife and is usually a cylindrical rod, roughly about 12 inches long. Some sharpening steels have a flattened area. It doesn’t actually sharpen the knife – a sharpening steel re-aligns the edge of the knife blade. I use the honing steel just before I start cutting. All it take is 4 or 5 swipes per side of the blade at about 15º- 20º.
[amazon asin=B005LRYV02&template=iframe image]
Never leave your knives loose in a drawer. It is dangerous for one thing, but it is also terrible for the knife blade. The knife edge will be subject to bumps, scratches, and nicks.
Luckily, we do have several options that will keep the blades safe. I put them in order of my preference. Other people may have a different preference.
- Magnetic Strips – This is my favorite since the knives are easy to get to. And, you can wipe the strips down to make sure they are clean and sanitary. That is something you can’t do with storage blocks.
[amazon asin=B007SPKRMG&template=iframe image]
- Knife Sleeves – I use these all the time, especially when traveling. I have more knives than I can fit on my magnetic strip so I put those knives in a sleeve and in a drawer. I bring 1 or 2 knives with me when I go on vacation so the sleeves work great for that.
[amazon asin=B0002MPYI4&template=iframe image]
- Storage Blocks – Unfortunately, the blocks usually dull the blades. It is too bad really since most knife sets come with a storage block. The better, high end brands offer better protection for the knives but I still like the magnetic strips. One other thing is that it is nearly impossible to clean inside the slots of the knife slots. When you think about how dirty the slots can get over the years, that’s enough to stop using the knife blocks.
A sharp knife blade is essential for the performance of your knife and your safety. A dull blade takes more force to cut so you are more likely to get a serious cut than from a sharp blade.
All blades get dull over time through normal use. Even very expensive knives get dull, and it is expected, though their higher grade metal keeps the edge sharper for longer.
I normally sharpen my knives once a quarter and it takes about 30 minutes. I use my knives everyday. For your reference, I have two Wusthof Classics so they are pretty good metal with high durability. 90% of the time I use those two knives – a Santoku and a paring knife.
You have a few options for sharpening and we will cover two of them. (Read more here if you want to learn more about knife sharpeners and see some reviews.)
- Electric Sharpeners – These are the fastest and most convenient sharpeners to keep in your kitchen. You can normally touch up a knife in about 1 to 2 minutes. That’s it. It is an important point though. Think about how busy you are in the kitchen when you are getting dinner ready… If sharpening your knife is at all inconvenient, then you won’t do it. They normally only sharpen at one angle, and that is normally 20º. The Wusthof electric sharpener is an exception since it sharpens at 14º which is tailor made for the brand. (Read a full review of the Wusthof 3 Stage Sharpener…)
[amazon asin=B000CSK0DM&template=iframe image]
- Manual Sharpening Systems – These have more versatility since they can sharpen different angles. So if you have German and Japanese knives, then you can handle the 20º and 15º respectively. There is a wide range of systems, like the Spyderco Sharpmaker or the KME Sharpener System, and they can all work for kitchen knives and any other knife you may have.
If you follow the simple guidelines and make it your routine, then you can keep your knives in tip top shape.
- Put knives in the dishwasher.
- Cut on metal, granite, or glass.
- Put knives in a drawer.
- Wash knives by hand.
- Dry knives immediately.
- Use a wood, plastic, or composite cutting board.
- Use a sharpening steel often.
- Sharpen your knives as needed, or about once a quarter.
- Store your knives using a magnetic strip, sleeve, or knife block.
Doug blogs at The Kitchen Professor, and while his degree is honorary (bestowed upon him by his wife), he has enjoyed cooking his whole life. He loves using old cast iron, BBQ,and loves adding the small, special touch to a recipe that takes it from just “okay” to “wow.”