Caring For Your Kitchen Knives
The key to a chef’s success is not just reliant upon their cooking skills - although that make up a huge part of it. The quality of their tools also plays a huge role in their cooking ability, and if they’re not looked after properly, it’s often one of the many reasons that dishes don’t turn out as good as they usually do and, sometimes, more accidents can occur as a result of poorly maintained tools.
As some of the most dangerous tools in the kitchen, a chef’s knives should be regularly maintained and cared for properly to ensure that they are in good working order to provide the cleanest cuts, as well as be used safely.
In this guide:
- The Intro
- Sharpen the Blades
- Knife Sharpeners
- Honing Your Knife
- Cleaning Your Knife
- Chopping Board
- Knife Storage
Knowing When to Sharpen the Blades
There’s nothing worse than reaching for your knife and finding that the edge has gone blunt. Not only will you need to put more effort into cutting through your ingredients, but the cut also won’t be as smooth and neat, and you’re running the risk of the blade not cutting into the material and slipping and catching your fingers. Many chefs follow the mantra that ‘a dull knife is much more dangerous than a sharp one’, simply because it takes more pressure to cut through material with a dull blade.
If you notice that your knife isn’t cutting as cleanly or as easily as it once did, it’s probably time to sharpen your knife. There are various different methods of sharpening knives; all with their pros and cons.
Whetstones are used by many chefs as they are universal – they can be used to sharpen any knife, no matter what style it is. They allow the user to angle the knife perfectly for each style to get a nice, clean, sharp edge every time. They usually consist of a coarse side and a finer side to allow the chef to determine how much sharpening needs to occur.
However, whetstones can often be quite tricky to master, as the angle of the blade is the main factor in how well the edge is sharpened. It is also very time consuming if you have let the blade get extremely dull.
In addition to whetstones, there are two types of knife sharpeners out there to choose from; electric sharpeners and manual sharpeners.
Electric sharpeners use motorised wheels which rub up against the blade of the knife, creating a sharper edge. They are operated by placing the knife gently into the slots and pulling the blade gently through the machine, alternating the direction of the blade to ensure both sides of the blade are sharpened well enough. However, knives which have a bolster are unable to be passed through the machine and would produce an uneven blade shape.
Manual sharpeners require an even pressure to be applied as you pull the knife through the abrasive slots. These are much smaller in size, which makes them an ideal choice for kitchens which are smaller, or even domestic kitchens. This type of sharpener is able to tackle bolstered blades, but is not advised for damaged blades.
If you don’t feel confident in sharpening your own knives, it’s best to get in touch with a professional who will be able to conduct the sharpening for you. This service doesn’t usually cost too much, and having access to the sharpest knives is always advised to avoid disappointment and accidents happening.
Honing Your Knife
In addition to keeping your knives nice and sharp, you’ll need to think about honing them, too.
Many people assume honing and sharpening are the same thing, which isn’t true at all. Honing realigns the blade, which can bend and fold with use due to the edge being so thin. When honing a knife, you are essentially ironing out any bends or folds that have occurred in the blade, leaving you with a nice, straight blade.
Honing is much simpler than sharpening, and many home cooks find that they can easily do in their own homes without the need for professional help.
To hone a knife edge, you will need a honing steel. This is a rod of metal which you run the edge of your blade against at a 15-degree angle. It should only take aroun 3-5 strokes on each side of the blade to hone it.
It is advised to hone your knife before each use to ensure that you’ve got the best possible blade to use, whereas sharpening should onl need doing every couple of months, depending on how much use the knife gets.
Cleaning Your Knife
Believe it or not, cleaning your knives incorrectly can cause considerable amounts of damage to your blades – especially if you are tempted to throw everything into the dishwasher and never think of it again until you next need it.
The trouble with dishwashers is that they are often so fully loaded that items can often get banged about while the dishwasher is in use, which could potentially damage or dull your nicely sharpened and honed blade.
Knife handles are also victims of the dishwasher environment, with many cracking or coming away from the blade, creating a hazard which may not be immediately visible when grabbing the knife.
Even if knives are advertised as dishwasher safe, it’s always advisable to wash your kitchen knives in hot, soapy water and dried as soon as possible – do not leave them to air dry, as this could increase the chances of rust forming, especially on carbon steel knives. This is especially true of areas such as the joining of the handle and the blade where water is often allowed to pool when items are air drying.
If you are investing in knives which are expected to last a long time, you should take the utmost care of them -and be gentle!
Using The Right Chopping Board
You may not realise it, but your choice in chopping board could drastically damage your knives. Many assume that any old chopping board will do, and some people don’t even use them at all.
However, choosing the perfect chopping board isnt’t just good for protecting your countertops- it’s important for the care and maintenance of your knives, too.
While they may seem durable, ceramic chopping boards can actually blunt your knives quicker – as can glass. It’s much better to use softer materials such as wood or plastic for your chopping boards. However, too soft of a material can result in cuts being made into the chopping boards, providing more places for bacteria to hide. Opt for materials such as bamboo, which are hard to slice into, but which are soft and gentle on the blades.
While it’s convenient to keep all your cooking utensils all in one drawer, it’s not the best for keeping your knives sharp and well cared for.
Not only will they get bashed about every time you open and close the drawer, but you’re also putting yourself at risk of getting cut by a knife which is just laying about in the bottom of a drawer – and after spending time sharpening your knife, it can only take one touch to draw blood!
If you really must keep your kitchen knives in a drawer with other utensils, it’s highly recommended that you purchase some knife sheaths which are made out of plastic. These will bear the brunt of any force and protect the blade from damage.
Alternatively, you could purchase a knife block , or install a magnetic knife rack strip in your kitchen to store your blades in and on, which will keep them safe and accessible at the same time – but remember to keep these out of the way of children!
Keeping your knives in perfect working order will help you create the best dishes as well as keep you safe while using them. Stay on top of your knife care, and you’ll have a trusty tool for the foreseeable future!
If you have any questions about knife care and how Kitchen Knives can help keep your knives in good condition for longer, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today and we’ll be more than happy to help.