Owning high quality knives makes food preparation tasks much easier, but in order to keep them at their best, special care is needed. In this article we discuss proper knife care.
Knife care involves using knives appropriately, keeping them clean, honed, lubricated and stored properly. Some knives may require hand washing while others may be dishwasher safe. It’s important to be aware of the care requirements for each knife you own. The information is usually supplied in the packaging when you purchase a new knife. If it isn’t, we recommend going online to find out more.
- The Ultimate Guide to Knife Care
- 1. Only Use for Intended Purposes
- 2. Hone Your Knife Regularly
- 3. Check Regularly to See if Your Knife is Dull
- 4. If Dull, Sharpen Your Knife
- 5. Cut in a Proper Way
- 6. Wash Your Knives by Hand
- 7. Store Separately
- 8. Use Your Knife With Respect & Safe Handling Procedures
- 9. Choose an Appropriate Cutting Board
- 10. Get a Knife Cover if Necessary
- 11. Lubricate Your Folding Knife
- Final verdict
The Ultimate Guide to Knife Care
1. Only Use for Intended Purposes
Proper knife use means you use a specific knife only for certain jobs it was designed for. For example, you shouldn’t use a vegetable knife (Nakiri Knife) for cutting meats or boning. Specialty knives are designed for performing specific tasks and when you use them for other jobs, you can damage the knife and in some cases, void any warranties. If you’re not sure what a certain knife is used for, do a little research so you will know how to use it in the right way.
2. Hone Your Knife Regularly
Most knife blocks come with a steel rod that is textured. This is included to help you maintain the sharp edges on your knife blades. It’s a good practice to get in the habit off giving your knife a quick hone before you use it.
The process is simple. Hold the honing steel vertically in the hand that is non-dominant. Make sure the
tip of the steel is placed securely on a table or other hard surface. Hold the knife in your dominant hand at a 20 degree horizontal angle. Draw the blade towards you with a downward motion, sliding it across the steel. Start from the heel of the knife to the tip. It usually takes about four times to properly hone the knife.
The honing steel must be kept steady to avoid injury to yourself or damaging the knife. You should always do this on a stable flat surface. Hold the honing steel by the handle. Follow the honing steps as outlined above.
It’s important that you begin honing at the part of the knife that is closest to the handle. This is called the heel of the knife. Maintain a focus on what you are doing at all times so you will be safe and do a good job. As you draw the blade along the steel downward, keep light pressure on it and pull it back towards you. The blade must have consistent contact with the steel from the heel to the very tip. You are likely to hear a ringing sound if you’re doing it correctly. If it makes a grinding sound, let off the pressure some. Repeat the honing process four to five times.
Alternate the sides of the knife blade equally. When you are done, you’ll need to use a soft, clean dish towel to wipe the knife blade and remove any residue left over from the honing.
3. Check Regularly to See if Your Knife is Dull
Part of knife care and maintenance is to check regularly for dullness. A dull blade is far more dangerous than a sharp one.
There are several ways to check the sharpness of your knife. The most effective test is called the tomato test. Use a ripe tomato on a flat surface. Using light pressure, slice through the tomato. Your knife should cut through this soft fruit with ease and speed. If it hangs up or smashes the tomato, your knife needs to be sharpened before you use it. You can also slice a piece of paper or through the skin of an onion. If the knife does not slice through quickly without tearing the paper or the onion it is dull and needs to be sharpened.
4. If Dull, Sharpen Your Knife
Knives must be kept sharp for your safety and to ensure their peak performance. A yearly sharpening is recommended to repair any mars or nicks on the edge of the blade, but when the knife begins to dull, it needs to be sharpened before you use it again. There are several ways that you can sharpen a knife. You can use a whetstone or sharpening stone, an electric sharpener, or have them professionally sharpened. We recommend the whetstone over the electric sharpener because the electric types tend to take off too much of the metal which can lessen the lifespan of the blade. It is also recommended to carry a portable knife sharpener when you’re out in the field on a hunting, camping, hiking or survival excursion.
5. Cut in a Proper Way
Using an up and down motion when chopping dulls the edge of the blade. The proper way to use a knife for chopping is to either slide or rock it. The knife should stay in constant contact with the cutting board when using these techniques. When a knife is used in a way that causes it to hit a hard surface, it causes a microscopic burring in the blade that dulls the edge. Using proper cutting techniques will result in your knife edge staying sharper for longer periods of time.
6. Wash Your Knives by Hand
A good rule of thumb to follow when cleaning your knife is to only wash by hand. Machine washers can damage the handle as well as the blade. In addition, hot water temperatures and harsh detergents in dishwashers can damage delicate materials.
The best way to hand wash your knife is with warm, soapy water. Keep the blade away from you and handle with care to avoid accidental injury. Carbon steel knives should always be dried after washing and rinsing because they can rust if you allow them to air dry.
7. Store Separately
Knives should not be stored with other utensils such as silverware and other metal items. The other things in a drawer can nick knife blades and can also damage the handles. Knives should have their own storage area and be laid flat, side by side so they are resting on their sides versus the cutting edge. If you own a knife block, use it because the slots add protection for the knife blades, but use care when placing them into the slots and when removing them.
8. Use Your Knife With Respect & Safe Handling Procedures
Knives are potentially dangerous and lethal objects. They can injure you and they can also be damaged easily. Avoid careless handling. Always pass a knife by laying it on a hard surface with the handle facing the person it’s being given to. Carry a knife by holding it straight down to your side and make sure the sharp edge faces behind you. Let others know you’re carrying something sharp. When laying a knife down on a surface, no part off the edge should extend over the edge of the work table or cutting board. Never cover a knife with towels or other things that may hide it and finally, never try to catch a knife that is falling.
9. Choose an Appropriate Cutting Board
You should always use an appropriate surface for cutting when using a knife. Don not cut directly on glass, marble or metal surfaces because this will damage the knife blade in time. The best cutting boards to use for the prevention of dulling are made of wood or composition that is designed for frequent use. Some of the less expensive cutting boards are made for decorative purposes but are not made of the best materials for preserving knife integrity and sharpness, so avoid these.
10. Get a Knife Cover if Necessary
Sheathing knife blades is a highly recommended practice. You can find good quality plastic guards are reasonably priced between $3 and $8 to protect the blades. Remember that even when sheathed, you should still store knives by laying them flat in a drawer, side by side. This prevents any type of damage to the handles, even though the blades are protected.
11. Lubricate Your Folding Knife
Folding knives require lubrication to keep them in top working order. The mechanisms are prone to collection of dust and other microscopic particles. A regular film of lubrication can help to prevent a seizing of the mechanisms and it can also help to protect the blade from abrasion damage from the constant sliding action. You can get by with a thin coating of high quality vegetable oil. Simply apply to the blade and surrounding mechanisms, then wipe off any excess so a fine film remains.
Knives are an investment that require the proper care for safety and to preserve their integrity. Careless handling can cause dulling of the edge, damage to the handles and nicks or mars on the blade. Use them the right way, and only use a specific knife for its intended purpose. Take care when handling knives to protect yourself and others from accidental injury. Wash and dry them by hand for the best results. By following these tips, your knives will perform better and last for longer.