How to take care of your knives
Storing your knives
First, we need to talk about storage. In the cutlery drawer, with the teaspoons and spatulas is the wrong place for your knives. Not only is this a danger to your fingers but the knife blades will knock against other tools and the drawer itself and create chips in the sharp edge. This blunts your knives, and a blunt knife is no use to anyone. Storing knives in a block or an in-drawer organiser keeps the blades intact, and easy to find, as well as being much safer. Not interested in a big block? Try a magnet mounted to the kitchen wall. It’ll keep them out where you can reach them, and keeps the blades safe.
Cleaning your knives
Next on the agenda is cleaning. Now, most steel knives are technically dishwasher safe but that doesn’t make it the right way to clean them. When food is left on the blade, acids present in food can damage the blade, and make them hard to clean. Since the dishwasher is typically not put on immediately, that leaves time for food to sit on the blade. Even worse, when in the cutlery caddy, there’s room for the water to knock the blades into other cutlery, notching and denting the blade – bad news.
Instead, simply wash your knives in some hot, soapy water, dry and put away. Keeping knives dry keeps rust from developing, which can never be a bad thing, right?
Choosing the right knife for the task at hand
Choose the correct knife for the task. Using a paring knife to hack at a bone might seem like a good idea – a knife is a knife, right? But each knife type is designed for different things. Blades are reinforced differently, and shapes lend themselves to different things. A cleaver is better for hacking, whereas a pointed paring knife is better for digging the eyes out of a potato.
Sharpening your knives
Keep great knives great by keeping them sharp. Invest in a sharpening steel for regular honing, and either a whet stone or a pull-through sharpener for more serious sharpening. You’ve seen sushi chefs using the steel before each use, right? That’s not overkill. Honing keeps microscopic dents and chips to a minimum, and for any serious damage (short of a severely chipped knife), the occasional bout with the whet stone will take care of the rest. Learn how to use a sharpening steel and how to use a whet stone.
Choosing the right chopping board
This may seem like an odd one, but many people make the mistake of using their fantastic knives on the wrong board. Glass boards are not meant to be chopped on. Apart from the danger that the glass may shatter on the impact of the knife, the harsh surface continually notches the blade, wearing away the sharp edge, or even breaking the blade. Chopping directly onto the granite countertop may seem harmless, afterall the counter sustains no injury, but again, the hard, unforgiving surface does the blade no favours, blunting it quickly and possibly damaging the blade in the long run. A better choice is a wooden or plastic board. Both have merits (for a bigger discussion on boards, read more about the benefits of different boards here), but basically wooden boards allow the knife blade to sink between the fibres and better quality ones self heal. This protects the blade by keeping the edge from jarring. Plastic boards are soft enough to do the same, and while plastic boards do show cut marks, this is part of their natural wear and tear. They can also be put into the dishwasher for a safe, hygienic clean.
Now that you’ve got a few tools to preserve the life of your knives, what are you waiting for?