Hi, everyone. Today I’m pleased to introduce you to Doug, The Kitchen Professor! He has a unique blog that covers all the practical things you need to know about working efficiently in your kitchen. I am so glad I met Doug because I have to admit, I’m not very practical! I just sort of take things as they come but after reading some of his articles like the benefits of cast iron cooking and essential knife skills, I am so keen to learn more.
Today Doug is going to talk about knives – their usage, maintenance, sharpening and storage. Great info! Grab your favourite beverage, sit back, relax and learn all you need to know about knives.
My wife bought a few really nice knives after reading some reviews on Product Expert and we had no idea how to care for them. Technically, high quality knife set should last a lifetime – if you know how to care for them.
Knives are one of the most important tools you have in the kitchen. Both pro chefs and home cooks agree about the importance of maintaining kitchen knives in excellent condition. Sharp knives are safer and more fun too.
Let’s take a look at three main areas that will keep your knives in great working order.
Daily Usage and Ongoing Maintenance
Knives come in many popular forms and styles. Adhering to a few simple daily guidelines helps keep knives in great shape so that food preparation occurs faster, more safely and with a minimum of waste. Many experts confirm that well cared for knives are safer and help improve the final texture of dishes.
Whether you prefer to use one of the best Japanese knives, Western or German kitchen knives, you’ll find these tips helpful in protecting your investment in these tools during everyday use:
Use Cutting Boards
I recommend always using cutting boards with a kitchen knife for a simple reason:
A hard surface may damage or even break a knife blade during the chopping or slicing process.
So never cut on granite, glass, or metal because it is terrible for the knife.
Of course, the best contact surface must also offer a secure, immobilized platform.
The best option is the traditional wooden cutting board. Wood furnishes a forgiving surface that will accept cuts from sharp blades if someone presses too hard.
Yet a heavy wooden cutting board won’t slip or slide away during food preparation and cause accidents. I like the end grain wooden cutting boards because they are even gentler on a blade edge.
I also have a couple composite and plastic cutting boards for meat and for using by the grill.
Wash Promptly by Hand
Another important daily guideline involves promptly washing a kitchen knife by hand following every use. Making this practice a habit enables the blade to remain functional and immediately available for re-use. You won’t accidentally contaminate one dish with the ingredients from another.
Avoid Placing Knives in Dishwashers
Although modern appliances offer great convenience sometimes, they also don’t safeguard and protect essential tools sufficiently. Using the dishwasher to repeatedly clean a kitchen knife will eventually degrade the tool and shorten the knife’s functional lifespan.
The problem is the blades will bump into other objects and over time the knife edge will become dull. In addition, some really nice knives may have wooden handles and the heat in the dishwasher will damage the wood.
Use a Honing Steel Frequently
Use a honing steel every time you use your knives. A honing steel will re-align the microscopic knife edge so it will seem sharper.
Although a honing steel will not transform a dull blade into a sharp one, making a practice of using it often helps sharpened blades retain their shape longer. That means you won’t have to sharpen your knives as often.
While some knives display traditional durable steel blades, blades using cladding, titanium and ceramic have also attained widespread popularity. The best storage option for these valuable tools remains largely a matter of personal preference except for one…
Never Store Knives in a Drawer
You should never to store kitchen knives along with other utensils in drawers. Not only can these blades cause nasty accidents if someone unfamiliar with the drawer reaches blindly for items inside and grabs a sharpened blade inadvertently, but the jostling of the blade against other cutlery could potentially damage a sharp cutting edge.
Storing knives in a drawer will make them dull much faster so don’t do it.
This is my favorite way to store knives – magnetic strips. The knives are easily accessible and they can’t bump into each other.
I also like to have the knives on display.
Another popular way to store kitchen knives involves using individual padded knife sleeves. A sleeve bears some resemblance to a scabbard; it protects and safeguards an individual blade from bumps and jostling that might dull or dent the metal.
This covering also prevents someone from accidentally picking up a sharp knife by the blade while hunting for kitchen utensils if you have to keep knives in drawers.
I use knife sleeves when I travel so I can bring a couple knives from home.
One traditional storage option which still enjoys popularity involves the use of a knife block. Essentially, this item consists of a block of wood with slots designed to securely hold knives of specific lengths.
Often a manufacturer will supply customers with a block capable of holding a series of different blades. This form of storage offers great convenience by keeping the knives readily available for use.
Depending on their design, knife blocks may rest atop counters or even sit within individual kitchen cabinets.
My main gripe with storage blocks is that you can’t really clean inside the blade slots. If you know of a way to clean them, let me know!
Yet a third critical area of kitchen knife maintenance involves keeping knives sharp and ready to perform. Razor-sharp blades enable a kitchen knife to cut, slice, chop, and dice food easily.
Dull blades by contrast sometimes cause multiple problems. They may create accidents during food preparation – if the blade cannot immediately penetrate an item and a frustrated handler applies too much pressure. Additionally, dull knives slow down the cooking process considerably. Many chefs maintain they damage the texture of some dishes.
Sharpen All Knives
All knives at some point will require sharpening. While ceramic and titanium blades grow dull infrequently due to the hardness of the cutting material, they also eventually lose their edge after extensive use on certain items. Professionals with expensive diamond grinding equipment can sharpen these types of specialized blades.
For stainless steel blades, consider using either an electric sharpener or a manual sharpening system. You’ll know a kitchen knife requires sharpening if small burrs develop along the precision thin cutting edge. Generally, I like to sharpen my knives about once a quarter, and I use mine a lot.
Electric Knife Sharpeners
Today a wide array of electric knife sharpeners provide a rapid way to restore the razor-sharp cutting edge of a kitchen knife. The main advantage to electric sharpeners is that they are fast and convenient.
You can sharpen a dull blade in about 90 seconds with an electric sharpener. If the knife just needs a touch up, then it may only take 15 seconds. I recommend an electric sharpener for most people due to the speed.
Manual Sharpening Systems
For centuries, knife owners around the world used manual sharpening systems involving hard rocks to create precision-thin blade edges. Consumers today will find many different models and shapes of sharpening stones available. These products occur in different grades of hardness and in many different sizes.
Typically, a sharpening stone consists of a flat, well-polished rock surface or surfaces. Follow the product directions to achieve a very finely honed edge on a blade which has become dull by dragging it over the surface away from you at a 22 degree angle. Afterwards, use a damp cloth to carefully clean away any debris on the knife blade. If you are in need of a manual knife sharpener then check out this review of the Bavarian Edge knife sharpener.
The main issue is that it takes a while to sharpen each knife – it may take 10 to 20 minutes for each knife. So, think about the time that you want to invest in knife maintenance.
A quality set of knives can last a lifetime if you take the time to maintain them. It is worth the effort and most of that effort is about adopting a few habits that keep the knives safe.
- Use a cutting board.
- Wash and dry your knives by hand.
- Use a honing steel.
- Store your knives on a magnetic strip, in sleeves, or in a knife block.
- Don’t store knives in a drawer – it is dangerous.
- Sharpen your knives once a quarter or whenever they need it.
- 10 Tips for Knife Buying by Alton Brown of Good Eats
- How To Select a Kitchen Knife Sharpener – A Guide
- How To Care For Kitchen Knives by the Huffington Post
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.”