Taking care of kitchen knives so they last

Having a sharp, well-balanced knife for fast food preparation — and caring for it properly — can make the difference between the joy of cooking and kitchen frustration.

Taking care of kitchen knives so they last

Skip the dishwasher

  • Never put knives with wooden handles in the dishwasher or in a sink full of water. This can make them crack.
  • To clean your knives, wipe them off with a soft, damp, soapy cloth and then rinse them under running water.
  • This is the best way to clean any kitchen knife, even ones with "dishwasher-proof" plastic handles; dishwasher jets can knock knives around, damaging their edges when they knock into other utensils.
  • By washing knives separately, you also eliminate the possibility of cutting yourself while fishing around in the sink.

Clean quickly

  • Some foods contain acids that can quickly start to stain even "stainless steel."
  • To keep your knives in great shape, get in the habit of wiping them clean immediately after each use.

Keep ‘em sharp

  • The edge of a kitchen knife blade is thin, but it has saw teeth that are so small you'd need a microscope to see them.
  • The teeth let the knife bite easily into soft foods, like a tomato. The knife becomes dull because these teeth get bent.
  • So to sharpen, you want to use a sharpening steel to straighten the teeth, rather than remove them. Get in the habit of using the steel before or after each time you use the knife.

How to sharpen a knife

  • To use a sharpening steel, hold it vertically with the tip down on a solid surface. Place the knife blade against the steel at an angle of about 20 degrees.
  • Start with the heel of the blade (the part of the cutting edge closest to the handle) against the steel.
  • Pull the blade down and across toward you.
  • Do this five or ten times, alternating sides of the blade. Eventually, using the steel will no longer sharpen the blade. This means it's time to have the knife professionally sharpened.

A sharp knife is a safe knife

A sharp knife gives you control as it glides through the food. A dull knife can slip, which can result in a nasty cut.

Whiten bone handles

  • Bone knife handles yellow with age. Some like this aged patina.
  • If you don't, all you have to do to whiten them is occasionally wrap the handles in a piece of flannel moistened with hydrogen peroxide and water.

Use the right cutting surface

  • Your knives will dull quickly if you cut against hard surfaces, such as marble, metal, ceramic or glass.
  • So be sure to use a cutting board made of wood or plastic — softer materials the knife can cut into.

Store knives in a wooden block

  • Storing your kitchen knives in slotted wooden blocks keeps them safe from nicks in the blades that are sure to occur if you keep you knives in a drawer.
  • It also keeps them handy and protects you from cuts that might occur if you accidentally grab a knife by the blade.

Dry knives thoroughly

  • To ward off rust, make sure your knife blades are completely dry before sliding them into the knife block.
  • You'll also prevent mold from developing inside the wooden block slots.

Take special care with ceramic knives

  • Ceramic knives are brittle and cannot withstand pressure. Don't use them, for example, to bone a chicken.
  • If you absentmindedly grab your ceramic knife to crush a piece of garlic with the side of the blade, you might snap the blade.
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