Caring for and using your kitchen knife
Our Top 7 Tips for keeping your kitchen knife sharp
- Use the back (spine) of your knife to scrape food off your chopping board, not the blade
- Always check you are using the correct knife for the task. Don't use a chef’s knife to try to chop through bone.
- Use good quality wooden chopping boards.
- Your knife is made for cutting food, so don’t use it for opening boxes, cutting through aluminium foil or prying things open.
- Never put your knife in the dishwasher
- Clean, dry and put away your knife right after you’ve used it.
- Don’t leave your knife to soak
Best chopping board for knives
The general rule of thumb is the material of your knife should be harder than the material you are chopping on. Use a wooden or plastic chopping board instead of harder materials such as marble or glass to avoid blunting the knife edge.
Paulownia wood is a favourite in Japan since it's the perfect combination of hard and soft so it's good to chop on but keeps your kitchen knives sharp for longer. It's also extremely lightweight so easy to move around the kitchen and clean after use.
Caring for a knife with a wooden handle
If your knife’s handle is made of wood, you need to regularly oil it to prevent the wood from drying out and cracking. It also helps increase the wood's resistance to changes in temperature and humidity, as the oil acts as a barrier to the outside world. We’d recommend using a food-safe mineral oil or grapeseed oil to oil your handle, applying a little at a time with a clean cloth until the wood won’t absorb any more liquid. Avoid using other oils such as olive oil or sunflower oil as these won’t be properly absorbed and will leave the handle sticky.
Caring for a carbon steel knife
Carbon Steel knives need to have a thin coat of oil applied every now and then to maintain them - vegetable, rapeseed or sunflower oil work well for this. It is crucial the knives are cleaned and very thoroughly dried after each use as they are much more susceptible to rust than your average kitchen knife. The high maintenance is rewarding however, if you choose to buy a carbon steel knife as they are incredibly sharp, hold their edge for a very long time, and are easy to resharpen. A carbon steel knife is the knife equivalent to a cast iron pan vs stainless steel pan.
Cleaning your knife
There are a couple of key points to remember when cleaning your knives.
Clean immediately after use and don’t leave any food on the knife
Never leave a knife to soak in water as it’s not only dangerous but also can cause rust to develop or damage to the handle - particularly if it’s made of wood
Always dry your knives immediately after washing and don’t leave on a draining board or where they can come into contact with water to keep them rust free
Avoid using cleaners that contain citrus or bleach as they can damage your handle or any coatings on the blade.
Why should I not put my knife in the dishwasher?
The vibrations and heat can have detrimental effects to the blade; and the detergent is abrasive and will dull your knife. The vibrations will cause the blade to hit against other things and get blunt or remove chips of metal. And the heat can damage the handle and grip. What’s more, you don’t know how long the cycle will last before rinsing and drying which gives rust the chance to develop.
Storing your knife
How should I store my knives?
The main thing you need to consider when storing your knives is keeping the edge away from anything that could blunt it. Most people recommend using a magnetic strip or knife block so that the knife can’t jostle around in a drawer and bang into things causing it to go blunt. If you want to go the extra mile, if your knives slide into your knife block, store them with the blade facing up so they’re not resting on the sharp edge. And get a smooth magnetic strip or wood covered magnets so the blade isn’t damaged when removing and placing on the magnet. However if keeping them in a drawer is your only option then make sure to use knife guards to protect the blade.
Read more about the best chopping boards to buy here, or head back to the ultimate guide to kitchen knives to learn more.