Chef Knives 1

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How to look After your Kitchen Knives



Knife-edges should be regularly realigned using steel, or a device similar to it, to keep the knife sharp and safe. A sharp knife is safer because of the effortless way in which it does your bidding; accidents can occur with dull knives because of the extra effort that it takes to push the blade through the food and the slipping that can occur.

A few easy strokes, alternating sides, holding the edge at about a 20-degree angle from the steel, is all it takes to keep it sharp. Remember, the secret is to be gentle; don’t push too hard. If you find using steel difficult or uncomfortable, there are small units with miniature steels or ceramic discs aligned at the proper angle for foolproof maintenance.

Steel ideally removes only a minimal amount of metal from the edge. Over a period of time, however, perhaps a year or two under normal household use, enough metal is removed that the edge requires sharpening by grinding.

Diamond studded steels remove a lot of metal from knives, and should be used sparingly as a regular maintenance tool. As should ceramic steels.

Utensils with sharpeners at pre-set angles, such as crock sticks and hand-held-sharpeners, should also be used sparingly, since they usually are made of ceramic or other hard substances that will remove a lot of metal. They do, however, make it easy to hold the knife at the right angle and are recommended for anyone who doesn’t particularly care to steel their knives every time they use them.

There are several machines on the market that can be purchased for grinding, such as the Chef’s Choice. Choose one of good quality that will not damage your knife. Or, better yet, take it to a reputable sharpening service. Like us, they should sharpen and repair almost any knife with the same care and quality that is given to restaurant and chef clientele.

We do not recommend a sharpener that comes attached to a can opener, or a heavy grinding wheel. These remove too much metal, shortening the life of your knife, and may create hot spots, indicated by bluing marks, that remove the temper from the blade, making it difficult to keep sharp.

If you have the time and inclination, you can use sharpening stones, preferably Arkansas stones, which are known for their consistent quality. Inexpensive stones are usually made of stone granules, glued together with epoxy, which interferes with the sharpening process and usually provides meagre results, especially as they get older.

In sharpening stones, there are different grades of coarseness to suit each task. The coarsest stones are used for the first step, holding the blade at about a 15-degree angle, followed by medium and fine stones for the remaining steps, ending up at about a 20-degree angle. The final step is called honing.

Stones must be used in conjunction with a medium of honing (light mineral) oil or water, and, once you start with one, continue using the same medium for the life of the stone. And be sure to clean your stone regularly with a bristle brush, to remove metal filings.

Regular Care

A good quality knife should never be subjected to the harsh detergents and scalding temperatures of a dishwasher. Also, the thrashing of utensils, which is likely to occur, is likely to damage the sharp edge of the knife.

Certain food acids can stain even the most stainless of knives, so it is good practice to always wipe a knife clean right after each use. Don’t let foodstuffs dry on the blade, because the knife then becomes more difficult and hazardous to clean.

We suggest that you get into the habit of cleaning it right away; simply lay the blade on a flat surface, carefully wipe one side with a wet cloth, then the other. You should, however, use soap and hot water to clean the knife after it has been used to cut poultry, meat or fish.


A knife is best stored away from other utensils that might damage the edge by contact. Keep it in a wooden or polyethylene block or in a sheath especially made for this purpose. In a slanted block with vertical openings, store knives with their edge up.

Cutting Boards

We recommend wooden or polyethylene cutting boards, which create the least resistance against the edge of a knife. Avoid cutting on ceramic, metal or other plastic surfaces, which would quickly dull a knife’s sharp edge.

Wash your cutting boards after each use. Be especially careful to wash them and your knives with hot, soapy water immediately after cutting poultry, meat or fish products and before cutting anything else on them. Sanitize them by letting stand a solution of water and bleach on the surface for a short time.

For safety’s sake, to diminish to likelihood of cross contamination, consider owning one cutting board for fish, another for poultry, and a third for other cutting tasks.

Plastic cutting boards can go in the dishwasher; wood boards should be carefully washed by hand. A thorough washing and air-drying diminish the likelihood of germs remaining on the surface. Controversies around which is better, wood or plastic, have been somewhat inconclusive. It remains that if you keep different ones for meats and for vegetables, clean the boards well, let them air dry thoroughly, and store them in a well-ventilated area, you won’t have any problems with contamination.


1 Comment »

  1. […] How to look After your Kitchen Knives How to look After your Kitchen Knives […]

    Pingback by How to look After your Kitchen Knives « Chef Knives 1 | November 3, 2008

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