By Kim Robson:
The price of a good quality chef’s knife can be absolutely breathtaking. I’ve seen knives featured in Bon Appetit for upwards of $700! There’s no way I can afford that, but I have acquired a nice collection of decent mid-level Cuisinart knives. Below are a few tips for extending the life of a good blade.
Keep Them Sharpened
Your kitchen knives are like any other tool, so invest in the best you can afford, and take care of them so they’ll take care of you. A dull knife is actually more dangerous than a sharp knife. The reason is that a dull knife is harder to control. It is more likely to slip because the edge doesn’t bite in. Even though a sharp knife has the potential to cut deeper, the extra pressure required to cut with a dull knife will cause a much deeper (and more ragged) wound if you do slip.
There are many methods for sharpening knives: a honing steel, a knife stone, a leather strop, a manual or electric sharpener, or for the best results, sending them out to a professional knife sharpener. America’s Test Kitchen recommends the Chef’s Choice Diamond Hone 464 as the best manual sharpener on the market. It has two slots, one for sharpening and one for fine honing. I keep one in my utensil drawer, and it works great.
Store Them Properly
Don’t store your knives in the utensil drawer, where the edge can get dinged and banged up among all the other utensils. If you keep your knives in a wooden knife block, store them with the blade’s edge facing up. That way, you won’t be dulling the edge every time you slide the blade into and out of its slot. The best method, in my opinion, is to store them on a wall-mounted magnetic strip. They’re easy to grab, conveniently located, and separate from other utensils. If you do have to store your knives in a drawer, sheathe them in blade guards for safety.
Wash Them Carefully
Never leave dirty knives in the kitchen sink. First of all, it’s dangerous. Secondly, it’s not good for the knives to sit in water: the handle can become loose, and the metal blade can corrode. When you’ve finished using a knife, wash it by hand (dishwashers are too damaging to the handles). Also, don’t let good knives air-dry, as that results in corrosive hard water spots on the blade, and mold/mildew growth in the handle. Take a moment to dry them thoroughly with a dish towel, and replace them in their spots.
Wooden Cutting Boards
Never use your good knives on any surface other than a wooden cutting board. Do NOT use your knives on marble, hard plastic, granite, or glass. (I just shake my head at glass cutting boards — why do they even exist?) End-grain hardwood is best. Years ago, I invested in this three-inch-thick mesquite round, and it’s one of the best kitchen tools I own. I season it regularly with food-grade mineral oil.
A good quality kitchen knife is an investment you’ll use every day. If you take good care of your knives, no matter how much or how little you spent on them, they’ll take good care of you in return.