How to Keep Knives Sharp: Proper Cutting, Washing and Storing

You know how important it is to work with sharp knives, but do you know how to keep knives sharp? Check out the basics of knife care.

You may know how important it is to work with sharp knives, but do you know how to keep knives sharp? Even if you buy the highest quality knives available, they will grow duller faster if you don’t care for them properly. As professional chef Alton Brown admonishes fellow cooks, “Want to know how to turn a quality knife into a box cutter? Cut a box.”

Before you turn one of your quality knives into a box cutter, or before you even purchase a quality knife, check out the basics of knife care.

How to Keep Knives Sharp: Use a Proper Cutting Surface

Cutting boards don’t just protect your kitchen counters; they protect your knives too. Even if your knives won’t harm a concrete or granite counter, those materials will dull your knives. That’s why you should always use a proper cutting surface.

How to Keep Knives Sharp: Use a proper cutting surface that won't damage your knives, like an Epicurean composite wood cutting board

While Alton Brown insists on rock maple for his cutting boards, our experience shows both wood and polyethylene are knife-friendly. Composites, like in the cutting boards from Epicurean that we carry, are also kinder to sharpened edges than stone, tile or glass.

Fun fact: Know why steakhouses give you a serrated knife? They know how cutting steak on a ceramic plate will dull a straight blade. A serrated knife doesn’t cut steak as cleanly, but it also doesn’t dull as easily.

How to Keep Knives Sharp: Hand Wash and Dry Immediately

When you’ve finished your prep work, don’t put your prized knives in the dishwasher or toss them into the kitchen sink. Leave them on your cutting surface until you’re ready to wash them by hand, even if the manufacturer insists they can go in the dishwasher.

Why bother hand-washing knives? Professional chef David Lebovitz explains that knives knock around in the dishwasher, and blades dull as they bump into the racks and other utensils. Plus, the temperature changes make the metal expand and contract, which is hard on the construction on your knives.

Finally, even though steel knives are unlikely to rust in the short term, it’s best to dry them directly after washing and store them immediately.

How to Keep Knives Sharp: Store Carefully

After taking care to use a knife-friendly cutting board and spending time hand-washing your knives, it’s essential to store them properly. Choose from a knife block, a knife roll, a magnetic strip, or other storage options such as edge guards and in-drawer trays.

Knife blocks often come with knife sets, but they can also be purchased separately. Choose one that has space for your current array of knives, as well as room for expansion. Also, look for horizontal openings so that your knives don’t rest on their edges when stored in the block.
How to Keep Knives Sharp: Store them in a wooden block to keep edges protected

Knife rolls are convenient for anyone who needs a safe way to transport their knives. If you are traveling and want to have your own cutlery for meal prep, try a knife roll. Obviously it can’t go in your carry-on luggage. It may sound silly, but it’s what the professionals (and serious amateurs) do.

Wall-mounted magnetic strips hold knives safely out of reach of children and easily within reach of chefs. The only drawback is whether your kitchen has sufficient wall space for a magnetic strip.

Regardless of what storage method you choose, do not toss your knives directly into a kitchen drawer. They’ll knock around with the other utensils and the blades will dull. If you do store your knives in a drawer, use edge guards or an in-drawer storage solution to protect them.

How to Keep Knives Sharp: A Few Words on Honing

To hone or not to hone? Honing seems to be a matter of personal opinion. Alton Brown flat out threatens that you may lose an eye using a honing steel; he advises to get your knives sharpened by a professional instead. David Lebovitz’s preferences have evolved over the years, from using a sharpening stone in the past to relying on a couple inexpensive (think less than $20) gadgets now.

Our opinion? We’ve always advocated for honing regularly. However, if you follow the three steps above carefully and consistently, you may find your knives stay much sharper for much longer.

If you’re in the Denver area, we offer knife sharpening services in our showroom. Give us a call or come by for more details.

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