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Keep 'em sharp: 6 ways to care for your knives

Ideabar Austin


Keep 'em sharp: 6 ways to care for your knives

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: a sharp knife is a safe knife. Dull knives require more pressure to use, which means they have a greater tendency to slip out of control and cut your fingers and hands. Sharp knives, on the other hand, will slice easily through any type of food, giving you greater control, and (bonus!) saving time and energy while you prepare your meals.

Purchasing high-quality cutlery that holds a good edge is a great first step to keeping your kitchen stocked with sharp knives, but even the most expensive knives still require care to function at their best. Here are our six tips to care for your knives: 

Hone before each use
You know that long metal rod that come in most knife kits? That's not a sharpener — it's called a honing steel and it is your knife's best friend. A honing steel won't sharpen a dull knife, but it will keep a sharpened knife sharp by evening out any small nicks that form in the blade during everyday use. Each time you pull out your knife to use it, give it several strokes on the honing steel. Learn how to use your honing steel, step by step, in the video above.

Choose the right cutting board
Another way to ensure that your knife stays ultra sharp is to use it on the right cutting board. Hard glass cutting boards, such as those sold for cheese platters, can easily chip your knife. Instead, use either wood or plastic cutting boards. These boards will get nicks and scratches from your knives, but that's the point — and wouldn't you rather get a scratch in a $30 cutting board than a $200 knife? Us too.

Wash by hand, every time
No matter what the packaging says, keep your knives far, far away from your dishwasher. Not only can the heat from the dishwasher destroy any glue used to bond the handle to the knife blade, fast moving water can jostle around your knives and cause the edge to dull. Instead, wash your knives in warm, soapy water, taking care not to cut yourself, and then wipe completely dry before storing.

Magnetic knife strips are your friend
Speaking of storing, our favorite way to store knives is on a magnetic knife strip, which can be hung on the wall in your kitchen. Not only does it serve as a functional piece of decor (with bragging rights), it also keeps your knives dry and prevents the blade from getting knicked. If you must store your knives in a drawer, protect the blade by covering the knife with a blade guard or other plastic sheath. You can also simply store your knives in their original packaging, but do make sure to dry them thoroughly first.

Sharpen your knives when they get dull
This should go without saying, but the best way to keep your knives working their best is to keep them sharp. Depending on how often you use them, you will likely need to sharpen your knives about every month or so. You can go out and purchase a sharpening stone and do it yourself (see directions in the video above) or you can take your knives in to a professional knife sharpener to do it for you. Many high-end cooking stores and farmers markets offer knife sharpening services — just ask.

Don't use your knife as a can opener
Kitchen knives are made for cooking, not for use as all-purpose kitchen tools. While you may see a chef on a reality cooking show use their knife to open a can of tomatoes, don't follow his or her example. These actions can easily lead to accidents and they'll damage your knives. And it doesn't look as cool as you think.

Author image

Kate Williams is the former editor-in-chief of Southern Kitchen. She was also the on-air personality on our podcast, Sunday Supper. She's worked in food since 2009, including a two-year stint at America’s Test Kitchen. Kate has been a personal chef, recipe developer, the food editor at a hyperlocal news site in Berkeley and a freelance writer for publications such as Serious Eats, Anova Culinary, The Cook’s Cook and Berkeleyside. Kate is also an avid rock climber and occasionally dabbles in long-distance running. She makes a mean peach pie and likes her bourbon neat.