Expert Tips for Maintaining and Sharpening Your Kitchen Knives

Using a quality knife that is properly sharpened and honed will provide excellent cutting performance over time. But you will also need to clean it regularly and store it safely.

Keeping your knives sharp is important because dull ones are dangerous and require more force to cut through items than a sharp blade. Learn these expert tips to maintain and sharpen your kitchen knives like a pro.

Keep It Clean

Cleaning and sanitizing kitchen knives is essential to creating a clean kitchen environment that reduces the risk of foodborne illness. A clean knife is safe and allows you to perform cutting tasks more efficiently.

Always wash your knives with hot water and soap after every use. If your knife is dirty or greasy, you may want to soak it in hot water and dish soap for a few minutes before vigorously scrubbing away any residue. Aggressive scrubbing can damage the blade and cause it to lose its sharp edge.

Also, never use your knives to open packages or other non-kitchen activities. This can dull the blade and potentially chip the handle. Storing your knives correctly is crucial for their maintenance as well. A knife block, sleeve or Saya is a great way to keep them from tangling with other utensils and from getting dull, damaged or contaminated by food particles.

Keep It Sharp

Sharp knives make cooking much easier and safer. Dull blades require more pressure and can cause slippage that could lead to injury. This pressure also causes uneven cuts, affecting how food cooks.

Using the paper test or slicing a tomato, you can determine if your knife is too dull. If your knife struggles to cut through a tough piece of paper or squishes a soft tomato, it is time for a sharpening session.

Using a manual knife sharpener is the most affordable and easiest way to keep your kitchen knives razor-sharp. Hold the steel at a 20-degree angle and drag the blade’s sharp edge against the steel from heel to tip, working on one side at a time. Repeat six to eight times per side. You can also use a ceramic or steel sharpener, which is more expensive but will last a lifetime. It’s also a good idea to purchase a knife shear with coarse grit for sharpening and fine grit for polishing.

Keep It Safe

While throwing your knives into a drawer with all the rest of your kitchen utensils is tempting, proper knife storage can prevent damage and keep your blades safe. Avoid storing your knives near other metals, which can cause them to dull faster.

Similarly, don’t carry your knives around your kitchen as you move between tasks. This can leave them susceptible to knocking off surfaces or getting stabbed by someone else in the household.

Try to avoid catching a falling knife, too. You could suffer a hand injury in attempting to grab it. Instead, step back or alert others by saying “sharp behind/beside.” Also, don’t store your knives in the sink or place them on a cutting board where curious little hands might reach them. Instead, put your knives in a knife block, a magnetic strip or a holder that locks them in place. Wash them thoroughly after each use and wipe them down to remove lingering steel dust before putting them away.

Keep It in Storage

Aside from preventing damage to the knives, storing them properly is important for safety reasons. When tossed loosely into the drawer with other flatware and kitchen utensils, knives can easily get scratched or damaged from each other as they are shuffled around. To prevent this, consider a wooden knife rack that is securely mounted on the wall and provides additional safety measures like dividers to separate and keep the blades from touching each other.

Another way to avoid accidental injuries is to avoid cutting on hard, abrasive surfaces such as glass or stone countertops. Even with a well-tuned, sharp knife, using these surfaces can damage the edge and dull it much faster than necessary. This is especially true with cheaper, soft steel knives. If your knife edge starts to dull, use a honing rod (also known as steel) to restore it. You’ve probably seen chefs on cooking shows brandishing a steel-like samurai sword and assumed it was a skill reserved for professionals, but it’s quite easy to do at home!