I’ve come to believe that keeping your knives in good condition doesn't have to be some big, magical thing. Like so much in life, it’s really about about forming positive daily habits that keep everything in good working order. And it’s nothing super-difficult. Just a few small steps each time you use your knives and you’ll be good to go. Here are some of those daily habits.
1. Use a sharpening steel EVERY time
A sharpening steel (also known as a honing steel) is a must to keep your knives in good shape. It doesn’t sharpen your blade, but it actually realigns the two sides of the edge. So, what’s really going on is this. When you use your knife, the metal edge gets curled and makes the edge rough. It’s happening at a microscopic level, so it’s something you can’t actually see with the naked eye. These little fibers bend over and dull the edge of the knife. So, think of honing as moving the edge of the blade back to the center. It does feel like it’s been sharpened because it cuts more easily, but in reality it hasn’t (only realigned).
2. Protect those edges
One of the biggest mistakes people make is to not protect their knives - especially the blades. Make sure you find a way to protect your knives when they aren’t being used. Don’t just throw them in a drawer. Use a drawer divider. Use blade protection sleeves. Use a magnetic wall strip. There are so many ways to protect the edges of your blades. And it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.
3. Hand wash them
I ALWAYS hand wash my knives. The dishwasher is terrible for good knives. They get tossed around and the blades get nicked. The detergent is harsh. Really. Don’t do it. Take a minute and just wash and dry them by hand.
3a. And speaking of washing, NEVER just leave a knife sitting in the sink. Not only can the knife get knocked against other things in the sink (again, getting nicked) but it can be dangerous if someone doesn’t know it’s there and just reaches in. Ouch!
3b. When it’s time to dry them, just hand dry them. Leaving them somewhere like a counter or a dish rack to dry can cause problems. There’s that chance that something else will knock against it and mess up the edge. And also, mold and mildew can form on them. It only takes a second to dry them and put them away.
4. Don’t misuse/Use for proper purpose
Do I really need to say it? Only use your knives for, you know, cutting. Not opening a jar lid. Not for cutting open a package. I guarantee that using them for something other than what they were designed for will mess ‘em up or break them. You’d be amazed what people use their knives for.
5. Cut on the right surface
Use a cutting board that is not super hard - like glass or stone or metal. That’s a quick way to tear up your knife blades. Opt for wood, plastic, or a composite material instead. And never, never, never cut on your countertop (butcher blocks excepted). They are just TOO hard.
And that's really all you need to do. Now, that won't keep your knives in great shape forever. They do need a periodic sharpening (maybe every six months with normal use). That's not so hard is it? It's really just about focusing on knife care a little bit every day. And if you do these couple of things your knives will last longer, your blades will stay sharp longer, and they'll be much more pleasing to use. Knives are the workhorse in your kitchen. Keep them trained and ready to go when you need them!
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