how to care for your knives

You’ve heard it from professional chefs and home cooks alike:  your knives are your most important tools in the kitchen.  I would give up my Vitamix and my food processor for my best chef’s knife.  I have a few (not a big fancy set of) high quality knives that I use all the time.  But even good knives get dull and dull knives are not only difficult to work with, not fun to cook with, but they are also dangerous.

how to care for your knives

I teach cooking classes very often in private homes and I use my students’ equipment when I do.  This includes their knives.  (I stopped bringing my own knives because I am much too absent-minded and have forgotten one or two!)  I have had the pleasure of using knives that are well cared for and razor sharp and ones that can barely cut a straight line through butter!!  I have found that this discrepancy has less to do with the quality of the knives (although that is part of it) as much as how the owners maintain them.  I’ve mentioned to a few ladies some tips for protecting their knives, and most of the time the response was “I never knew that!”  Once I even suggested to one of my students that if she had her knives professionally sharpened, cooking would be much more fun.  She had her doubts until she brought her knives to a cutlery shop and had a much easier time prepping food after that.

So I have put together a list of my tips for how to take good care of your knives so that you may have an easier, safer and more pleasurable experience in the kitchen, and protect your investment at the same time!

how to care for your knives

DON’T: Put your knives in the dishwasher.  I know many people like to put everything in the dishwasher, but keep your knives out of there.  The dishwasher will bang your knives around which will ding and damage the blades.  In addition, the heat from the drying cycle can warp your blades.

DO:  Hand wash your knives with warm soapy water and dry them right away.

DON’T: Put wet knives away in a drawer or cutting block.  The blade can develop mold or mildew.  Also, if your blade is carbon steel, it can rust if left wet for extended periods of time.

DO:  Dry your knives right after washing.

DON’T:  Use your knives on plastic, glass, granite, marble or stone.  These surfaces will either dull the knife blade more quickly than necessary or will damage the edge of your blade.

DO:  Use your knives on wood cutting boards.

DON’T:  Throw all your knives together into a drawer where they’re going to bang against each other and miscellaneous utensils.  This can dent, ding and damage your blades over time.

DO:  Store your knives in a knife block or cover each blade with a protective sheath (even a heavy piece of paper with a rubberband is better than nothing.

DON’T: Use a particular knife for the wrong task.  Using a paring knife to cut through chicken bones is going to damage the knife.  Also, don’t act crazy and try to use your kitchen knives to pick a lock, remove nails from the wall, pry open your kid’s piggy bank, scrape the grates of your barbecue, break up the huge block of ice in your ice maker, and so on.  That’s not what kitchen knives were designed to do.

DO:  Know what knife is for what task and leave it at that.

DON’T: Think that your knives will stay sharp forever.  The more you use them, the sooner they will need to be sharpened.

DO: Get your knives sharpened every 6 months or thereabouts.

DON’T: Sharpen your own knives unless you know what you’re doing.  I know that most knife sets come with a honing steel and I have seen a few grinding blocks in people’s kitchens, but if you don’t know how to use these, you can really mess up the blade.

DO:  Get your knives sharpened professionally at a local cutlery store or cookware shop.  I sharpen my knives regularly myself with a whetstone, but I also take them to my local Sur La Table or Thee Cutlery, a knife store at my local mall.  This tends to cost about $1/inch, e.g. a knife with an 8-inch blade costs $8 to get sharpened.  I have heard that a supermarket in my neighborhood sharpens knives while you shop, but I have also heard they don’t do a good job.  Ask someone you trust  (like a restaurant chef) where to go in your town if you’re not sure.  There are also good videos on YouTube if you want to learn more about sharpening yourself.

How to care for your knives

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25 Comments

  1. Awesome article. Thank you for sharing this with us, Pamela! You mentioned that sharpening your knives should be done by professionals unless you know what you’re doing. Could you recommend some Youtube channels that we can follow?

  2. This is an awesome tip to care for your knives. Thank you for sharing useful information.

  3. Hey I love the design of your knife set ! I use Mercer Culinary Genesis 6-Piece Forged Knife Block Set, and it works amazing for me ! Thank you for this amazing article !! You really pointed out the Do’s and Dont’s I wasn’t aware of !

  4. Hey Pamela,
    You’ve compiled this article wonderfully. I went through all the Do’s and Dont’s and I realized that i use plastic chopping boards for minor cutting. Maybe that’s why my knife gets dull within a month and I have to get them sharpened in a butcher’s shop. Do you think this might be the core reason?

  5. Can you take your knives to be professionally sharpened after you had washed them in the dishwasher? asking because someone told me that hot water can extremely damage and weaken the blade thus making it impossible to sharpen it ever again and i just don’t believe that, i mean yes it definitely dulls the blade but that it couldn’t ever be sharpened again and that its basically for trash? Can that be true?

    • I have never heard that they’re impossible to sharpen after putting them in the dishwasher (which you acknowledge is terrible for knives.)

      • YES!! Thank you, i thought so, it seems unbelievable to me the myths that people invent about knives when they just don’t know how to take care of them. Thank you so much for replying!

  6. Will a ordinary knife get dull if you soak them with other utensils before washing dishes?

    • No, but it is dangerous to leave a knife in soapy water. Someone might not see it and grab the blade. It’s also possible that the knife can bang around against other metal objects and get microscopic scratches and pits. Leaving it to dry in a dish drainer can cause it to possibly rust.

  7. It is important things to care our kitchen knife very properly. don’t use dull knife you should keep always your knife very shiny.

  8. That’s a pretty good set of knives you have there, though I rather prefer Shun knives myself 🙂

    And thanks for sharing about the knife divider insert, that’s really good to know!

    • I think it’s what feels best in one’s hand, don’t you agree? Yes, the knife divider insert is great. Hope it works for you!

  9. Hey Pamela,

    Thanks for the post, I definitely agree with your DO of having the blade professionally sharpened. I have seen way too many people hacking at a honing rod with not a clue about proper angles. Makes sense to pay a professional, especially considering kitchen knives can be quite pricey.

    • Good point, Scott. Thanks for mentioning that. 🙂

  10. Hi Pamela! Thank you for sharing useful information. The DON’Ts were very informative, particularly using the knife for specific task. I actually do most of the DOs like washing, drying and sharpening.

    • You are very welcome!

  11. Thanks for the post! What a nice way to share ‘how to care for your knives’ using simple Do’s and Don’t. It helps me very much. I use a wooden one and I am very careful about the knife.

  12. Hi Pamela,

    Thanks for sharing this. Simple do’s and don’ts to follow.
    I’m not in favor of using wooden cutting boards though; can’t clean them properly. I use plastic instead; doesn’t hurt the blade either.

    Jason

  13. Recently, my friend, Rafaela, gave me two ceramic knives. They are wonderful for chopping vegetables and herbs. Any thoughts on ceramics? We’re looking forward to spaghetti squash season 😉

    • I love my ceramic knives! I have a few and you can see one of them pictured in the drawer above — see the one with the pink handle? Mine are by Kyocera and they have great customer service. If you break, crack or chip the blade, you just send it back with $10 and they replace the blade or the knife. What I love about them is that they stay sharp for a little longer than the steel ones and they are super light. I wouldn’t use one to cut open a spaghetti squash though! 😉

  14. I agree wholeheartedly! I absolutely could not live without my good knives! My toaster is second.

    Thank heavens my husband is great at sharpening knives. I don’t even try, tho I know I should, he’s just so good.

    • Lucky you that your husband can sharpen your knives well!

  15. what material is being used to separate the knives in the drawer photo?


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