Caring for your premium kitchen knives: a beginner's guide
Whether you love cooking at home or are looking to try out some new recipes, premium kitchen knives are great investments for chefs of any level. But when you spend your money on premium kitchen knives, you want to be sure that they'll last for years. That's why it's so important to care for them properly. If you're just getting started with some new knives, here's a beginner's guide to caring for them, so you can get the most out of them for years to come.
Poor kitchen knife maintenance leads to a dull blade edge
So you've decided to invest in professional Japanese knives! Great, looked after correctly they'll last many years. However, even the hard-steel of a Japanese knife will require sharpening from time to time to maintain a sharp blade. Remember to chop on the correct surfaces, wood-cutting boards are the best option for your knives because wood is much more forgiving than other board materials. Plastic and silicone can also work, but avoid glass as it's much too hard on your knives!
What type of kitchen knife blade am I looking after?
Carbon steel and stainless steel are the most popular blade options. Each has its merits and bring different qualities to the table. Carbon steel is popular among Japanese knife makers and professional chefs alike; characterised by its ability to hold a sharp blade edge and ease to sharpen. Cons, carbon-steel requires attention to prevent rust; you cannot leave the knife blade wet, the protocol is to wipe dry straight after use. Stainless steel knives require much less upkeep. However, the trade-off is a softer blade that will dull quicker and is more challenging to sharpen. However, stainless steel blade technology has progressed leaps and bounds over the years and the statement above is not nearly as relevant as it once was.
When to sharpen my kitchen knives?
The tomato test is a good indicator. The blade should slide through the tomato skin with ease; if there's a need to apply pressure or the tomato structure contorts in any way the blade edge is dull. Alternatively, run the blade down a sheet of paper. If it cuts the paper with no problem, then you're fine. But if you struggle to cut through the paper, it's time to give your knives a sharpening.
Types of Knife Sharpeners
There are several methods of sharpening your knives, including:
Whetstone - also known as a sharpening stone, considered the best and most popular way to sharpen knives by professional chefs. To use a whetstone, first soak it in water. Next, pass the blade over the stone, sharpening with each stroke. The only drawback to this popular method is that whetstones require practice and a level of skill. Try watching tutorials on YouTube to find the proper technique.
Electric sharpener - if you want to sharpen knives frequently and safely, you can invest in an electric sharpener. It has a slot to pass your knife through, where the blade gets sharpened, usually by a ceramic wheel.
- Manual sharpener - a manual sharpener is similar to an electric sharpener, but you'll have to do more of the work yourself. These devices often come with adjustable parts, so you can adjust to the proper angle for your knife.
How To Clean Your Kitchen Knives
Keeping your kitchen knives clean is one of the most important things you can do to help ensure they have a long lifespan. But before you just throw them in the dishwasher with your other dishes, there are a few things that are important to know. Here are a few tips on how to keep your kitchen knives clean.
Why Should I Clean My Kitchen Knives By Hand?
Though your knives work hard in the kitchen, they can be delicate, which is why it's always necessary to wash them by hand. This can help ensure that they don't come into contact with anything that could damage them. Start by rinsing your knives with hot water as soon as you're finished using them. When cleaning your knives, make sure that their blades are pointed away from your body, and then wipe them with a clean kitchen cloth to remove any debris. For any stubborn, stuck-on grime, soak the knife briefly in water, and then continue to scrub gently, while avoiding the blade. When you're finished, dry your knife immediately.
Can I Use The Dishwasher?
Cleaning your kitchen knives in the dishwasher must be avoided, as it's not great for either the knives or the dishwasher. Hot water, chemical detergents, and harsh cleaning cycles can dull your blades quicker than if you wash your knives gently by hand, and if you have a carbon steel blade the dishwasher will cause your blade to rust. And if your knives have wooden handles, washing them in the dishwasher may cause them to crack over time due to exposure to hot temperatures. In addition, the sharp blades of your knives can cause damage to your dishwasher. They may start to cut away at the coating on the wire racks, exposing the metal underneath to rust. If you want your knives and your dishwasher to last longer, wash my hand.
How To Store Your Kitchen Knives
Storing your kitchen knives properly is one of the most important things you can do to keep them safe and in working order. Protecting the blade is one of the primary things you should be concerned about, as, failure to do so increases the chances of chipping the knife and increased time sharpening the blade. When stored properly, your knives will be safe from this damage, and they're less likely to fall and break. Also, consider small children if you think they could get to them? Best to move the knives out of reach and behind lock and key.
What Are My Storage Options?
You have a few choices about how to best store your kitchen knives. Here are a few of the most popular options:
- A wooden knife block - if you're buying a set of knives, a knife block is a convenient way to store all your knives in one place. Sometimes, when you buy a knife set, they'll come with a wooden block for safe storage. In other cases, you can buy a knife block separately. Make sure the one you purchase has room for all your knives and fits on your countertop.
- Magnetic knife holder - because of the iron content in kitchen knives magnetic holders are a great option, they'll stay firmly in place on a magnetic strip that you can mount to your wall. This makes it easy to access your knives while cooking and can save you space in drawers and on your countertop. Ensure the magnetic board you choose has enough real estate to hold all your knives, everything from your santoku knife to your boning knife can be stored and accessed with ease using a magnetic kitchen knife board.
- A knife drawer organizer - if you have space, you can have a dedicated drawer for all your knives. Buy a knife drawer organizer that fixes your knife into place, so it won't be damaged or rattled around in the drawer.
- Blade guards - if you prefer your knives loose? Blade guards will protect the blade edge, pay attention to the size of the blades and shape of the knife your protecting. The size and shape of your utility knife will vary compared to your fillet knife or santoku.
- Knife roll - often made from leather, canvas, or another heavy-duty material, a knife roll is a fabric carrying case with separate pockets for each knife. This is a great option if you need to take your knives with you on the go and need something lightweight and easy to carry.
These considerations apply to both Japanese kitchen knives and their western equivalent. What type of chef you are will help you to decide the best knife for you. We always advise newbies to start with the three essential knives every kitchen should have! Chef knife or santoku knife a paring knife and a bread knife. Speciality knives like boning knives and fillet knives can be added over time. It's our opinion its best to buy quality knives that will last instead of budget knife sets made with inferior steel unable to hold a sharp cutting edge.