Assembling a personal collection of knives is one of the first steps in becoming a professional. Just as an artist or craftsperson gathers together the tools necessary for painting, sculpting, or drawing, you will need to select knives that allow you to do your work in the safest and most efficient way. The knives you choose will become as important to you as your own fingers— quite literally an extension of your own hands.
If you love your knives, you probably already know the basics:
1. Handle knives with respect
Knives can be damaged if they are handled carelessly. Even though good-quality knives are manufactured to last a lifetime, they are still prone to damage if not properly taken care of.
2. Keep knives sharp
Learn the proper techniques for both sharpening and honing knives. A sharp knife not only performs better, but is safer to use because less effort is required to cut through the food. There are many ways to sharpen knives. Use a stone periodically, a sharpening machine, or send them to a professional cutlery sharpener.
3. Keep knives clean
Clean knives thoroughly, immediately after using them. Sanitize the entire knife, including the handle, bolster, and blade, as necessary, so that the tool will not cross-contaminate food. Do not clean knives in a dishwasher. Don't leave them in the sink. Dry them before storing them.
4. Use safe handling procedures for knives
There are standards of behaviour that should be remembered when using knives. When you are passing a knife, lay it down on a work surface so that the handle is extended toward the person who will pick it up. Whenever you must carry a knife from one area of the kitchen to another, hold the knife straight down at your side with the sharp edge facing behind you, and let people know you are passing by with something sharp.
When you lay a knife down on a work surface, be sure that no part of it extends over the edge of the cutting board or worktable. Also, do not cover the knife with food towels, equipment, and the like. Be sure the blade is facing away from the edge of the work surface. Do not attempt to catch a falling knife.
5. Use an appropriate cutting surface
Cutting directly on metal, glass, or marble surfaces will dull and eventually damage the blade of a knife. To prevent dulling, always use wooden or composition cutting boards.
6. Keep knives properly stored
Finding the right home for your knives is more than just a question of kitchen organization.
The right knife storage can help your knives stay sharper longer—and help your kitchen look sharper, too.
There are a number of safe, practical ways to store knives, including in knife kits or rolls, slots, racks, and on magnetized holders. Storage systems should be kept just as clean as knives.
These are three basic ways you can store your knives:
A- ON THE WALL
If you have space, a magnetic knife strip mounted on the wall above your counter is a great way to store your knives. Unlike some of the other storage methods, a magnetic strip enables you to see every inch of every knife, so you won't have to go searching for the one you want.
When picking a magnetic knife strip, keep a few things in mind: You want the magnet to be strong enough to hold your knives securely, but not too strong that the magnetic force will snap the knife to the bar. If the magnet's too strong and you're not careful, there's a slim chance you could chip the knife. To protect your blade from the dreaded "knife slap," make sure the first thing to hit the magnet and leave the magnet is the blunt backside of the blade rather than the sharp cutting side.
B- IN A DRAWER
If you have little kids at home, chances are they might want to play with the "shiny swords" on display on the wall. So knife magnets probably aren't ago in some kitchens. That's why some people use in-drawer storage for knives in their house.
For maximum flexibility, look for an in-drawer knife holder with slots that can fit a range of knife sizes. Some in-drawer storage units come with specifically-shaped slots or grooves for specific knives, but if you have your own diverse collection it can be frustrating to try to make your knives fit in these set slots.
C- ON THE COUNTER
If you have counter space to spare and want to keep your knives within easy reach of your work surface, a counter-top knife block is a way to go. But unless you want to be confined to the limited slots of a knife block set, don't bother with the one that comes standard with a set of knives.
To save space and for a cleaner, more elegant look, choose a block with slots at the top instead.
TIPS FOR CARE AND STORAGE
Don’t wait until a knife gets dull before taking care of it. The easiest system involves keeping your knives sharp in the first place, by giving them a quick honing and sharpening every few weeks.
Use a cutting surface that won’t dull them. Glass cutting boards are much too hard. Wood is gentlest, and thick plastic is next best. Make sure boards stay firmly in place on the counter by laying a kitchen towel underneath.
For storage, prevent nicks — including microscopic ones that dull the blade — by keeping knives away from one another. Store them in a block or on a magnetic strip; place them in a drawer if you don’t want to use the counter or wall space.
There’s no reason a knife with a synthetic handle and a stainless-steel or ceramic blade can’t be safely washed in the dishwasher — but you must place them so the knife can’t get jostled around or the edge can’t be chipped. But knives with wood handles, high-carbon-steel blades, and other sensitive materials should be washed by hand.
Small utility knives with very thin, flexible blades can’t be sharpened, so it’s best to find an inexpensive type that you like and replace them often. Serrated knives can’t be sharpened either so keep them out of harm’s way.
Do oil your knife wooden handle by mineral oil or natural beeswax.
Which kind of knives do you have? How do you take care of your knives?
Share your thoughts with us in the comment section.
Chef Maryam Ghargharechi
Proud mom, wife, and red seal chef with a passion!
Member of WACS, CCFCC, and BC Chefs' Association.