Kitchen Knife Care: How to Select & Care for Your Professional Chef Knives by Gigi Gaggero
Any chef will tell you that their knifes are an extension of their body. If you are an avid cook you know knives are an important – and necessary – ingredient of any cook’s kitchen. Managing them isn’t as intuitive as you might think. Knives should be treated completely different than any other tool or appliance in your kitchen. Your favorite little paring knife can run upwards to $150! They definitely are expensive, but a great kitchen knife is worth the price. Proper handling is essential so you can get a return on your investment.
A well-made knife will offer you years and years of use. The more expensive the knife will mean it is forged from higher-quality metal, or a combination of metals, which means you can choose one that stays sharp longer. How much you spend should never be the deciding factor. In fact, the biggest decision when it comes to selecting a knife is holding it.
Not all knives feel the same, and more money doesn't necessarily translate to a better-feeling knife in your hand. This is why you should absolutely try to pick up and handle any knife before you buy it. Then, once you own it, take care of it. Like a baby. Here are expert-recommended tips for keeping your knives in top shape:
- Always hand wash. Placing your knives in the dishwasher is never a good idea. Detergents are abrasive and can easily pit the steel. Plus, the aggressive motion of the machine can dull and chip a blade and corrode the handle. Never allow wood-handled blades to come in contact with water.
- Don't allow your blades to sit in the sink. Not only is this a safety issue, your blades can be ruined by everything else in the sink including food and additional moisture and the clanging of other surfaces hitting the blades. If you own carbon steel, you can bet they will rust.
- Pay attention to your cutting surface. Always use a cutting board and never cut on a marble or granite surface. Materials, like natural wood, composite wood and plastic, make especially great cutting surfaces because the material gives slightly when cut into, which helps preserve the integrity of your knife’s blade.
- Sharpening is important! Find a qualified, professional knife sharpener. Unless you’re a blade expert, you probably should not be sharpening your own knives.
- How often you sharpen knives has a lot to do with the type of knife and how often you use it. Most consumers have German or other softer-steel knives. As a general rule of thumb, softer metals warrant a sharpening about once a year. Many chefs use Japanese or Swedish-forged knifes because these countries use harder steel, and harder steel stays sharper longer.
- Don’t confuse honing for sharpening! Running your knives against a steel rod – like the ones that come in many knife blocks – isn’t sharpening them. The steel only hones your knives. This means it realigns the blade at a microscopic level and has magnetic qualities that sweeps up any minor shards hanging around on the blade's edge. Honing regularly will improve your knife’s performance, but should never be a substitute for sharpening.
- Remember, a dull knife is dangerous. At some point it’s inevitable we all experience an unfortunate accident with our tools. It’s best to have a clean cut than a jagged one.
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