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People make numerous avoidable mistakes in kitchen knife care and maintenance.
Knowing how to care for your blades and keep them at their best improves efficiency and presentation in the kitchen, cuts down the chances of injury, and ensures you have a more enjoyable time prepping food.

The seven sins of kitchen knife care examines the most common mistakes in blade care and presents options to improve their performance.

1. Blunt Knife Trauma

Knife on Cutting Board
Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Dull edged blades prevent precision cutting, making your food look squashed, exploded, or hacked instead of being arrayed in neat, clean cuts.

Worse, blunt knives are one of the kitchen’s leading causes of accidents. They create situations for cuts and scrapes thanks to excessive force, or lead to injuries from using blades not meant for the task when the right type of knife can’t do the job.

It’s also important to note that the cost of your blade doesn’t necessarily ensure your blade is always sharp. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s direction for optimal sharpness and efficiency.

If you aren’t sure how sharp your blade is, try cutting a fresh tomato. That will sort you out in a hurry.

2. Ignoring Your Whetstone/Honing Steel

Different Whetstones
Image Source: Didriks via Flickr CC BY 2.0

A knife wears down more quickly if it’s not maintained correctly, creating problems with how your food is prepared and drastically increasing the chances of accidents in your kitchen.

Some cheaper knives are designed to stay sharp for a period of use and then be discarded, while others have automatic sharpeners as part of their kit meant to keep blades working at a premium level.

I prefer using a simple whetstone with two tones of coarseness to periodically sharpen my blades, and work each knife on a piece of honed steel in between uses to maintain the blade’s edge.

I can get up to three months from my high-use knives, and then settle down to therapeutic sharpening when they begin to look dull.

Others take their blades to professionals for upkeep. If you go this route, make sure that your high rotation knives (chef knife, Santoku, paring, utility knives) are sharpened three to four times a year.

Always make sure you have a piece of honing steel to maintain a sharper edge on your blades for longer.

Below is an excellent clip for beginners on how to sharpen your knife blades.

3. Incorrect Knife Technique

Cutting Green Beans
Image by Christoph Schütz from Pixabay

Outside of using a blunt blade, an incorrect cutting technique is the other major factor contributing to cuts, injury, and poorly performing knives.

While you don’t have to be trained as a professional chef, it’s important to have a basic skill set to keep your fingers intact and maintain speed, efficiency, and presentation.

Practice your knife skills in the clip below for general technical improvement, and go looking for more specific information when attempting something tricky, like deboning a chicken. Your fingers, and knives, will thank you for making the effort.

4. Using The Wrong Blade For The Job

Knife Block
Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Using a knife not made for the task at hand is one thing I’m often guilty of, mainly because I don’t want to spend an extra 20-30 seconds to get the right one. I also have a favorite knife, which is both a blessing and a curse when I’m prepping in the kitchen.

A lot of these issues circle back to blunt blades, not only sheer laziness. That’s why having as many sharp knives visible to your workspace helps your brain make the extra effort.

You don’t need 24 individual knives and a detailed purpose for each, but knowing the strengths of five or six does make a noticeable difference

Your knife edges will last longer, your skills will stay sharp (sorry), and your cutting efficiency and food presentation will be better quality if you use the right equipment for the job.

5. Knife Work on the Wrong Surface

Glass Cutting Board
Image Source: JD Hancock via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Chopping, cutting, and slicing on the wrong surface destroys your blades quickly, and if you have sensory issues can also give you the heebie-jeebies.

When I started to take kitchen craft more seriously, out went the decorative glass cutting boards and cheese servers, replaced with quality treated wood pieces and color-coded, heat retardant plastic boards.

6. Knives in the Dishwasher and Poor Cleaning

Open Dishwasher
Image by Krystieyeo Yeo from Pixabay

It’s very simple. Don’t put your knives in the dishwasher (except for butter knives and cheap steak knives).

The detergent from the dishwasher tablets and water abrasion from dishwasher cycles will destroy your blades and handles rapidly, making your investment in a quality kitchen kit a waste of time.

You should only need to rinse them in hot water, or at worst scrub off food under a flowing tap, dry with a clean cloth, and put them away dry to keep them in good order.

Be proud of your knives, and always treat them well.

7. Incorrect Storage and/or Transport

Magnetic Knife Board
Photo by Danilo Rios on Unsplash

There are a few good storage options, but throwing kitchen knives in with all your other utensils is not one of them. Not only could you hurt yourself reaching for an unprotected blade, you could wear and dull the edges by putting them in contact with other tools.

Knife blocks are good, but I’ve found that because I have a lot of individual knives, a magnetic strip is great for storage and display. Mine is transferable on wood because I’m renting.

I’m also more inclined to use the correct knife if I can see in front of me, well within arm’s reach instead of in a drawer over yonder.

Also, if you transport your knives, make sure that they are transported with care, by employing individual sheaths or a knife back to take them to and fro. Clanking them around in transit can cause problems to the blades, and injuries to you or someone else handling them.

Conclusion

Common sense, sensible equipment, and general care for your knives will help to make them last longer, work more effectively, and improves your kitchen experience.

Avoiding lazy mistakes, developing your skills, and caring for your kit also will make a huge difference in how your kitchen knives are maintained, how your food looks when it’s prepared, and lowering the risk of injuries.