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How To Care For Your Chef Knives
For home cooks and professional chefs alike, nothing is more important (or exciting) than owning your own knife. A good chef knife allows you to express your own individuality, to work more quickly, more efficiently, more consistently, and more safely. And best of all, they’re just a lot of fun.
Like most tools, kitchen knives will always require some care and maintenance to keep them in the best shape and keep them performing at their best. The knives that I make are no exception. Some of the knives are made of carbon (non-stainless) steel, while others are made of stainless steel. Each will require different levels of care and attention.
By following a few care and maintenance steps, you will help keep your knives fighting fit.
Do not put the knife in a dishwasher
While dishwashers are a modern-day convenience, never put your knife in the dishwasher. Exposing the knife to so much abuse, moisture, and temperature changes will cause the knife handle to shrink, swell and/or crack. You don’t want your knife getting blemishes and other unpleasant traits that are easily avoided. A little warm water and soap is all you need, wipe or rinse and then dry the blade immediately after use.
Do Not Soak The Knife
If there’s grime stuck on a knife, don’t even consider soaking it in water for any amount of time. Allowing the knife to remain wet or dirty for an extended period will cause handles to become water damaged and carbon blades will rust. A little warm water and soap is all you need, wipe or rinse and then dry the blade immediately after use. You’ll note, most chefs constantly wipe their blades with a kitchen cloth during service to keep the blade clean.
Oil the Wooden Handle Frequently
While the natural materials such as wood or bone will have had a number of protective finishing layers applied when it was made, but it will need some maintenance to prevent the materials from drying out. Should the handle look dry and/or dull, you should refresh it with Danish Oil, Butcher block oil, Mineral Oil, Woodoc furniture wax, or other penetrating wood oils to help protect the timber as well as maintain the finish.
If rough edges or joints develop from shrink/swell of handle materials you can steel wool or lightly sand the joint or handle.
For further tips on maintaining your handles, read my post on the oiling your knife handles.
Special Care for Carbon Steel Blades
Carbon steel knives require a few extra steps to maintain your blade as it is particularly reactive to high acidic food items like tomatoes, onions or lemons. Therefore, it is imperative that you rinse your blade and wipe it dry after cutting anything. If not rinsed, the acid will begin to corrode the steel and damage your blade.
After washing and drying your knife, we recommend oiling it with food-safe, neutral oil, such as mineral oil or Fluid Film to protect your blade and encourage a slow and even patina (a patina is “not” rust but an oxide layer that will protect the steel. It can present as blue, purple or gold colours on the blade). The oil will act as a barrier to help protect against future exposure to moisture and acids. Wipe off any excess oil and store.
If you want to speed up the development of the patina, follow my guide on Forcing a patina.
Sharpening Your Knives
Keep great knives great by keeping them sharp. Invest in a “sharpening steel” for regular honing, and a water stone for more serious sharpening. Honing keeps microscopic dents and chips to a minimum, and for any serious damage (short of a severely chipped knife), the occasional bout with the water stone will take care of the rest.
Please refrain from using any other kind of sharpening device (handheld devices, electric sharpeners, pull through sharpeners, grinding wheels, belt grinders, etc.) as while they are convenient, they are not good for your knives.
All knives made by me receive free lifetime sharpening. Drop of them off with me or simply mail them to me (shipping not included) and I’ll sharpen them back up to their previous sharpness. Please include detailed contact information and service instructions when mailing knives for sharpening or repair.
Choosing the Right Chopping Board
This may seem like an odd one, but many people make the mistake of using their knives on the wrong cutting surface. Glass, ceramic, granite are not meant to be chopped on. The harsh surface continually notches the blade, wearing away the sharp edge, or even breaking the blade. Chopping directly on your granite countertop may seem harmless, but again, the hard, unforgiving surface does the blade no favours, quickly blunting it the edge and possibly damaging the blade in the long run.
A better choice is a wooden (end grain) or plastic board. Both have merits, but basically wooden boards allow the knife blade to sink between the fibers. This protects the blade by keeping the edge from jarring which has the benefit of maintaining your cutting edge for longer periods. Plastic boards are soft enough to do the same, and while plastic boards do show cut marks, this is part of their natural wear and tear. They can also be put into the dishwasher for a safe, hygienic clean.
Knives are tools that are indispensable companions in our daily lives and they also are investments. For these reasons, they should be well-maintained so that they perform better, last longer, and provide you with years and years of service.