The Ultimate Guide to Caring for Your Kitchen Knives

If you need to sharpen up on your Knife care skills, this ultimate guide has got you covered.

Emily Borst|Nov 03, 2020
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A quality set of kitchen Knives can last you a lifetime—but only if you maintain and care for them properly. This includes regular sharpening and honing, cleaning, and using them on the right surfaces and for appropriate tasks.

If you want to brush up on your knife care skills or to ensure your blades withstand the test of time, we’ve got you covered with this ultimate knife care guide. Read on for all of our expert knife tips, tricks, and techniques.

How to Clean Your Knives

Cleaning your knives is important for both sanitary and practical reasons. If food particles or stains aren’t cleaned off of your blade, they could solidify and become difficult to remove, which can dull your blade. This is why it’s important to wash your knives immediately after use.

When cleaning your knives, especially a high-quality set, you should avoid the dishwasher and hand-wash only. Dishwashers use high heat and abrasive cleaners, which can dull the blade and damage the handle of your knife (especially if you have a handle made of wood, like Olive). If you’ve invested in quality knives, then take the extra step to clean them properly to help preserve the integrity of your blades.

When hand-washing your knives, always keep the blade pointed away from you and your fingers and use a dishcloth or sponge with warm water and dish soap to carefully wipe each side of the blade. To do this with even more caution, lay the knife on your kitchen counter and wipe each side of the blade.

If there are any stubborn food particles stuck to the blade, the best course of action is to soak the knife for a few minutes in a mixture of hot water and dish soap. While it may seem easier to scrub until the food comes off, aggressively scrubbing the blade could lead to you accidentally cutting yourself. Soaking the blade for a few minutes is usually enough to loosen up the particles and make them easy to wipe off without incident.

If your knife is seriously dirty or

rusty

, check out our guide to other cleaning techniques.

Once your blade is nice and clean, carefully wipe it dry to prevent water marks from staining the metal. Put it back in its proper place (be it a knife block, drawer, or in its sheath) and you’re ready to go for next time.

How to Sharpen Your Knives

Even knives like ours that are crafted in a fifth-generation factory in Theirs, France get dull with use—though low-quality knives will dull much faster than high-quality ones. In order to keep your blades sharp and ready to slice, dice, or mince, it’s up to you to

hone and sharpen

your knives.

Honing is a process of realigning the blade when it gets slightly warped due to day to day use. This is generally done with a honing rod and removes very little from the blade of your knife. If done frequently, honing is a way to keep knives performing at their very best.

Sharpening occurs when your knife has dulled past the point of honing making it sharper, so a sharpening tool (like a whetstone or electric sharpener) shaves a thin layer off the blade to create a new edge. This is done much less frequently than honing. You can read our full guide on

how to sharpen knives

for more detail.

Knife sharpening and honing can be thought of like taking care of your teeth. Honing is like brushing your teeth—do it often. Sharpening is like going to the dentist—twice a year should do.

Why Sharp Knives are Important

You may have heard it said that a sharp knife is safer than a dull one. Since a dull knife has less “grip” than a sharp one, it’s more likely to slip while you’re slicing, potentially injuring you. You are also likely using more force to get the blade through and if it slips, all of that force could end up going directly into your hand. It’s better to be safe than sorry and keep up with knife sharpening and maintenance for this reason.

Knife Sharpening Basics

We receive plenty of questions from customers who want to make sure they’re taking the best care possible of their Knives. We compiled some of our most-frequently asked questions so you can stay in the know about knife sharpening before you even make your first cut.

What Is the Ideal Knife Sharpness?

In general, knife sharpness relates to the angle of the blade—the more acute the angle, the sharper the blade will be. In most cases, the ideal degree for a knife will be between 15 and 30 degrees. High-quality knives will come out of the box at the right angle, and you won’t have to worry about the angle as you start slicing.

How Do I Know When a Knife Needs to Be Sharpened?

You can generally tell that your knife needs to be sharpened if it fails one (or both) of two tests: The paper test and  tomato test.

Paper Test:

Hold a sheet of paper in the air by one end. With the other hand, carefully slice through the paper. If your knife isn’t able to slice cleanly through the paper, it likely needs to be sharpened.

Tomato Test:

Slice through a tomato on a cutting board. If the knife isn’t able to easily pierce the skin of the tomato, then you have a dull knife on your hands.

Can You Over-Sharpen a Knife?

If you’re concerned about “over-sharpening” your knife, don’t be. With regular honing and once- or twice-yearly sharpening, the odds of you damaging your knife from over-sharpening are extremely slim. If you want to be extra cautious, you can always take your knives to a professional sharpener rather than doing it yourself.

Knife Usage Tips

There are a few other suggestions we have to ensure your Knives last through many meal preps to come.

Use Knives on Correct Surfaces

When you’re in a rush and need to quickly slice an apple or block of cheese, the last thing you want to do is drag out a cutting board and have another dish to clean. It can be so tempting to do your cutting on a plate, paper towel, or right on your countertop—but what surface you cut on does make a difference.

Your knife will dull much faster if you’re cutting on hard, abrasive surfaces like a stone cutting board or granite countertop. Resist the temptation and get out a

wooden butcher’s block

or

plastic cutting board

instead—you’ll thank yourself later when you’re not sharpening your knives every two months.

Store Knives Correctly

Storing knives the right way is also important to maintain their sharpness—if they’re loose in a drawer with other knives and

flatware

, the blade can become dull or damaged, not to mention it easier to sustain an injury when reaching for something else. Luckily, there are a number of ways you can save space even in the smallest of kitchens while still  storing knives correctly.

Plastic sheaths:

These sheaths that your Knives come in help protect the blade and allow you to store them in a drawer without fear that the blade will be damaged.

Cork-lined drawer insert:

These keep your knives together and at the ready in a drawer, without taking up counter space like a knife block.

Knife block:

That said, if you have counter space to spare, a knife block is a classic storage solution for a reason—each knife has an easily-accessible slot.

Magnetic wall strip:

This is a great storage solution for anyone with limited counter and drawer space while still keeping your knives accessible.

Ensuring that you’re taking proper care of your knives can pay off tenfold when you have reliable instruments to practice

knife cuts

with. Investing in high-quality knives sets you up for success, but maintaining and caring for your knives properly can ensure you have knives you can count on for years to come.