Most of the food we use to make requires the use of a sharp knife. So whether it is to save time or to get rid of the trouble, the need for a sharp knife in cooking is immense.
With your busy schedule, you used to feel like it wasn’t worth it to spend time only washing your knives a specific way and re-sharpening your kitchen knives again and again and again, so your kitchenware quickly went from “dull” to practically “unusable”.
You may also didn’t understand why your knives were losing their edge so quickly in the first place! After talking to several chefs and doing research, though, I discovered 5 reasons why kitchen knives were dulling so quickly.
By avoiding these 5 bad habits and using superior methods, you will be able to keep any kitchen knife in good condition and maintain its keen cutting edge for years. Best of all, these practices are quick and easy while still being extremely effective!
Why is Having Sharp Kitchen Knives Important?
Having dull kitchen knives can be a massive source of frustration. Sure, your knife doesn’t have to be razor-sharp to cut tomatoes and basil, but when cutting pork or poultry the difference is much more pronounced.
If you have a dull kitchen knife, cutting onions can go from mildly irritating for your eyes to just plain irritating, and that’s even without going into the risk involved with using a dull knife to cut things.
The potential danger comes from the fact that the edge of a knife’s blade is never actually perfectly straight. Even if the knife has been sharpened recently, it still has tiny imperfections, such as a slight waviness along the edge or an imperceptible bend in one direction.
When the knife is sharp, this isn’t an issue since the blade can slice cleanly through whatever is being cut.
However, if the blade you’re cutting with is dull then small dents, a burr (a small fold of metal along the edge of a blade), and general unevenness can all begin to build up. Not only will you need to apply more pressure to actually cut anything, but the blade is more likely to veer off course.
This means that using a dull kitchen knife could cause serious injury if the knife slips and cuts you instead of whatever you are working on. In short, having sharp knives is not only a matter of convenience, it is a matter of safety.
What Counts as a Kitchen Knife?
Although some people might argue that any knife used in the kitchen is a “kitchen knife”, these 5 practices apply specifically to knives in the kitchen that is or should be, sharp. This includes paring knives, serrated knives, and what are commonly known as chef’s knives.
Paring knives tend to have a narrower blade and are used for their precision in tasks such as peeling and cutting certain vegetables into small pieces.
Serrated knives are used for cutting things with a harder exterior than the interior, such as citrus, tomatoes, and, of course, bread.
Finally, full tang or half tang chef’s knives, arguably the most versatile of the three, have a wider blade that is slightly rounded to make dicing vegetables and fruits easier. They can be used for everything from cubing vegetables to cutting herbs to mincing meat.
1. Don’t Cut On Certain Surfaces
There will be times when you need to cut a few cucumbers and bell peppers to toss into your salad and you don’t want to use a cutting board because that’s one more dish you will need to wash.
So, you’ll just cut the vegetables on your clean ceramic counter. It saves time, it saves dishes, and it seems harmless, but it’s not!
Using kitchen knives to cut on especially hard surfaces, such as ceramic and stone, dulls kitchen knives extremely quickly and can lead to dents and dives in the blade itself, not to mention potential damage to whatever surface is being cut on.
It is also possible that the blade will slip on a surface as smooth and hard as ceramic or stone, which could lead to injury. Instead, to avoid these risks, use either a plastic or a wooden cutting board.
Also, don’t use the edge of the blade to scrape together the vegetables into a neat pile on the cutting board, as this can cause a burr along the edge of the blade. Instead, simply use the back of the blade, or use a different utensil to achieve the same result.
Always using a cutting board may end up causing a few more dishes that will need to be washed, but it’s worth it to keep your knives razor-sharp!
2. Do Not Abuse the Cooking Knives
This is one bad habit that people used to do constantly. For example, you would get a package delivered and instead of using a box cutter, you would just grab a kitchen knife and use that to open up the box.
Or, you would be trying to get a chunk of cooked-on food out of a pan that stubbornly refused to leave, so you would just quickly use a knife to scratch it off and save yourself from the trouble. However, using a kitchen knife for these and similar purposes is extraordinarily damaging to its blade.
Kitchen knives are extremely versatile, but they are not multi-tools, and they shouldn’t be used as such. This includes using knives to cut things they shouldn’t be used to cut.
For example, don’t use a chef’s knife to hack at a ham bone. Instead, use a cleaver designed specifically for that specific task.
3. Store All Kitchen Knives Safely
The problem with some knife blocks is that they only fit the knives they were designed to fit. This is great when only using the knives it came with, but when I bought a new knife, there was no slot to slide it into!
I thought about putting the knife in my drawer with the other silverware, but there were two immediate issues.
One was that storing a naked blade loosely like that can lead to it banging against other things in the drawer, thereby denting and dulling the blade.
The other was that I really didn’t want to forget I had put it in there, reach for a fork without looking, and end up bandaging an injury while my dinner got cold in the next room. So, I simply bought plastic knife sheaths, solving both problems.
Sometimes you may not find plastic sheaths for all of your knives, so you can set up a metal strip along with your wall with magnets on it. Simply hang your knives on the wall, which will not only create a unique decoration of the kitchen, it will keep your knives sharp as there will be minimal contact with anything when the blades are not used.
Really, any method of storing your kitchen knives is fine as long as the knives are firmly stationary and out of the way. This ensures not only that the blades are safe from denting and dulling, but that you remain safe as well.
4. Carefully Clean the Kitchen Knives
Most dishwashers use abrasive detergents designed to thoroughly clean dishes. Unfortunately, this same cleaning process that works wonders on mugs and plates can be potentially harmful to your kitchen knives. The dish detergent can cause not only dulling but sometimes rust and corrosion on the blades as well.
This means that if you want to keep your knives sharp and in good condition, you should wash them by hand. Simply put a small amount of dish soap on a clean cloth or brush, gently scrub until the knife is clean, and then rinse with hot water. Afterward, be sure to pat the blade dry with a clean cloth or with paper towels.
I’ve found that if you wash your kitchen knives immediately after use, nothing has time to dry and cake onto the blade, so they are surprisingly easy to clean. It is a small habit that only takes a few minutes, but remember to do it can ensure that your kitchen knives stay in good condition and maintain their sharp edge.
5. Sharpen Your Knives Regularly
This may seem like obvious advice, but that doesn’t make it any less useful. The two most important things to keep in mind when sharpening your kitchen knives are regularity and safety. If you use specific knives especially often, you can sharpen them up to every week as needed.
However, it’s generally good practice to simply sharpen the kitchen knives you use regularly roughly once a month. Further, always sharpen the blade by moving it so that the edge of the knife is away from your body, and don’t apply too much pressure. This ensures both your safety and the safety of your knives, whose blades can be damaged by being roughly scraped.
If you think that regular sharpening is a time-consuming and troublesome task then you can buy a high-quality self-sharpening knife block set. The built-in sharpeners will automatically sharpen straight-edged knives every time you use them from the block.
For sharpening serrated knives, place the knife on the sharpening steel so that the steel rests lightly in the first serration (the groove in the knife closest to the handle). Using barely any pressure at all, gently slide the blade back and forth along the sharpening steel two to three times.
Move to the next serration up and repeat until each serration has been sharpened. Then, simply slide the sharpening steel across the other side of the blade to remove any raised burr that may have formed. At this point, your knife should be sharpened!
Next, simply rinse the knife off in warm water to remove anything that may have clung to the knife and then dry the blade by dabbing it with a cloth before putting it away.
For paring knives and chef’s knives, the process is even easier! Simply slide the blade smoothly along the sharpening steel four to seven times at a 10-20 degree angle. Repeat for the other side, and then give the first side one last glide before rinsing and dabbing dry.
At some point, no matter how high the quality of the knife maybe, or how well it’s cared for, every kitchen knife will eventually need to be replaced. However, by following these practices, you will be able to ensure an even safer environment in your kitchen and will drastically increase the life and sharpness of your kitchen knives!