A kitchen knife is one of those things you don’t realise you reach for so often until it’s out of action or not performing up to scratch (pardon the pun).
That’s why investing in the care and maintenance of your kitchen knives is so important, especially when it comes to your safety, improving their performance and extending their lifespan.
In this article, we discuss the importance of knife care, provide tips on how to care for your knives, and suggest the best types of sharpeners to invest in. So, whether you are a professional chef or a home cook, read on to learn how to keep your kitchen knives in top condition!
Read on for our tips and tricks on how to keep your kitchen knives sharp and clean…
Why is it important to care for and maintain your kitchen knives?
Taking good care of and maintaining your kitchen knives is equally as important as the knives themselves. After all, it is somewhat pointless to invest in high-quality knives if they lose their sharpness and quality prematurely due to avoidable factors.
Maintenance and kitchen knife care are essential not only for safety and hygiene but also for your knives' overall performance, durability, and appearance. Plus, you’ll only need to invest a small amount of your time to ensure they are kept in tip-top condition.
Below, we’ve gone into more detail on why kitchen knife maintenance and care are paramount.
- Knife sharpness - proper care and maintenance will ensure that your kitchen knife collection remains sharp, allowing them to be more effective and efficient when used in conjunction with various cutting techniques.
- Longevity - this goes without saying, but taking care of your knives can help them last significantly longer. And, ensuring your kitchen knives last longer is also cost-effective, as it will eliminate the need to splurge on expensive replacements.
- Safety - a sharp knife is safer to use than a dull one. Why? Because a sharp kitchen knife requires less force from you to cut through ingredients, which reduces the risk of the knife slipping and causing an accident!
- Rust prevention - a rusty blade isn’t incredibly effective regarding the knife’s overall performance, and it’s entirely preventable damage with a little maintenance.
- Knife appearance - if you’ve invested in quality kitchen knives, you’ll likely want them to maintain their stellar appearance for as long as possible. Well-maintained kitchen knives will allow your collection to look better for much longer, which can be especially important if you use them in a professional setting.
Essential care and maintenance tools for kitchen knives
Eventually, a well-loved kitchen knife will become blunt over time and more difficult to use, making it harder to slice through things with a clear, effortless cut. This not only slows the food preparation process down but also compromises knife safety and the finesse of your plate presentation.
How often a knife requires sharpening will depend on how rigorously you use it, so go with the flow - it could be once a month or once a year; it really just depends on how often you reach for that particular knife.
There are several options on the market, but a whetstone knife sharpener is one of the most popular (and traditional) options.
What is a whetstone knife sharpener?
A whetstone sharpener can be defined as a solid block, which is made of ceramic or synthetic material that can be soaked in water and then used to sharpen blunt knife blades.
A whetstone is a traditional Japanese knife sharpener, sometimes also referred to as a ‘sharpening stone’ or ‘water stone’. However, evidence suggests that whetstone sharpeners can be traced back to ancient civilisations like Egypt and Rome, with many believing these tools to be at least 75,000 years old.
When it comes to sharpening knives, Japanese whetstones are widely regarded as the best in terms of quality and the results they can achieve. This is because they have a unique ability to sharpen knives gently and softly while still producing favourable results due to typically being made from more refined grain.
Whetstone sharpeners are available in various grains, depending on how refined you need the repair and sharpening to be. We recommend grains of 800-3000 for domestic use.
Can all kitchen knives be sharpened with a whetstone?
Yes, all kitchen knives, except those with serrated blades, can be sharpened using a whetstone unless the manufacturer's instructions state otherwise.
How to sharpen kitchen knives using a whetstone sharpener
How to sharpen a knife using a whetstone sharpener can vary depending on the kitchen knife type and the whetstone sharpener you plan on using.
So, we’ve provided a general step-by-step guide on accurately using a whetstone sharpener below - but always remember to refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines and instructions before using it for sharpening!
- Start by soaking the whetstone sharpener in water for roughly 10-15 minutes. This ensures that the tool is fully lubricated, minimising the chance of friction or overheating when sharpening.
- Some whetstones don’t require the same level of soaking (e.g. ceramic whetstones), so double-check the manufacturer’s advice beforehand.
- Next, hold the knife at a 15° to a 20°-degree angle against the whetstone.
- Always remember to ensure that the blade is facing away from you.
- Then, you’ll want to shift your attention to the base of the blade. Move the knife back and forth along the whetstone smoothly and consistently, maintaining the same angle throughout.
- If you’re new to using a whetstone sharpener, take your time.
- Once you’re satisfied with the results on one side of the blade, repeat the sharpening process on the other side. This will require you to use the same number of strokes for optimum results.
- After sharpening your kitchen knife, rinse it with running water and dry it off using a towel - and you’re done!
Depending on the kitchen knife type, the whole process shouldn’t take you any longer than 15 to 20 minutes. However, it’s worth noting that the more time you spend sharpening your knives, the better the result.
And it’s worth noting that using a whetstone sharpener is widely seen as a skill, which is why it’s a common fixture in professional kitchens. So, don’t feel disheartened if you don’t quite get it right the first time. With a bit of consistency, you’ll be a pro in no time!
Looking for another type of knife sharpener?
If you already have a whetstone sharpener or want to explore other options, we’ve got you well covered here at Milly’s Store. See below for more information on alternative knife sharpeners.
Ceramic, steel, and diamond knife sharpeners
Our ceramic, steel and diamond knife sharpening poles are all designed to refine blunt edges and smooth any nicks or chips in the blade. Ceramic and steel are the least abrasive making them perfect for less intensive use, while diamond provides a rock-solid way to refine your blades.
These products are also perfect for honing your knives, which means maintaining a blade that is already sharp and doesn’t require too much in the way of repair.
This type of sharpener doesn’t require any water or oil for you to use it. However, adding a liquid to the process can improve the outcome and make sharpening your knife a little easier.
Pull-through knife sharpeners are the quickest and easiest of the non-electric options out there. You simply slide your blade into the pre-cut slot and pull it through. As you guide the knife through, it is sharpened and refined by ceramic wheels inside the hand-held device.
When selecting a pull-through knife, make sure to triple-check whether or not it is compatible with your knife. For example, some pull-throughs might be suitable for Japanese knives but not their European counterparts.
It’s worth mentioning that some pull-through sharpeners require water to be added, so always check the individual product manual for guidance before you begin sharpening your kitchen knives.
Electric knife sharpeners
As the name suggests, electric knife sharpeners provide a less labour-intensive alternative to traditional manual options. All you’ll need to do is plug the device in, insert your knife blade into the grooves, and the rotating abrasive belts will do all the hard work for you.
Electric knife sharpeners do tend to be more expensive, but they are great for providing incredible results with a fraction of the effort!
Kitchen knife cleaning techniques
One of the most important things to consider when it comes to looking after your kitchen knives and extending their lifespan is how you clean them - and not just how but when.
So, if you’re wondering how to clean your kitchen knives to keep them sharp and hygienic without damaging them, follow the simple steps below.
Clean as you chop and cook
Cleaning and tidying as you go along is the secret to stress-free kitchen success. It means you’ve got space to work on your kitchen tops and don’t have to deal with a mountain of dishes once you’re done. Taking this approach is also essential for protecting your kitchen knives.
Most modern kitchen knives are made using stainless steel, which means they contain specific alloys to reduce rusting. However, acidic ingredients like lemon, onion, vinegar, tomato, and alcohol are all highly corrosive and can damage your knives over time.
To prevent issues with corrosion, wipe your knives down as you go along. Once you’ve chopped your onions, rinse the knife under water and dry with a paper towel or kitchen cloth before you carry on with your recipe prep.
This is a crucial step for all kitchen knives but particularly important for high-carbon steel knives, which are more easily damaged by high acid content.
Wash immediately after use with warm soapy water
Once you’re finished using a knife, don’t leave it to lay around for too long. Wash it immediately to remove any food remnants or acidic ingredients that may be left on it. Use warm, soapy water to wash your knives by hand, being careful to avoid cutting yourself with the blade.
Avoid using highly abrasive sponges or scourers, and use a mild, fragrance-free soap. Using a soap that’s too harsh or high in fragrance risks damaging the knife and leaving a trace of the soap smell behind that could impact the taste of your food the next time you use it.
Don’t hang about when it comes to drying
Time is of the essence when it comes to washing your kitchen knives straight after use, but drying them is just as vital too.
Leaving your knife to soak or air dry means it will stay moist for longer, allowing bacteria to build up on the handle and at the base of the blade where it meets the handle.
As we mentioned above, most modern kitchen knives are made using anti-rust materials. However, leaving your knife wet for prolonged periods will eventually cause rust patterns to develop on the blade. This tends to happen on the knife's cutting edge, where the stainless steel might have worn thin with use.
Once you’ve washed your knife, dry it thoroughly straight away with a kitchen towel or paper cloth and store it safely. Doing this will also help give your knives a nice polished finish.
Never put your kitchen knives in the dishwasher
You could be forgiven for thinking that putting your kitchen knives in the dishwasher is a great way to give them a more thorough and intense cleaning. A mistake many of us will have made once or twice.
However, the high temperatures and strong dishwasher detergents can be extremely damaging to kitchen knives. The heat can warp wood handles, break down resin and increase the risk of rust damage.
So, if you want your kitchen knives to last longer, don’t take the shortcut of chucking them in the dishwasher. Always wash and dry them gently by hand instead.
The benefits of oiling your kitchen knives
Oiling isn’t a compulsory part of the cleaning and maintenance process, but it is a great way to protect your kitchen knives and prolong their lifespan. It helps to lubricate the blade, stop rust and prevent corrosion.
Knife oiling can be done as regularly or sporadically as you like. You can do it after every use, if you have time, or as little as once a month to still reap the benefits.
What oil is best to use on a kitchen knife?
You can use any kind of neutral oil for oiling your knives. A food-grade mineral oil is ideal, but a neutral cooking oil like grapeseed or peanut oil is perfectly fine too.
Carefully apply the oil to your knife once it has been washed and dried, being extra cautious not to cut yourself on the blade's sharp edge.
We recommend using a paper towel for the oiling process and laying your knife down on a flat surface to make the process easier and safer. Always work towards the knife edge, so you don’t end up wiping against the blade.
Once your knife has been oiled, you can simply pop it away in your knife block for safe storage.
Care and maintain kitchen knives by investing in knife storage
Many people store their kitchen knives by putting them in a cutlery drawer or standing in a utensil pot with other kitchen apparatus. However, this isn’t the most effective way to protect your best kitchen knives from becoming blunt, damaged, scratched, and dulled.
How you store your kitchen knives when they’re not in use has as much of an effect on their lifespan and maintenance as how you use, clean, and dry them.
The best kitchen knife storage options
One of the best ways to store kitchen knives is in a purpose-built knife block. These typically come in a choice of wood or stainless steel, so there’s something to suit every kitchen.
You can purchase knife blocks pre-filled with knives or buy an empty block if you already have a set of knives you’re looking to store more effectively.
Not only do knife blocks protect your knives and keep them all in one place, but they also provide you with peace of mind when it comes to kitchen safety. As knives are stored with the blade point facing down, you don’t run the risk of them cutting anybody when rummaging around in cutlery drawers or utensil holders.
Knife safety is a particularly important thing to consider for your kitchen storage solutions when you’ve got children, pets, or older adults with impaired vision around the home.
Your key kitchen knife maintenance takeaways
Here are the most important pearls of wisdom to take from this guide to caring for and maintaining your kitchen knives:
Kitchen knife sharpening
- Invest in a good quality knife sharpener to restore your blade back to its former glory whenever it goes blunt.
- A whetstone knife sharpener is a traditional Japanese implement used by rubbing the blade slightly against a wet stone block.
- Other knife sharpener options include ceramic and steel pole sharpeners, electric sharpeners, and pull-through gadgets.
- How often you need to sharpen your knife and which product you use will depend on the specific knife and how often you use it.
Kitchen knife cleaning
- Clean your knives as you go, and never put them in the dishwasher - always wash gently by hand with mild soap.
- Dry your knives straight away to prevent rust and bacteria build-up.
- Oiling your kitchen knives regularly with a neutral oil will lubricate the blade, provide a polished finish and protect against corrosion.
Kitchen knife storage
- Store your kitchen knives in a knife block, rather than a drawer or utensil holder, for maximum protection and improved kitchen safety.
General advice for maintaining kitchen knives
- Use a wooden or plastic chopping board to protect the blade, as these are more forgiving than solid materials like glass.
- Don’t just grab the closest knife to you; choose the appropriate knife for the task at hand. For example, you wouldn’t use a bread knife to carve meat, would you?
- Don’t over-sharpen your knives, as this can wear the sharp, precise part of the blade away entirely.
- Use the back of the blade to scrape food off a chopping board or plate rather than the sharp edge.
Now you know how to look after your kitchen knives correctly, all that’s left to do is to equip yourself with the tools you need to get the jobs done properly. That’s where we come in!
Milly’s Store: your one-stop shop for kitchen care and maintenance tools
We hope you’ve found all this information useful and feel more clued up on caring for your kitchen knives. Good quality knives are an investment, after all, so it’s important you’re able to make the most of them!
Plus, with well-looked-after kitchen knives at your fingertips, you can take your ingredient prep and cooking skills to the next level, creating dishes that taste better than ever.
We have everything you need right here, from a new whetstone knife sharpener to a new knife block to add to your kitchen storage. And when you shop at Milly’s Store, you can always expect exceptional, long-lasting quality from the best brands in the industry.