How to maintain, wash and sharpen kitchen knives

There’s no point in investing in a good tool if it doesn’t get the maintenance it deserves. It doesn’t require a lot of effort either, but if you want it to last for several years and keep its edge over time, you need to give it that minimum amount of maintenance.

The knife, as we have said more than once, is the queen tool of the kitchen. Our best dishes will come out of its blade and the experience will be pleasant whenever we have to chop, cut, chop or slice food will depend on its sharpness. A bad knife can turn cooking into a frustrating nightmare full of injuries and problems, while a good knife will make us feel like we’re in a cooking tutorial. Gordon Ramsey on YouTube (but without so much olive oil).

But it is not enough to buy a reliable knife. Just as important as that monetary investment is what we then do in time and dedication to properly care for it, giving it the cleanliness, space and sharpening it deserves. Here are the main concerns that must be taken with this tool, so that our days in front of the cutting board are fluid and as clean as a santoku wrought iron.


Behind cleaning a kitchen knife, there isn’t much science; what there is, or should be, is samurai rigor. Because the only materials needed are a sponge, dishwashing liquid and water, ideally lukewarm, but discipline is essential, because the knife – if you want it to last for many years – must never be dirty from the day the next day, let alone submerged in the bottom of the dishwasher with the rest of the cutlery.

“Letting it soak for several hours can dull the edge,” says Joel Pérez, an expert at the specialty store. knife shop . And if that happens often, no matter how sharp we sharpen it (a step we’ll get to later), the useful life of the knife will be drastically reduced. The constant presence of humidity is also likely to affect the handle, regardless of the material it is. That’s why you should never, ever! wash kitchen knives in the dishwasher.

So there is no other option than to mentalize to wash them by hand and always right after using them. Turn it into a routine habit: just as in the pandemic we knew how to wash our hands every time we arrived somewhere, at home we will have to learn to wash the knife after each task.

In addition (and without exaggeration): if we really want our knife to accompany us for many years, it must be cleaned even while we cook. If, in a recipe, we have to cut foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes or pickles – the acids of which can corrode the edge of the blade and cause it to brown more quickly – the best thing to do is to rinse it quickly, then to continue with the work.

Of course, none of this is useful if after washing we do not dry the knife immediately. Here, too, there is no particular technique or age-old secret: just wipe it with a clean cloth or paper towel until no trace of moisture remains.

to safeguard

According to the man from the Knife Store, how you store your knife is key to maintaining it. “To make the edge last longer, you should never leave them in a drawer with other cutlery or cooking utensils,” says Pérez. What is the problem? “The friction with other metals, when opening and closing the drawer, can wear and scratch the blade.”

A sharp kitchen knife in a drawer is also a very effective way to cut your hand. Therefore, if we want our fingers and our tool to remain unscathed, all that remains is to save them in another way.

A magnetic bar is ideal, both because it saves space — they can be installed on a wall or on the side of kitchen furniture — and because it keeps the knife stationary and without any friction. But if there is no possibility to put one, the so-called knife blocks are an alternative: although they take up space on the counter, they keep all the tools in a safe place and at handy.

Brando magnetic knife bar

In this second case, yes, you have to look at two things: that its slots are wide enough for knives of different sizes to enter (if they are very narrow they can alter the edge); and that they are not made of wood, because it is a material that requires a lot of hygiene and can serve as a habitat for bacteria and fungi.

And if neither of these two options is possible, there are two others, although a little less practical. The first is to buy plastic sheaths for the knives, so they can be stored safely in a drawer. This makes them less close, but at least they provide security, both for you and for the knife. And the second among the seconds is to obtain a support to store the knives in the drawer: a structure that allows the tools to remain still, fixed and orderly.

Madesmart Knife Drawer Organizer


A maxim repeated by everyone, knife experts and chefs alike, is that there is nothing more dangerous in a kitchen than a blunt knife. A dull or poor quality cutting blade will force you to use more force or apply demanding movements, which will make the job less efficient and injury more likely.

That’s why one of the most frequently asked questions from customers of Joel Pérez is about sharpening. How do you keep a knife ready to cut?

The man from the Knife Store invites us to distinguish between two things that are similar but different: sharpening and keeping the edge. The second is that which we see butchers or fishmongers do, when they continually pass their knives through long irons — called steels — before beginning to fillet.

“A lot of people think that running the knife through the sharpening steel is to sharpen it,” says Pérez. “But what it actually does is grind it down and lengthen it, so you don’t have to sharpen it as often.” By passing the blade through this instrument – which is usually made of steel, although there is also diamond – the microscopic remnants of metal that remain on the cutting edge are eliminated, and it thus regains its original shape.

Sharpening with steel is simple: at a 20° angle, the knife must be run along the cutting edge in an arcing motion.

How often should you use the steel? “Always before cooking,” Pérez suggests, or once a day. When you feel that steel is not enough, you have to sharpen the knife. Something that, depending on how we use the tool, should happen every two or three months.

The most traditional method of sharpening is with a stone, but it takes a lot of knowledge and a lot of technique. “They have a whole process: you first have to let the stones soak then pass the knives with great precision”, explains the specialist. “If you do it with the wrong angle or the wrong force, instead of sharpening, you can damage the blade.”

Therefore, if one does not have much idea, it is better to take them to be sharpened by a professional. We are not talking about the man who still announces his death in certain neighborhoods with a whistle, because more than sharpening what they do is reducing the blades with their distaff. The Knife Store and other cutlery shops offer this work, which guarantees a sharp, long-lasting edge.

Although there are sharpeners which, due to their shape, make the task easier: they are delivered with the angle made and it is enough to pass the knife several times from the base to the tip to have a renewed edge. Like the Victorinox sharpener, recommended by Pérez. “It’s a good sharpener, at a great price and it’s selling well.” It comes with a set angle, so all you have to do is pass the knife through its slot.

Victorinox knife sharpener

What you should never do with a kitchen knife

Finally, Joel Pérez leaves a list of things that should never, ever, ever be done with a kitchen knife. At least not if we want it to continue to be useful for chopping onions, slicing vegetables and cutting meat.

  • Do not force with the knife : When it comes time to open tight lids, it’s tempting to think of the blade to pry up and pop quickly. But you have to resist, because the point can chip and the blade deteriorates.
  • Use it as a screwdriver : there is a loose screw, the tool box is far away, you don’t have much time but you have a knife at hand. Why not? Why not: the point will be blunt, the blade may be curved and the cutting edge may be blunt.
  • Cut plastic bottles or cardboard : knives are for cutting but not just anything. Things other than food will only hurt him, especially hard plastic or cardboard.
  • cut frozen meat : Typical that lunch is approaching and you don’t forget to take the meat out of the freezer. Maybe cutting it will thaw faster? Maybe, but in the pass you will ruin the knife. Hardness and cold don’t mix well with steel blades.
  • Use it on ceramic or stone : cutting boards that are not made of wood or plastic have become fashionable. Some are ceramic — because they don’t wear out and are easier to clean — and some are even stone. They can be cute, but they can also be destructive: their extreme hardness will only shred any knife that comes near them.
  • cut wire : are you seriously going to cut thread with a knife?

*Prices for products in this item are updated as of November 28, 2022. Values ​​and availability may change.

Source: Latercera

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