The Care and Cleaning of Kitchen Knives

Mary Kenkel asked:

The best thing you can do to keep your knives sharp and to avoid wear and tear on the blade’s edge is to make sure to use it on the proper cutting surface. Using a cutting board made of glass, stone, stainless steel or ceramic will quickly dull your knife. For this reason, it’s advisable to avoid using your good kitchen knives to cut food directly on ceramic or porcelain dinnerware or on granite or marble countertops. The better option is using cutting boards made of wood, bamboo, plastic or synthetic because they won’t dull your blades.

It’s also important to keep your knives clean. Ask any professional chef how to wash a good knife and I would wager that 99 times out of 100 you will get the same answer and a stern one at that: A kitchen knife should always be washed by hand after each use using a mild liquid detergent and then dried thoroughly with a towel. And, then that same chef will tell you, and with great emphasis, that a good knife should NEVER be washed in a dishwasher because the heat and steam will ruin wood handles and the knife can be easily nicked by being tossed around in the dishwasher.

All this being said, I have to admit (and I realize that I may be about to incur the disdain of many amazing chefs by doing so), that I sometimes wash my knives in the dishwasher, because, due to safety reasons, I don’t like handling a sharp blade with wet hands. For this reason, I only buy plastic-or composite-handled knives because wooden handled knives really shouldn’t go into the dishwasher. And I’ve never had a problem with my knives getting nicked in there, although I’m very careful about how I load them.

If you choose to wash your knives in the dishwasher, make sure to place them securely in the top shelf of your dishwasher so that they won’t move around during the washing cycle and don’t use the heated dry cycle. For safety sake, be careful unloading the dishwasher. And, remove the knives from the dishwasher immediately after the washing cycle is complete.

In addition to keeping your knives clean, it’s a good idea to keep them sharpened and in alignment. A honing steel is an essential piece of equipment if you want to keep your knives in tip-top shape. The honing steel is not a sharpener, but is used to re-align and straighten the blade’s edge. By pulling the knife’s edge along the length of the honing steel, the blade can be brought back to the correct angle. Manufacturers recommend using a honing steel every time you work with your knives.

As far as sharpening your knives, there are a number of home knife sharpeners on the market today and many of them do a good job at returning a reasonably sharp edge to your blades. The manual sharpeners are significantly less expensive than their electric counterparts, but just don’t seem to be able to manage a blade that is pretty dull. If you keep up with your knives and the blades are only modestly dull, the manual knife sharpener is probably fine for you. Otherwise, you’ll probably want to invest in an electric sharpener. When shopping for an electric knife sharpener, you may want to consider getting one that includes a non-motorized slot that can be used like a honing steel. This will save you having to buy the steel in addition to the sharpener. In addition, the honing mechanism on the electric sharpeners is much easier to use than the traditional honing steel.

The other option for sharpening your knives is to take them to a professional knife sharpener. This choice is certainly less convenient than running the blade through a sharpener at home, but nothing can give your blades a sharper edge than an experienced professional can. In fact, many professional chefs say that having your knives sharpened by a professional knife sharpener is the only way to go.

If you’re interested, most good kitchenware shops can direct you to a qualified person. Or, you can also look under ‘Sharpening Services’ in your local Yellow Pages.

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Forged Kitchen Knives – How Are They Different Than Stamped Kitchen Knives?

John Gephart asked:

You’ve been looking for a new set of kitchen knives to buy but aren’t sure which set is right for you. You are not alone. Most people are confused when it comes to kitchen cutlery because there are so many options, different styles, and different price tags. How can you know that the set you purchase is going to give you the most bang for your buck?

To simplify the process for you, there are two kinds of knives available. Stamped kitchen knives and forged kitchen knives. Stamped knives are generally much less expensive than forged knives.

Stamped kitchen knives – They are usually made almost exclusively by machine as opposed to hand-crafted. The blades are “stamped” out of a thin piece of steel, just like using a cookie cutter to form cookies out of dough. The blades are then sharpened and finished, then placed into the handle.

Forged kitchen knives – They are made almost exclusively by hand. A piece of steel is heated up until it is very hot, then placed into a die. It is pounded with a hammer to form. The blade is then sharpened, a finish is added and it is set into the handle.

Differences – Forged knives contain a bolster and a tang. A bolster adds support, weight and balance to a knife while a tang is the part of the metal that the handle covers. (Full tangs are best) Stamped knives are usually lighter and thinner. The blades are not quite as sharp and it usually takes more pressure to do the cutting and chopping you are trying to do. The blades do not hold their edge as long.

If you are looking for a spare set, a back up set to one you already have, stamped knives are probably the way to go. They can be well made and are significantly less than forged knives. However, if you are looking to purchase a primary set, forged knives are quality. They are more expensive but you get what you pay for.

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How to Choose the Right Kitchen Knives For Your Home

Penny Day asked:

Buyers’ guide to kitchen knives

Stylish kitchen knives that cut more than the mustard!

Kit out your kitchen with knives that are both practical and stylish with our comprehensive guide

Possibly the most essential and frequently used piece of equipment in any kitchen, a good knife can determine whether cooking becomes a pleasure or a chore. ‘A knife is one tool that has to perform well in your hands every single day,’ says Jay Patel, owner of The Japanese Knife Company, which supplies some of the most highly esteemed chefs and restaurants in the world. ‘Like a pen, an iron or a vacuum cleaner, if it doesn’t work well, it will cause immediate frustration.’ Purchase the right knife, however, and not only will you find food preparation is easier and quicker, but safer and more enjoyable, too. If it’s looked after properly, a quality knife will last a lifetime.

Buying a knife

Although it’s tempting to rush out and arm yourself with a full set, the majority of work you do in the kitchen will be with one or two knives. Professional chefs may buy a blade for a particular purpose, but when choosing knives for your own kitchen, it’s likely you won’t need a vast array. As Marcia Barrington, tutor of the Divertimenti cookery school’s most popular class, Knife Skills, advises, ‘Begin by buying one or two essential knives, then build your ideal set over a period of time as you find you need other blades for more specific tasks.’

When choosing knives, remember the following:
o Buy the best knife you can afford. You get what you pay for and a high-quality knife will last for years. Better to invest in a good knife and sharpener, than a whole block you don’t necessarily need.
o ‘A knife is a tool, not art, so choose function over form and buy a blade not a brand,’ says Jay Patel of The Japanese Knife Company.
o Hold a knife before buying it, to make sure the handle sits comfortably in your palm and that you’re comfortable with the weight. You don’t have to buy the same brand for every knife – many chefs use a whole variety of different manufacturers.
o A well-balanced knife means the handle and blade are almost the same weight, therefore the knife will rock easily. To test, hold it as you would on a board and rock it back and forth to see whether it feels comfortable. Ideally, you have to use your wrist less to achieve a rolling action while cutting. However, unless you’re a professional chef, you’re unlikely to get RSI, so, although it’s nice to have a balanced knife, it’s not absolutely essential.

Choosing your knives

When it comes to knife shape, straight, narrow blades are best for cutting raw or cooked flesh and are not suited to chopping, or cutting fast or with a traditional rolling action. Wider blades with a curved edge are ideal for preparing vegetables (it can rest against your knuckles as you chop) but they are unsuitable for paring or peeling.

A basic set of knives might include two or more of the following:
1. A 15-17cm cook’s knife is essential and the first knife to invest in. Initially, it may seem big, but with practice it will become your knife of choice. ‘This is the knife you’d choose if you were stuck on a desert island,’ says Camilla Schneideman, director of the Divertimenti cookery school. ‘Learn to use it properly and it will be an extension of your own arm’. A good all-round knife with a long, wide, general-purpose blade, it can be used for slicing, dicing, crushing, chopping and mincing. Additionally, you may want a bigger 25cm chef’s knife that will take your weight when cutting things like squash or swede.
2. A paring knife is the most commonly used blade in a domestic kitchen. At 7.5-10cm long, it’s a mini version of the chef’s knife used for slicing and dicing vegetables and delicate pastry cutting. Models with a hooked curve are handy for cutting zest from citrus fruit.
3. A serrated tomato knife is one item that can be cheap and disposable (less than