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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Choosing a Knife Set – Forged Kitchen Knives Or Stamped Kitchen Knives?

John Gephart asked:

I wrote this article after I went through the unpleasant process of choosing a new kitchen knife set to purchase. There are so many brands of kitchen knives to choose from, in a myriad of styles and prices, all with different features. The biggest decision I had to make was in choosing between stamped kitchen knives and forged kitchen knives.

Many people believe that forged knives are much better than stamped knives. While this was true years ago, it is no longer true today. The manufacturing process of stamped knives has improved so much that they are now considered to be equal to forged knives by most experts.

There are differences between the two styles and each has their own separate benefits. A stamped knife is much lighter and many professional chefs agree is more flexible because it contains a thinner blade. A forged knife is considered to be a little more durable because of a thicker steel blade. Without getting too much into the manufacturing process, the major difference between the two is the stamping process involves using a cookie cutter method where the blade is actually punched out of a larger piece of steel while forging involves heating and flattening the blade repeatedly. Temperatures as high as 1900 degrees Fahrenheit are used.

Both methods can contain very sharp blades that hold their edge well. The higher the grade of stainless steel is what determines sharpness here and that can basically be determined by price. The more expensive the knife the better the steel is that’s used. In the end, your decision should be made based on how you are going to be using the knives most. If you plan on cutting a lot of heavy meats and large vegetables, forged is the way to go. If you do more stir frys or Asian type cooking, stamped is better.

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