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Knife storage, care, and use

Knife storage, care, and use
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  • Knife storage, care, and use

    Post #1 - January 3rd, 2008, 3:56 pm
    Post #1 - January 3rd, 2008, 3:56 pm Post #1 - January 3rd, 2008, 3:56 pm
    I wrote up the following notes on knife storage, care, and use for a relative of mine and thought some here may also find it useful.

    1. Storage: There are three basic ways to store a knife: (a) in a wooden knife block; (b) on a knife magnet attached to the wall; and (c) in a specially designed storage unit that fits inside a drawer. The aim of all three methods is to prevent the knife edge from being knocked, nicked, or scratched. To some extent, each also reduces the chance of a clumsy friend or neighbor accidentally stabbing him- or herself.

    The main disadvantages of the wooden block are that they can be expensive and, eventually, you may own more knives than can fit in the block. The block also takes up space on the counter. Be sure the knife is completely dry before putting it into the block.

    The wall magnet is the most inexpensive storage solution. Although you can only fit about 5-7 knifes on a magnet, you can attach multiple magnets to the wall to store more knifes. You don’t need to worry about a knife falling off the magnet, though sometimes our round sharpening steel slips a little bit.

    The in-drawer knife storage units are the safest way to prevent children from accessing the knives, since you can put a child-proof lock on the drawer.

    2. Sharpening: The knife needs to be sharpened once or twice per year to rebuild the edge. A dull knife requires more downward force and, as a result, may be more dangerous than a sharp knife. The best way to sharpen a knife is to bring it to a professional sharpener. Kitchen/restaurant supply stores and cutlery stores may do sharpening in-house for a few dollars per knife while you wait. Our go-to place is Northwestern Cutlery in Chicago (think Ace Hardware for chefs). If there isn’t a place that sharpens on-site in your area, you may find a store that sends the knives out, which costs more and leaves you without your knife for a week or two.

    The alternative to having the knives professionally sharpened is to do it yourself, either with a sharpening stone or with a specially-designed sharpening system. We avoid these for two reasons: unless you really know what you are doing, you won’t get the knife as sharp as the professional and you are just as likely to scratch the knife.

    3. Maintaining the knife edge between sharpenings: Two things happen when you use the knife: the edge becomes dull. Your annual or semi-annual sharpenings are meant to correct this. The second thing that happens is that the edge bends a little bit and needs to be straightened. This is what your sharpening steel is for (despite its name, it really is a straightening device, not a sharpening device.) It is best to use the steel after each use of the knife, typically just after you clean and dry it.

    To use the steel, hold the steel in one hand and the knife in the other. Line up the bottom edge of the knife (where the handle ends and the knife begins) and the top of the steel. Position the knife at a 22.5 degree angle (precision is crucial so get out your protractor or compass) with the steel and slowly pull the knife down the steel, so when you get to the bottom of the steel you’ve also gotten to the top edge of the knife. (Don’t do it like Gordon Ramsey on Kitchen Nightmares or you’ll likely cut off the top of your thumb.) Do this about 10 times on each side of the knife. It’s a good idea to alternate sides, or do something like 5 strokes on one side, then 5 strokes on the other side, then 3 and 3, and 2 and 2. See Alton Brown at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hKXQHGwzAw

    4. Cleaning the knife: After using the knife, it should be cleaned using a sponge and regular dishwashing soap. For difficult cleaning jobs, try “Bar Keepers Friend” which can be found in the kitchen cleaner aisle at your local Target, grocery store, or Home Depot. Expect a 300% markup on the stuff at a fancy kitchenware store.

    Be sure to dry the knife immediately after washing it, otherwise it may pick up water stains. Do not leave the dirty knife sitting in the sink since it may get knocked around.

    The manufacturer says that the knife is dishwasher safe, but this just means that the handle won’t melt in the dishwasher. It is better to avoid using the dishwasher because it is easy for the knife to fall or slide into something else, scratching the knife or chipping the edge.

    5. Using the knife: the cutting board. To properly use the knife, you need a good cutting board. The board should be large enough to give you enough room to work. It should also be heavy enough that it won’t move when you are cutting on it (you may want to put a slightly wet towel or shelf lining under the board to keep it more secure). The two basic board materials are wood and hard plastic. Do not use glass boards. Plastic can go in the dishwasher and for this reason some people think it is safer than wood. A wood board that is washed with hot, soapy water is, in fact, just as safe (but of course cannot go in the dishwasher).

    In addition to two large wood boards and a very large plastic Oxo board (that has rubber edges to keep it from moving around), we also have a variety of flexible cutting boards and smaller plastic boards. These are useful for quickly cutting small things, but you cannot get the most out of the knife on these types of boards. Buy these to complement a main board, not as a substitute for one.

    6. Additional resources: A good knife is a waste of money (and much more dangerous) if it isn’t used properly. Invest a little time in learning how to properly cut, slice, dice, etc. One excellent resource is Jacques Pepin’s books, television shows, and website (http://www.jacquespepin.net and then click on Tips and Techniques). A second good resource is Alton Brown’s Good Eats episode called “Pantry Raid II: Seeing Red” (transcript and recipes at http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/Season2/EA1B12.htm). Finally, there is an on-line knife skills class at eGullet: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=25958
  • Post #2 - January 4th, 2008, 1:32 am
    Post #2 - January 4th, 2008, 1:32 am Post #2 - January 4th, 2008, 1:32 am
    I know a lot of the veteran peeps around here might already know a lot of that stuff - but I appreciated that post. Thank You.

    My mom is one of those stubborn southern bred cooks that just doesn't need anything fancy like....oh, i don't know good knives. I bring my own knives over because hers couldn't cut their way out of a paper bag. I don't know how she does it, but she whips up food like no tomorrow though.
  • Post #3 - January 4th, 2008, 7:10 am
    Post #3 - January 4th, 2008, 7:10 am Post #3 - January 4th, 2008, 7:10 am
    Lots of good recommendations. I would also add that attending a basic knife skills class is a good idea. I did it once and it seemed a little silly beforehand, but I picked up all kinds of good tips on technique. At a good class, you can also try out a wide selection of knives to find what style suits you best. I always thought I was a German Chefs knife kind of guy before trying out an asian style Global knife during a class which is now my favorite.
  • Post #4 - January 4th, 2008, 7:24 am
    Post #4 - January 4th, 2008, 7:24 am Post #4 - January 4th, 2008, 7:24 am
    The Knife Safe Blade Protector is a great thing to have if you want to take your knife with you when you go to cook at other places, or need to store your knives in a drawer due to counterspace or wallspace issues.

    http://organizeit.com/poknifecover.php? ... %20Storage
  • Post #5 - January 4th, 2008, 9:45 am
    Post #5 - January 4th, 2008, 9:45 am Post #5 - January 4th, 2008, 9:45 am
    another major disadvantage of the block method of storing is the blocks tend to trap bacteria and other gross stuff down there. At home we've got a knife shield type of thing which is basically a 1-2" slot the knives go through and are kept behind a piece of hard plastic. The other way I tend to store mine is in a knife bag.
    is making all his reservations under the name Steve Plotnicki from now on.
  • Post #6 - January 4th, 2008, 10:14 am
    Post #6 - January 4th, 2008, 10:14 am Post #6 - January 4th, 2008, 10:14 am
    jpschust wrote:another major disadvantage of the block method of storing is the blocks tend to trap bacteria and other gross stuff down there. At home we've got a knife shield type of thing which is basically a 1-2" slot the knives go through and are kept behind a piece of hard plastic. The other way I tend to store mine is in a knife bag.

    I'm not sure I understand the dynamic you describe with bacteria in knife blocks. The slots in my blocks are open at the bottom so nothing gets trapped in them. Beyond that, the knives go into their respective slots in the blocks clean and dry. Is there something I'm overlooking?

    =R=
    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #7 - January 4th, 2008, 10:32 am
    Post #7 - January 4th, 2008, 10:32 am Post #7 - January 4th, 2008, 10:32 am
    I like to take my knives to other homes when I cook there. Many of my suburban mommy friends have Reidel wine stems and eight burner Viking ranges but still have the never sharpened again Chicago Cutlery knives they got from aunt Erma at thier wedding shower fourteen years ago. I used to wrap the knives in newspaper and through them in the car, For Christmas, I received a fancy knife carrier with multiple individual slots. The instructions call for blade guards. Are these things cardboard or the thick plastic items outlined above? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    Babaluch
  • Post #8 - January 4th, 2008, 10:33 am
    Post #8 - January 4th, 2008, 10:33 am Post #8 - January 4th, 2008, 10:33 am
    My knife blocks (which I no longer use) were closed at the bottom of the slots. Although I never thought about it before, I can certainly imagine a lot of gook accumulating down there over the years.
  • Post #9 - January 4th, 2008, 12:00 pm
    Post #9 - January 4th, 2008, 12:00 pm Post #9 - January 4th, 2008, 12:00 pm
    I've been thinking about getting one of those magnetic strips for my knives- all knives will stick to that (obviously not ceramic ones, but that's not an issue for me)? I have mostly Forschners.

    Yick, kitchen gunk in the wooden block. Never thought about that, but I hate how much room it takes up on the counter.
  • Post #10 - January 4th, 2008, 12:50 pm
    Post #10 - January 4th, 2008, 12:50 pm Post #10 - January 4th, 2008, 12:50 pm
    babaluch wrote:I like to take my knives to other homes when I cook there. Many of my suburban mommy friends have Reidel wine stems and eight burner Viking ranges but still have the never sharpened again Chicago Cutlery knives they got from aunt Erma at thier wedding shower fourteen years ago. I used to wrap the knives in newspaper and through them in the car, For Christmas, I received a fancy knife carrier with multiple individual slots. The instructions call for blade guards. Are these things cardboard or the thick plastic items outlined above? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    Babaluch


    Although I am not familiar with the particular knife carrier that you have, I've used two types of blade guards. The first is the cardboard sleeves that my knives originally came in. These are useful for carrying the knives, say, to the shop to be sharpened. I also have some hard plastic edgeguards. These hold the blade much more securely and are only a few dollars each.

    See http://www.northwesterncutlery.net/Knif ... guard.html

    By the way, I love your story about those with Viking ranges, Reidel stemware, and dull $80 knives. I can't believe how many times I've used a knife at someone's house and said "This really needs to be sharpened. Let me know if you want me to take it next time I go to sharpen mine."
  • Post #11 - January 4th, 2008, 1:00 pm
    Post #11 - January 4th, 2008, 1:00 pm Post #11 - January 4th, 2008, 1:00 pm
    abe_froeman wrote:I've been thinking about getting one of those magnetic strips for my knives- all knives will stick to that (obviously not ceramic ones, but that's not an issue for me)? I have mostly Forschners.

    Yick, kitchen gunk in the wooden block. Never thought about that, but I hate how much room it takes up on the counter.


    We have a block and a magnet. The magnet is very powerful. I would imaging all steel knives would stick to it. I presume you could go to a good cutlery store and ask to see a knife and the magnet, to test out the match.

    We haven't had any problems with bacteria or buildup in our block, at least as far as I can tell. We are pretty careful to only put the knives in once they are clean and dry.

    Note that NW Cutlery has a mini sale on magnets: $20 and $27 for the 12: and 18" magnets, respectively. Don't know how these prices compare to other outlets. See
    http://www.northwesterncutlery.net/Mess ... orage.html

    Earlier someone mentioned the knife skills class. I did one of these also a number of years ago at Peter Kump's in NY. I realized that I shouldn't have signed up for the beginners class, but it was still a pretty fun afternoon. Best of all, I got to try out Wusthof's 10" wide chef's knife, an amazing culinary instrument.
  • Post #12 - January 4th, 2008, 1:22 pm
    Post #12 - January 4th, 2008, 1:22 pm Post #12 - January 4th, 2008, 1:22 pm
    Darren72 wrote:
    abe_froeman wrote:I've been thinking about getting one of those magnetic strips for my knives- all knives will stick to that (obviously not ceramic ones, but that's not an issue for me)? I have mostly Forschners.

    Yick, kitchen gunk in the wooden block. Never thought about that, but I hate how much room it takes up on the counter.


    We have a block and a magnet. The magnet is very powerful. I would imaging all steel knives would stick to it. I presume you could go to a good cutlery store and ask to see a knife and the magnet, to test out the match.

    We haven't had any problems with bacteria or buildup in our block, at least as far as I can tell. We are pretty careful to only put the knives in once they are clean and dry.

    Note that NW Cutlery has a mini sale on magnets: $20 and $27 for the 12: and 18" magnets, respectively. Don't know how these prices compare to other outlets. See
    http://www.northwesterncutlery.net/Mess ... orage.html

    Earlier someone mentioned the knife skills class. I did one of these also a number of years ago at Peter Kump's in NY. I realized that I shouldn't have signed up for the beginners class, but it was still a pretty fun afternoon. Best of all, I got to try out Wusthof's 10" wide chef's knife, an amazing culinary instrument.


    I bought my magnets at Ikea. 18" for $5.99 Yes, it's plain, but very strong.

    Flip
    "Beer is proof God loves us, and wants us to be Happy"
    -Ben Franklin-
  • Post #13 - January 4th, 2008, 2:50 pm
    Post #13 - January 4th, 2008, 2:50 pm Post #13 - January 4th, 2008, 2:50 pm
    HI,

    I just read the name Peter Kump. I have a number of his columns clipped and stored in my files. Did you meet him?

    I'm surprised about magnets for storing knives. I thought magnets would adversely affect a knife's ability to maintain its sharpness. Am I under the cloud of an Old Wive's tale?

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #14 - January 4th, 2008, 3:03 pm
    Post #14 - January 4th, 2008, 3:03 pm Post #14 - January 4th, 2008, 3:03 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:HI,

    I just read the name Peter Kump. I have a number of his columns clipped and stored in my files. Did you meet him?

    I'm surprised about magnets for storing knives. I thought magnets would adversely affect a knife's ability to maintain its sharpness. Am I under the cloud of an Old Wive's tale?

    Regards,


    I did not meet Peter Kump. Your message reminded me that his culinary school changed names recently. It is now called the Institute of Culinary Education.

    http://iceculinary.com/

    My understanding is that it is a full-service culinary school, teaching everything from professional programs, to multi-week recreational courses, to one-day recreational courses (which is what I did).

    I hadn't heard anything before about magnets affecting the knife's ability to hold an edge. Are you thinking that the magnet somehow affects the composition of the steel?
  • Post #15 - January 4th, 2008, 5:49 pm
    Post #15 - January 4th, 2008, 5:49 pm Post #15 - January 4th, 2008, 5:49 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:I'm surprised about magnets for storing knives. I thought magnets would adversely affect a knife's ability to maintain its sharpness. Am I under the cloud of an Old Wive's tale?


    The magnets actually help (slightly) the blade *keep* its edge, by aligning the metal into stronger structures and thus making it harder (or something). The problem with the magnet racks is that benefit is lost if you bang the edge into the metal of the rack. I think the actual mechanism is described in either "On Food and Cooking" or (more likely) "What Einstein Told His Cook".
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #16 - January 5th, 2008, 12:23 am
    Post #16 - January 5th, 2008, 12:23 am Post #16 - January 5th, 2008, 12:23 am
    I have both an in-drawer storage unit and an under counter block (about 2 inches tall by 8 inches wide by ? deep) that swivels. 10 slots, I believe, including one for a steel. Very handy, has gotten many envious glances and comments. I believe it was purchased at the old Cooks Mart on Clark St. near Barry.
  • Post #17 - April 22nd, 2008, 1:09 pm
    Post #17 - April 22nd, 2008, 1:09 pm Post #17 - April 22nd, 2008, 1:09 pm
    wak wrote:Lots of good recommendations. I would also add that attending a basic knife skills class is a good idea. I did it once and it seemed a little silly beforehand, but I picked up all kinds of good tips on technique. At a good class, you can also try out a wide selection of knives to find what style suits you best. I always thought I was a German Chefs knife kind of guy before trying out an asian style Global knife during a class which is now my favorite.


    I agree with this. I read a lot of posts like the ones here and reviewed a lot of the references mentioned above (all good stuff), AND even found this awesome Alton Brown knife skills video. However, I still found the knife skills class I took at the Chopping Block to be very helpful. Actually, it was fantastic. Not only do you get to apply the skills they teach you an a variety of foods, you have someone there looking over your shoulder telling you what you're doing wrong, and you get to try out a lot of badass knives :lol: .
    "Skin that smoke wagon and see what happens..."
    - Wyatt Earp, Tombstone
  • Post #18 - April 23rd, 2008, 9:48 am
    Post #18 - April 23rd, 2008, 9:48 am Post #18 - April 23rd, 2008, 9:48 am
    Even if you've taken a knife skills class, there's lots of good refresher info. and very detailed how-to illustrations in the book Knife Skills Illustrated: A User's Manual, by Peter Hertzmann, who teaches knife skills classes for Sur La Table.
  • Post #19 - April 23rd, 2008, 11:35 am
    Post #19 - April 23rd, 2008, 11:35 am Post #19 - April 23rd, 2008, 11:35 am
    Where do people get their knives sharpened in Chicagoland?
  • Post #20 - April 23rd, 2008, 11:48 am
    Post #20 - April 23rd, 2008, 11:48 am Post #20 - April 23rd, 2008, 11:48 am
    jpeac-

    Point #2 in the Darren72's post: Northwestern Cutlery.

    http://www.northwesterncutlery.net/

    In doing a search for "knife sharpening," this post and this post talk about knife sharpening in the area.
  • Post #21 - April 25th, 2008, 9:32 am
    Post #21 - April 25th, 2008, 9:32 am Post #21 - April 25th, 2008, 9:32 am
    You can also sharpen yourself, it's not that hard, I bought 4 grits of DMT DuoSharps (2 stones), watched all the youtube videos and read a few webpages for instructions, it's really not hard at all, I took my abused and neglected Wusthof chefs knife from a pitted blade to polished and it cuts like a dream and is holding an edge just fine.

    http://dmtsharp.com/products/duosharp.htm <- I'm super happy with the DuoSharps, very nice stuff and you can get them at a good discount on eBay. I'm sure traditional stones are just fine as well, I liked the idea of no maintenance for the stone, the diamond "stones" stay nice and flat.

    They also make tapered diamond rods for sharpening serrated blades. Whenever I cut on someone elses knifes I feel like I need to offer to bring my stones over because like you guys are saying most people don't ever sharpen and it makes such a big difference.

    Rob
  • Post #22 - December 11th, 2009, 5:20 pm
    Post #22 - December 11th, 2009, 5:20 pm Post #22 - December 11th, 2009, 5:20 pm
    We sharpen out at the Wheaton French Market in summertime, and many of our customers do not know the difference between an actual sharpening and the honing that most electric machines sold in stores do. This may be repetitive for some of you here, but here's a very simple explanation we give:

    When you use a knife, and it hits the cutting board (or a good hard vegetable!), if you could look at the blade edge microscopically, you'd see that it bends. Repeat this action enough, and you get a really bent/folded over edge. That's a dull knife. Most electric "draw through" machines simply straighten out the bend. When you use that knife again, it feels much better..."sharper"...it hasn't actually been sharpened, though. Just straightened. Keep cutting with it, and it bends right back over. Each time you "straighten" it, the edge gets a bit weaker. Think of a paper clip that you bend and straighten, bend and straighten. Over time, the metal weakens, and it gets easier/quicker to bend. The same thing happens with your knife edge. It will bend/dull faster when you bend and straighten it.

    Eventually, you take it to someone like us for a professional sharpening...the difference is that a sharpening actually REMOVES that weakened edge by grinding away that flimsy metal, and restoring a new, strong edge that will not bend over so fast.

    It's simplistic, but it's a "word picture" that seems to help people understand if they're getting their blade straightened, versus getting it actually sharpened. There's a BIG difference!
    MySharpener.NET knife and scissors sharpening in the Western Suburbs of Chicago
    http://www.mysharpener.net
  • Post #23 - June 12th, 2013, 4:03 am
    Post #23 - June 12th, 2013, 4:03 am Post #23 - June 12th, 2013, 4:03 am
    For a more detailed guide just go to http://www.knifemanual.com
    1. Place the sharpening stone on a damp tea towel on your bench or counter top with the coarser side facing up. We are going to grind off the shoulder of the knife that was cut incorrectly from the factory then we will be cutting the 20 degree edge.

    2. Grab your knife and either place it in a sharpening guide or use a freehand 15 degree angle while holding either end with the other hand to keep it stable.

    3. A With slight pressure slide the blade forward from tip to heel across the stone trying to use the whole length of the knife edge and keeping it at a constant angle.

    4. Keep doing this until the knife forms a burr. We want both sides of the knife to match and not have one side being mismatched. To keep them similar you should grind one side for about two minutes and then swap over to the over side of the knife.

    5. Keep grinding until the burr runs across the whole length of the knife and then turn the knife over and repeat. Once repeated you should use a finer grit to polish the knife edge up a little.

    6. Once you have a burr along the whole length of the knife you need to grind it off so that a clean edge remains. Grinding between 5-15 times on each side depending on the grit should remove the burr completely.

    7. Now for the 20 degree angle. Hold the knife at a 20 degree angle and start grinding the primary edge. Create a burr at the primary edge by using the previous method. But this time we are trying to create a 20 degree edge (about 1 mm or so wide) on the 15 degree back bevel that we have created.

    8. Once a burr has been created start grinding it off but with more care this time as this is what will determine how sharp it will become. The technique you need to use is to run it from the tip of the knife to the heel changing the sides of the knife with each movement. Try not to form another burr and use a lighter touch as well as a smaller grit to finish off the knife.

    9. At this point there should be no burr on the edge of the knife and it should be super sharp.

    10. To maintain this sharpness you should use a fine steel to regularly keep the knife at its maximum sharpness. When the steel fails to make a difference any more it is time to use a sharpening stone again. Only this time you dont have to sharpen the back bevel as this is set at the correct angle now.
  • Post #24 - November 7th, 2013, 3:31 am
    Post #24 - November 7th, 2013, 3:31 am Post #24 - November 7th, 2013, 3:31 am
    This thread popped up and I don't have anything to add to the current discussion, but thought I'd add some info on knife storage that wasn't mentioned. For travel I have some magnetic knife protectors. They are all plastic, thus fully waterproof, and they flip open so they can easily be cleaned.

    http://www.amazon.com/Victorinox-Cutler ... +protector
    Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.

    -Mark Twain
  • Post #25 - November 7th, 2013, 8:16 am
    Post #25 - November 7th, 2013, 8:16 am Post #25 - November 7th, 2013, 8:16 am
    This has been a very informative post. Thanks for the info.
    Toria

    "I like this place and willingly could waste my time in it" - As You Like It,
    W. Shakespeare
  • Post #26 - November 7th, 2013, 9:54 am
    Post #26 - November 7th, 2013, 9:54 am Post #26 - November 7th, 2013, 9:54 am
    Most of my relatives have horribly dull knives, and I always bring my own knives with me if I'm driving somewhere. But if I'm flying somewhere I can't bring my knife kit without checking bags (which I hate to do). I started bringing a small sharpener with me whenever I fly. This one doesn't compare to a good sharpening system, but it will quickly make dull knives usable.
    It is VERY important to be smart when you're doing something stupid

    - Chris

    http://stavewoodworking.com
  • Post #27 - July 28th, 2020, 8:57 am
    Post #27 - July 28th, 2020, 8:57 am Post #27 - July 28th, 2020, 8:57 am
    One of the things I hate about the internet is links. The Alton Brown youtube video mentioned by Mr. Darren72 is no longer available. The Tips and Techniques on Jacques Pepin’s site is no longer there. Aside from the frustration, very good information. Thank you Mr. Darren72, et al.
    The thing about quotes on the internet is you can not confirm their validity. -- Abraham Lincoln

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