Caring for your knives

Knives will most likely be one of your biggest investments in kitchen equipment. Proper care of your knives is important to keep them in good condition and to make them efficient to use. A dull knife is a dangerous knife. Because it is dull you will tend to apply too much pressure when cutting products. This can cause the knife to slip which may result in cutting yourself.

Knives should be sharpened regulary to keep the edge at maximum performance.  Sharpening can be done with a tri-stone, a diamond stone or a manual sharpener such as the Minosharp.

The angle of the edge for most knives is 20° – 22°. Some Japanese knives have a thinner edge with a lesser angle. Professional knife sharpening shops will know the proper angle for sharpening your knife. When selecting the shop or person to sharpen your knives be sure to get references from others that have used the service. When using the knife it should be honed frequently with a honing steel to keep the edge in good alignment. These steels are often mistakenly called sharpening steels when in fact they do not sharpen the knife. Some steels, such as a diamond steel will sharpen the knive as it is being honed.

 

 Knives should not be put in a dishwasher. Instead they should always be hand-washed and dried well. Store them in a knife block with horizontal slots so the knife edge is not resting on the wood. If the knife block has vertical slots, I store the knife with the edge up. Some knife storage units are designed for drawers instead of countertop.

Join us for a class at CasaLana Gourmet Retreats to learn more about caring for your knives.

Knife Components and Selection

Knives are one of the most essential tools in your kitchen. You will benefit greatly by selecting good quality knives that are well-made and durable. Personal preference is a factor in the selection and of course the knives must support your style of cooking and use. Because knives are also one of the most costly items you will purchase when equipping your kitchen, the evaluation and proper selection are very important.

Components of the knife –

  • tip – usually pointed which makes it useful for piercing products to initiate a cut. A few styles have a more rounded or blunt tip (e.g., Santoku or vegetable knive)
  • blade – the cutting area of the knife. Standard chef’s knife has a curved blade which is conducive to the ‘sawing / rocking’ motion used for most knife work. Other styles are straighter (e.g., Santoku) and are more for straight chopping.
  • bolster – the area of the knife at the end of the blade next to the handle. Usually thicker than the blade. Should be deep enough to allow your hand to wrap around the handle without your knuckles touching the cutting surface when working.
  • tang – the secion of the knife that the handle is attached to. Preferably it will extend the length of the handled.
  • handle – the section of the knife where your hand will hold it.

Some standard selection criteria to consider –

  • Choose knives that feel well-balanced and comfortable to your hand.
  • Knives that are forged as a single component with no welded pieces are the strongest and have good balance.
  • The handle should feel comfortable to hold. Polypropylene handles are very common. Some knives have handles of the the same metal as the blade (e.g., Global Knives). Wood handles are less common due to sanitation concerns.
  • A solid tang that goes the length of the knife handle gives better balance.

Most kitchen knives are from Germany, England and Japan. The most durable knives are forged from a single piece of steel. This is a longer, slower method of production and results in a higher quality knife. Stamped knives are cut from a sheet of metal. The stamped knife will have a thinner blade, less weight and are lesser quality.  

Learn more details about knife selection, use and care in the hands-on Culinary Vacations at CasaLana Gourmet Retreats.