How to Take Care of Your Knives So They Last Forever

By the editors of Cook's Illustrated

As everyday kitchen tools, knives require care. But what does that entail?

Knives are one of the most essential pieces of equipment in a kitchen, and they get used the most, too. But to ensure the best and safest cooking experience, it’s imperative that you take care of them, which means keeping them clean, sharp, and safely put away. Here are our recommended best practices when it comes to maintaining your sharpest and most important kitchen tools.

HOW TO CLEAN KNIVES

We recommend cleaning knives with a sponge, hot water, and soap. Scrub pads do a fine job of removing gunk from blades but can eventually damage the finish. Avoid a dishwasher: The knocking around can damage the edges, as can the corrosive nature of dishwasher detergent. If you have a carbon steel knife, we likewise recommend a sponge, hot water, and soap—just be sure to dry it or it will rust and blacken.

HOW TO FIX A DULL KNIFE

It doesn’t take months or weeks for a knife to lose its sharpness. Even a few minutes of cutting can cause the blade to feel slightly dull. That said, a knife that feels only a little dull probably does not need to be sharpened. The edge of a slightly dull knife is usually just misaligned and merely needs to be repositioned with a honing steel. A truly dull knife has an edge that is rounded and worn down and needs a sharpener to restore the standard Western 20- to 22-degree angle of each side of the edge.

(Note: The 15-degree cutting angle on Eastern knives offers more precision than the 20-degree angle on Western knives, but we've discovered that it's not worth it in the long run to sharpen Western knives to a 15-degree angle. You’re better off buying a Japanese knife or hybrid-style knife than altering a Western one.)

 Knife Sharpening

From left to right:

  • SHARP: A sharp knife holds a 20-degree angle on each side of the edge.

  • SLIGHTLY DULL: The misaligned edge of a slightly dull knife is easily fixed with a steel.

  • VERY DULL: A very dull, worn-down knife needs a sharpener to restore the edge. (Learn more about how we tested electric and manual knife sharpeners.)

 Knife

HOW TO STORE KNIVES

If you store your knives loose in a drawer, you’re putting the sharp edge of your blades—not to mention your fingers—in danger. Here are our favorite ways to keep the blades sharp and your hands out of harm's way.

Knife Guards:

 Knife

The winner of our knife guard testing, the Victorinox 8- to 10-inch BladeSafe Knife Guard (available on Amazon), is a wide polypropylene case that securely covers a variety of chef’s, slicing, and paring knives.

A Universal Knife Block:

 Knife

After testing universal knife blocks, we highly recommend the Bodum Bistro Universal Knife Block (available on Amazon). It boasts a “slotless” frame filled with a nest of plastic rods to accommodate any arsenal of cutlery and holds knives in a compact footprint.

 Knife

TESTING FOR MEMBERS: TEST KITCHEN'S HANDPICKED SET OF BEST KNIVES

This “all-star” set of test kitchen favorites (all best-in-class winners in past tests) fits neatly into our favorite universal knife block by Bodum, designed to hold any variety of blades securely in its nest of plastic sticks. Best of all, our ideal collection costs less than many prepackaged knife block sets.

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