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6 Ways to Care for Your Knives

6 Ways to Care for Your Knives

The Culinary Institute of America

Assembling a personal collection of knives is one of the first steps in becoming a professional. Just as an artist or craftsperson gathers together the tools necessary for painting, sculpting, or drawing, you will need to select knives that allow you to do your work in the safest and most efficient way. The knives you choose will become as important to you as your own fingers— quite literally an extension of your own hands.

1. Handle knives with respect. Knives can be damaged if they are handled carelessly. Even though good-quality knives are manufactured to last a lifetime, they are still prone to damage if not properly taken care of.

2. Keep knives sharp. Learn the proper techniques for both sharpening and honing knives. A sharp knife not only performs better, but is safer to use because less effort is required to cut through the food. There are many ways to sharpen knives. Use a stone periodically, a sharpening machine, or send them to a professional cutlery sharpener.

3. Keep knives clean. Clean knives thoroughly, immediately after using them. Sanitize the entire knife, including the handle, bolster, and blade, as necessary, so that the tool will not cross-contaminate food. Do not clean knives in a dishwasher.

4. Use safe handling procedures for knives. There are standards of behavior that should be remembered when using knives. When you are passing a knife, lay it down on a work surface so that the handle is extended toward the person who will pick it up. Whenever you must carry a knife from one area of the kitchen to another, hold the knife straight down at your side with the sharp edge facing behind you, and let people know you are passing by with something sharp.

When you lay a knife down on a work surface, be sure that no part of it extends over the edge of the cutting board or worktable. Also, do not cover the knife with food towels, equipment, and the like. Be sure the blade is facing away from the edge of the work surface. Do not attempt to catch a falling knife.

5. Use an appropriate cutting surface. Cutting directly on metal, glass, or marble surfaces will dull and eventually damage the blade of a knife. To prevent dulling, always use wooden or composition cutting boards.

6. Keep knives properly stored. There are a number of safe, practical ways to store knives, including in knife kits or rolls, slots, racks, and on magnetized holders. Storage systems should be kept just as clean as knives.

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Reprinted by permission from The Culinary Institute of America, The Professional Chef, 8th Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2006).