How to maintain your kitchen knife

The knife is the most essential kitchen gadget of all, yet people still buy those 25-in-one Ikea knife blocks. I called up Norman Weinstein, knife guru at New York’s Institute of Culinary Education, to get some straight talk on knives.

So you’ve bought a new  set of 10-inch forged chef’s knife. How do you keep it in tip-top condition? There’s nothing more dangerous than a dull knife, after all—not only do dull knives tend to slip more easily, but they require more force to cut through things. More force equals more danger. Chef Weinstein’s tips:

Use a honing steel: A honing steel, which is that long cylindrical piece of metal all too often mistaken for a sharpener, is actually used to realign your knife’s blade. Use it “practically every time you use your straight-edge knife,” says Weinstein. “It should only take about 15 seconds, done properly.” The key is to anchor the steel perpendicular to your countertop, and slice both sides of the knife across it at a 22-degree angle.

Avoid the dishwasher: Knives and cutting boards alike should be cleaned in the same way. Immediately after use, clean with soap, hot water and a non-abrasive scrubber (sponges are fine here). Never stick a good knife in the dishwasher: The force of the water can dull the blade, and it’s never a good idea to have an extremely sharp pointy object rattling around a dishwasher. Knife handles could potentially warp, too, because of the heat.

Take your knives to a professional sharpener: Don’t use a home sharpening machine unless you feel your knife has wronged you in some way and must be punished. Send your knives away to a professional sharpener about once a year to have your blade re-shaped.

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