When it comes to general knife care, there are five basic pillars to keeping your knives in good working order so they perform well and last a long time.
These pillars apply to knives of any age. So whether your knives are brand new or you just got them back from a professional sharpener, the goal of the five pillars of kitchen knife care is to maintain your knives between sharpenings and keep them performing optimally.
Pillar 1: Work on a Cutting Board
The first pillar of kitchen knife care is to always work on a nice wooden cutting board. Working on glass, stone, or ceramic will destroy a knife over time, especially along the cutting edge. Those cutting surfaces are much harder than the steel material used in your knife and can easily bend and blunt the micro-serrations of the blade.
Pillar 2: Wash by Hand
The second pillar of kitchen knife care is to always wash your knife by hand.
Most people know that dishwashers are bad for knives, but they might think it’s because of the heat or the moisture in the machine. Actually, those factors don't affect the steel and won’t damage the cutting edge of your blade.
What will damage the knife is the jostling around of all the other items in that dishwasher, bouncing and clanging against your blade. This goes for glasses, bowls, utensils, and other metal tools. Even the wire rack your knife rests in can beat against it and cause damage.
So when you’re done using your knife, don’t give in to the temptation to toss it in the dishwasher. Washing by hand is key to maintaining your knife in an optimal condition.
Pillar 3: Store With Care
The third pillar of kitchen knife care is storage. The principle here is the same as the problem with dishwashers: You don’t want your knife’s edge to bump up against anything that can damage it.
Some great options for knife storage include magnetic wall strips or wooden storage blocks, which come in countertop and drawer varieties. The trouble usually comes when people store their knife loose in a kitchen drawer.
Kitchen drawers often have all kinds of tools in them, including measuring cups, metal utensils, and even other knives. As with the dishwasher, the jostling of items in the drawer when you open and close it can cause them to bang against your knife’s cutting edge.
Knives may look smooth, but they have micro-serrations along the blade. Any time they come into contact with something hard, those micro-serrations start to bend, dull, and flatten out. When they do that, your knife won’t cut like it was designed to.
This bending and dulling happens naturally over time with regular use, but it occurs much faster if you don’t protect your blade’s edge with proper knife care.
MKC realizes, though, that the only space some people have to store their knife in is an over-worked drawer. With this in mind, we decided to send an MKC sheath with each kitchen knife to protect your blade from unnecessary wear.
Pillar 4: Perform Regular Maintenance
The fourth pillar of kitchen knife care is regular maintenance. This means using a honing rod or a coarse stone to keep those micro-serrations we keep talking about functional between sharpenings.
With time and use, a blade’s micro-serrations bend as they impact with work surfaces and harder foods. A honing rod or stone realigns those teeth so that the knife continues to perform the way it should. If you’re using a stone, 1,000–1,200 grit should be enough to do the job.
Pillar 5: Sharpen When Needed
The fifth pillar of kitchen knife care is sharpening. Over time, even with great knife care and regular honing, all knives eventually get to a place where they need to be sharpened. You can sharpen them yourself, or you can send them to a professional.
If you send your knife to a professional, be sure to find a one who knows what they’re doing and understands the metallurgic side of knife sharpening.
The friction from sharpening, grinding, and removing material from a blade creates heat, especially if there’s a machine involved. The person sharpening has to be very careful not to overheat the steel, especially in these knives, because it’s very easy to burn up the blade. After that, while you may have a sharp knife, the performance of the blade will drop precipitously going forward.
If you’re not sure how to find a professional who knows what they’re doing, MKC offers free knife sharpening to all our knife owners. You just mail in your blade, and we’ll sharpen it with the level of care it requires.
Keep Your Knives Working for You
When you invest in a great kitchen knife, or any knife, you want it to last a lifetime. The five pillars of kitchen knife care will keep your blades optimally chopping and slicing whenever you have a culinary job for them to do.
by Mareko Maumasi, Master Bladesmith and Founder of Maumasi Fire Arts