Owning a nice kitchen knife is a lifestyle investment. It’s not plug-and-play, it’s not buy-and-forget – there are nuances to consider before investing in a quality tool. I compare it to owning a classic or high-performance car – you have to know how your way around one and how to take care of it.
Most of my knives use high carbon steels. They require a little more attention than a stainless knife, but they’re simple, straight-forward, easy to sharpen, and a bit romantic in a similar feel as a cast iron pan. I encourage you to check out the maintenance procedures below to keep your knives in top condition.
Carbon steel will form a natural patina from normal use. They don’t stay perfectly shiny, it’s the nature of the beast. It’s something to remember and embrace. Check the photo below to see an example of a patina.
A good knife will cut well with proper and regular maintenance. This includes:
- Using a proper cutting board. This is a major part of owning a quality knife. No hard surfaces such as granite or Corian. Even plastic boards are harsh on edges. A great wood end-grain cutting board is the absolute best for keeping a sharp edge. My number #1 recommendation is The BoardSmith; you absolutely get what you pay for. A decent, low maintenance alternative is a rubber cutting board.
- No contact with hard objects (washing and storing) – This means no contact with other metal utensils, the sink, countertop, soup cans, etc. Do not wash in the dishwasher (for many reasons!). Wash the knife separately, wipe dry, and keep it protected in storage. Minor grazes against utensils or other hard surfaces will dull an edge practically immediately.
- Keep the knife dry. Since many of my knives are not stainless, they are prone to oxidation. Wipe down the knife if it won’t be cutting anything soon. Don’t store it wet.
- Don’t abuse it. Kitchen knives are usually meant to be a highly efficient cutter, not machetes or choppers. Find an alternative tool to chop through bones or pry cans open.
- Maintain the edge. High-end knives need upkeep for the edge; there’s no way around it. My suggestion is to learn how to touch-up and sharpen a knife using stones. Japanese Knife Imports has great videos on how to do it (I learned mainly off of these videos). An ok alternative is to touch up the edge with a ceramic honing rod (the grooved steel ones are outdated and aren’t really suitable); it’ll get you by but certainly not optimal.