3 Most Important Things You Need To Know for Boosting the Longevity of Your Knives, According to a Chef

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Much like your beloved KitchenAid stand mixer or the Le Creuset Dutch oven you inherited from a loved one, knives are typically an expensive investment you hold onto (pun intended) for decades.

While knives are intended to be used everyday, this often-neglected kitchen workhorse can take a beating after endless hours of chopping, mincing, and dicing everything you put in front of it. So, to prevent the demise of arguably your most valuable kitchen asset and learn more about how to care for knives to keep them sharper for longer, we caught up with Ellen Marie Bennett, chef and the founder of Hedley & Bennett.

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Ahead, learn easy ways to keep knives in tip-top shape, including why you should always hand wash them and how often you should be sharpening knives between uses.

How to care for knives: the 3 most important tips 

1. Always store knives safely and securely

Aside from the obvious risk factor (hi, really sharp blades), storing your knives safely and securely can also keep them (and you) from being accidentally injured when stashed away in a cramped kitchen drawer. “Get a cover, also known as a sheath, to protect your knives if you keep them in a drawer,” Bennett says. According to the chef, a sheath not only offers protection, but it also ensures you can easily bring them along with you wherever you need to go. “You need to pack your knives with care, the same as you would when packing any toiletries."

Bennett also recommends investing in an insert for your kitchen drawers or something to hang on the wall to house your knives made of durable material. “You could also get an insert for your drawer so nothing gets damaged. They make soft cork ones, magnetic ones, or even pieces of wood that attach to the wall,” she says.

2. Hand wash your knives

Though tossing your knives into the dishwasher may spare you a couple minutes of cleanup time, Bennett advises against doing so. Instead, she strongly urges folks to hand wash knives if prolonging their longevity is the ultimate goal.

“Do not put knives in the dishwasher!" says Bennet. "Running knives through the dishwasher is the most surefire way to make them dull. You wouldn’t put your Gucci in the dryer, so, don’t put your precious knife in the dishwasher.”

“Do not put knives in the dishwasher!" says Bennet. "Running knives through the dishwasher is the most surefire way to make them dull. You wouldn’t put your Gucci in the dryer, so, don’t put your precious knife in the dishwasher.”

3. The sharper the knife, the better

According to Bennett, it’s plain and simple: A dull knife is a dangerous knife. “Avoid using a dull knife no matter what level of chef you are,” she says. So, how often should you be sharpening your knives? Six months is her *general* rule of thumb, although this is subject to change due to other variables. “If you have a really great knife that you use every day, you’ll need to sharpen it every six months. However, there’s no hard rule on this. Knives are like shoes. How frequently you need to sharpen them depends on how many times you 'wear' them or how aggressive you were with them,” Bennett says.

The good news? You can have someone help you with keeping your knives nice and sharp. “Also, like shoes, you can take them to a professional to get buffed and sharpened or you can DIY it,” Bennett says. Don’t know where to find a pro? She says many times knife sharpening experts will have a stand at your local farmer’s markets. Just don’t forget your sheath.

How to sharpen your knives 

Bennett explains that there are a few ways you can sharpen knives at home. For more detailed work, she recommends using a Japanese whetstone, which you can find on Amazon, although they’re a bit on the pricey side (this top-rated product retails for $270). “For this more advanced method, you move the knife in a back and forth motion to sand down the knife,” she says.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more beginner method, Bennett recommends using a honing rod. “These look like a pole but thicker, and are about one and a half feet long. To use, simply run the knife up and down it to sharpen the edge of your knife.” You’ll also want to hold the heel of the knife for stability as you run it down the rod at a 15-20º angle.

If you’re looking for something that makes getting the job done even easier, a Tumbler Rolling Knife Sharpener (which retails for $99 on Amazon) can help do the trick. This product is designed for both novices and experts, and helps to ensure a flawless edge every time by simply gliding the blade along a rolling disc. According to Tumbler's co-founder and CEO Manuel Rappard, it’s also one of the best ways to enhance safety when sharpening a knife.

According to Bennett, it’s plain and simple: A dull knife is a dangerous knife.

Knife durability basics 

Not all knives are created equal—there are tons of different shapes, sizes, and materials they can be made from.

In terms of materials, the two main types being carbon steel and stainless steel, stainless being a softer metal than carbon. “The softer it is, the easier it is to sharpen, but it doesn't hold its edge as long,” she says. For a more durable knife, Bennett says carbon steel is usually the restaurant industry standard. However, even though chefs swear by them, knives made of purely carbon steel can be fussier to handle as they’re prone to rusting, and not as beginner-friendly. That said, Bennett notes that they “maintain their sharpness like no other."

Looking for a good mix of the two? “A blend of carbon and stainless steel is also possible, that’s generally soft enough to sharpen at home, but not too soft that the edge goes away easily,” Bennett says. (Plus, won't rust as easily, nor require as much upkeep.)

The most durable knives on the market

On that note, if you're looking for a combination of durability, high-quality material, and superior design, you simply can't go wrong with Japanese steel knives from Shun. Shun's Premier 7-Piece Essential Block Set ($740) in particular features a standout, top-of-the-line Japanese stainless and carbon steel hybrid to improve its strength and durability. Not to mention how strikingly gorgeous and incredibly sharp Shun's knives are—you truly can't do better.

Bennett says that Japanese steel knives tend to hold their edge well and be a bit lighter and more comfortable to maneuver than heavier German-style knives, as you may note with Hedley & Bennett’s Chef’s Knife (which weighs 185 grams and retails for $115) and Utility Knife (86 grams and retails for $65). “It’s a common misconception that a heavy knife is a good knife,” Bennett says. “A good knife is about precision. Think of a scalpel: You want it to be nice and smooth, because the thinner and more maneuverable it is, the more it feels like an extension of your hand.” And that is, after all, the goal.

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