A set of good knives is a great kitchen asset and may last a lifetime. Once you have made the purchase, be prepared to clean, sharpen, store, and protect them.
Proper storage will protect the knife blades and keep the handles dry. If you store knives in a kitchen drawer organizer, use one slot for each knife and use a protective cover on the blades. Never stack knives and do not place them loose in a drawer with other utensils.
Never place the fragile tip of the knife under any type of pressure. Do not place knives in any container in which the tip is supporting the body. The less contact the tip has with any surface, the better.
A wood block with slots is the ideal storage solution. It allows the knives to dry out after cleaning and protects the blades from damage. For best blade protection, use a wood block with horizontally cut slots. Slide the knife into each slot without touching the blade to the wood. If your wood block has vertical slots, take care to slide the blade in without coming in contact with the wood until it is in place and then let it rest.
Never place good knives in a dishwasher, even if the manufacturer’s instructions state otherwise. Plastic handles may be fine in the dishwasher, but the blades are not. Blades can chip or break if they are knocking around with other utensils. High heat cycles and abrasion will also affect the tempering on good blades.
Wash knives immediately after each use with dishwashing liquid and hot running water. Mild abrasive powder or a sponge should take care of any tough to clean spots. Rinse knives after cutting acidic foods to prevent discoloration.
Never let knives soak, especially those with wooden blades. Moisture can build up between the blade and handle. This becomes a prime area for bacteria buildup and, in time, the handle may become loose and break away from the blade. Coat wooden handles with mineral oil from time to time. Dry the utensils thoroughly after washing.
Use kitchen cutlery only in jobs for which they are intended. For instance, a Chinese cleaver may chip if used to cut through bone. Never use knives for prying, tightening, or pounding and do not use them for any jobs outside of the kitchen work area. Do not slice or cut through cardboard or paper products, even with kitchen shears, which require the same type of care as your knives.
Cutting surfaces should be either soft wood- or plastic-based. Avoid hard plastic boards. Knives will dull quickly and may chip or break if used on surfaces such as glass cutting boards. Do not cut directly on ceramic plates. Vegetables with tough outer skins, such as bell peppers, should be sliced or chopped with the softer, inner flesh side facing up.
You may hear that a knife never needs sharpening. This is probably true of those models with serrated blades. They cannot be sharpened, but they typically do not last a very long time. Serrated knives are not the ideal tool for most food preparation.
Use a sharpening, or honing steel before or after each use. This will keep your blade properly aligned. Do not use much pressure and be sure to pass both sides of the blade across the steel. Most home improvement stores carry small, inexpensive sharpening devices. As the blade begins to dull, use a sharpening stone. Block stones will have two abrasive sides: a medium grit on one side and a fine grit on the other. Some styles require the use of oil during the sharpening process. Abrasive paper is also available.
After a few years of use, fine cutlery requires regrinding by a professional.
Care for your good kitchen utensils properly and they will last for many years to come.