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A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Doug is a hardcore barbeque enthusiast and connoisseur. While he spends most of his time on editing and research,
he sometimes moonlights as a product tester for particularly interesting things he comes across.
Knives are ubiquitous in every home, whether they’re in your kitchen drawers, a knife block, or you have utility knives for outdoor work. Whatever the case may be, a critical aspect of owning a knife is understanding how to use, clean, and store it safely.
Educate yourself on proper knife storage and cleaning practices to prevent kitchen accidents, and pass that knowledge on to your family, so everyone in the household understands the risks associated with knives.
By following some simple guidelines for where you keep your knives, how you use them, and the correct technique for cleaning them, you’ll create a safe cooking environment that everyone can relax in and enjoy.
Proper Knife Storage
Understanding how to store a knife properly is an integral part of knife safety for you and the other members of your household. The first rule is to never store your knives loose in a kitchen drawer with the rest of your utensils. Anyone might reach in absently searching for a utensil and unknowingly brush their hand along the sharp edge, causing an accident.
There are three ways that you can store kitchen knives that are most effective for keeping your family safe:
1. Magnetic Wall Strip
Storing knives on the wall allows you to reclaim your counter space and hygienically keep your blades clean when they’re not in use. The knives are secure; the blades are flat to the wall, so they can’t injure anyone working in the vicinity, and they’re out of reach for children.
2. Knife Block
A knife block makes a stylish addition to your kitchen counter, and it protects the blades of your best kitchen knives from wear and tear. Most importantly, it keeps them concealed so nobody can accidentally cut themselves on the sharp blades. However, it is crucial to keep your knife block clean, as bacteria and mold can grow in the slots.
3. Drawer Dock
If you have limited counter space or simply prefer to keep your knives out of sight, a drawer dock is a safe solution. These units allow you to keep knives in a kitchen drawer without having them sit loose and exposed. Knives are placed sharp side down into the dock, ensuring your hands are protected when you reach into the drawer to grab them. Many docks come with built-in sharpeners that keep your knives honed and safe to use.
Kitchen knives do the hard work when you’re cooking, and you should be cleaning them after each use to prevent debris from drying on the blade. While it's convenient to pop your knives into the dishwasher, this is not the safest way to clean them and can also make them wear faster or void your warranty (if you have one).
A combination of soap and water is the best way to clean your kitchen knives, but you need to be methodical. Start by holding the handle of the knife and ensuring the sharp edge of the blade is facing away from you. With a damp soapy cloth, carefully wipe down each side of the blade in a slow motion away from you. Then rinse the knife off under the tap and place it blade down (handle facing up) to dry.
Never fill your sink full of soap water and drop a knife in to soak. You or someone else who doesn't realize it’s in there may reach in to pull the drain plug out and get cut on the blade. If you need to soak a knife to remove dried food from the blade, fill the sink so the water is shallow, and do not add soap so you can always see the knife.
How to Choose the Best Knife for the Job?
Knives are important culinary tools but using the correct knife for the task is critical. Knives that are too small for cutting tasks require more force, potentially leading to slips and injuries. Knives that are too large are harder to control.
Understanding which kind of knife is used for specific tasks is an essential part of knife safety.
1. Chef’s Knife
A chef’s knife is a small to medium size knife usually 8-10” long. This is a go-to knife in most kitchens today because it can be used for chopping vegetables, fruits and even cutting some meats and poultry.
2. Paring Knife
A paring knife is small with a blade just 3-4” long. This versatile kitchen knife is sometimes referred to as a peeling knife because its size and shape make it ideal for peeling fruits and vegetables. It’s also great for removing seeds.
3. Utility Knife
A utility knife sits in the middle with a blade roughly 6” long, though it's narrower than a Chef’s knife. This knife tackles smaller prep tasks, such as preparing small or soft vegetables. It is also suitable for precision tasks, such as chopping herbs.
4. Carving Knife
5. Bread Knife
A bread knife’s blade is 6-10” long and features a serrated edge to grip the bread and cut smoothly without applying pressure and crushing the loaf.
6. Filleting Knife
A filleting knife’s thin blade can be 6-11” long and provides excellent control for filleting fish. Filleting knives have increased flexibility so they can move with the contours of a fish to remove bones more easily.
7. Tomato Knife
Perhaps you’ve seen these unique knives and never known what they’re for. A tomato knife features two sharp points on its end and sometimes has a serrated blade, usually about 5” long. The pointy tips allow you to lift pieces of tomato from the cutting board without putting pressure on the tender skin.
How to Handle a Knife Safely
Aside from keeping the blade sharp and only holding the knife by the handle, you can use several other techniques to handle a knife safely.
When preparing fruits and vegetables, place a damp kitchen towel under your cutting board to prevent slippage. Slightly curl the fingers of hand not holding the knife underneath the palm, using your knuckles as a guide for the blade. This not only avoids lacerations but also enables you to slice faster and with more precision. Cut using a forward-and-down motion, away from your fingers.
If you are mincing onions, garlic, ginger, or herbs, keep the tip of the blade on the cutting board, pumping the handle up and down quickly in a circular motion.
Prioritize Knife Safety
When it comes to knives in your home, always put safety first. Assess the risks and take actions to store your knives in the safest way possible, especially if you have children in the house. Be mindful of how you clean your knives after use and always take the time to pick up the right knife for the job to avoid slips and cuts.