Knife Care

Caring for your Carbon Steel knife

My knives are made from High Carbon Steel, mostly 52100 if you want to get nerdy about it (the same steel used to make ball bearings). 52100 is super tough and holds a sharp edge for a long time. It's a great knife steel but it does require some special handling. You can wash the knife as you would any, in the sink (not the dish washer) with soap. Dry the knife after you use it and set it aside. It will develop rust if you leave food or water on it. 

Most of these tips aren't specific to Carbon Steel, this is mostly general knife care advice. If you apply these tips to your softer Stainless Steel knives also, you will prolong the edges on them also. Cutting down the amount of time needed for maintenance and ensuring you have a sharp knife when you need it.

Keep in mind this is about making sure you have a sharp knife when you need it, not about being the best knife sharpener. The nicer you are to your knives the less time you will need to invest in keeping them sharp. The best place to start is by not making it dull. 

Use

The best practice to get into with a Carbon Steel knife is to keep a towel near by while you are preparing your food. After use simply run it through the towel to clean it off. This is a quick process and an easy habit to get into. 

Cutting Surfaces

The saying: A safe knife is a sharp knife is very true. The less effort you have to put behind a knife to make it do the work you need done, the less can go wrong if you or the knife slips. The less effort needed in cutting the better, So everything you can do to keep the knife sharp just makes it safer. 

One great way to keep your knife sharp is the cutting surface where you use it. If you are slamming the edge of a knife into something hard over and over you will dull the edge quickly. If you use a softer surface you will do little to no harm to the edge. Keep that in mind when picking out a cutting board. It will make a huge difference in the keeping keen edge on your knife.

Cutting Angle

The edge of a knife is thin and can chip easily if force is applied from the wrong direction. The blade can take a lot of force up and down but any sideways force could easily cause the steel to fail. So try not to drag the edge across something and do your best to keep a linear stroke when slicing. 

Washing

You can wash a Carbon Steel knife just as you would any other, rinse it off in the sink with soap and water, wipe it off with your dish rag and then towel dry it. You don't need to get every bit of water off of it but don't leave any large drops of water or it could rust a bit. The big "Don't"s are really just don't leave it dirty and don't leave it wet. Other than that, treat it like a sharp tool, with respect and care and it will last forever. 

Storage

One really quick way to dull a knife is to throw it in a drawer and slam the drawer closed with a quick hip bump. It may be fun to do but save that for the silver wear and wooden spoons. Get a magnetic knife strip and hang it on the wall. Take down some of the useless knickknacks you have hanging in your kitchen and put up a proper knife holder. This will ensure that your knife isn't being knocked around in a drawer and it's also a great way to show off your new knife. The old knife block works well also if you're too scared to drill into your tile. 

Steel

The common misconception about these things are that you are sharpening your knife. No matter how much you practice and how fast you can get with it. It looks cool, yes, and it even feels good to do when you get proficient. But be aware than all that tool is for is straightening the edge of your knife. It's not removing material to give you a sharper edge. If you were scraping steel off the edge of the knife you shouldn't be doing it over the turkey right before you slice into it. You should do it in another room altogether. 

Sharpening

This is a huge topic that I will address in more detail on another page or hopefully in a video. As in many things in life, if it appears too good to be true, it probably is. All the infomercials about the super simple new knife sharpener gizmo are probably horse crap. Sharpening steel can only happen through abrasion. You can scratch and scrape your way to a really sharp knife. 

With that said, the best way to get a sharp edge back on your knife is with a sharpening stone of some kind. You can go really deep on this, there are all sorts of stones with all sorts of different needs. The best thing for the home in my opinion is a stone that doesn't need to be soaked and doesn't need oil. So a stone you can lubricate with water that will clean up easily and can be ready in a moments notice. 

I use whetstones to sharpen my knives, They are ceramic or real stone and they are a joy to use, but they have a down side. I need to soak them to get all the air out before I can use them. I don't think that makes for a good kitchen environment. This doesn't need to be a ceremony, you just need a sharp knife before you cook. If you want to make it into a ceremony, by all means go for it, I think it's more enjoyable and more satisfying than anything on TV, so pour yourself a scotch and have at it. But most of us just need a sharp tool when we need a sharp tool. 

There are a couple options for sharpening stones that don't need to be soaked, one option is diamond stones. These aren't porous and don't need to be soaked so you can just put it out of a drawer throw some water on it and quickly get your knife ready. The option I just heard about and need to research more, but it's similar to a whetstone but doesn't need to be soaked. I'm going to update this page when I do more research and find out more about it. 

The goal is to have a sharp knife not stroke your ego because you have a big collection of stones to sharpen your knife. It doesn't have to be difficult. If you ask anyone their opinion and they tell you the only way is to use a whetstone, cut them off there, thank them for their terrible thoughts and walk away from them. They are terrible people and you should do everything in your power to crush them. I'm just kidding but seriously, crush them!