Kinives and honing steel

Honing steel (pictured in foreground), with a variety of kitchen knives.

Stay-Put Cooking is a frequent kitchen dispatch while you're stuck at home social distancing. Check out the archive for more tips and tricks.

With more of us cooking at home while sheltering in place, chances are our kitchen knives are getting a good workout. That of course is music to this cooking teacher’s ears, but it also means those knives may need some tender loving care.

A sharp knife is a safe knife. When a blade is sharp, it will glide through your food, with little force. If it’s dull, it will stick and increases the risk of injury.

For this post, we’re not learning how to sharpen a knife -- that is another conversation for another time. We begin with a technique called honing, which means maintaining the blade’s edge with a long metal rod known as a honing steel, assuming of course you’ve got a decently sharp blade. If your knife is undeniably blunt, a steel is not going to bring it back to life. (The video below has all the how-to details.)

Many of us already have a honing steel in our possession; it may very well be collecting dust in the utensil drawer (no judgement!).

Let’s dust off that steel and get busy; in fact, I highly recommend using a steel every time you cook. Think of it like flossing, daily maintenance that doesn’t replace annual dental checkups but makes them less fraught. A knife left unhoned goes dull much more quickly.

KITCHEN KNIFE Dos + Don’ts

DO….

  • Mind the edge: Pay attention to where the edge of your sharp blade is pointing, ideally a safe distance from your fingers.
  • Lay it down flat with sharp edge away from you.
  • When walking with your knife, hold it by the handle and hold it low – by your leg – with the sharp edge away from you. When passing someone in the kitchen, announce “sharp knife.”
  • Wash your knives by hand, with hot water and soap. (Translation: do not wash in the dishwasher!)

DON’T…

  • Put dirty knives in the sink. It’s easy to forget and increase your chances of getting cut.
  • Try to catch a knife that’s falling. Let it drop, THEN pick it up.

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