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8 Mistakes You're Making with Your Kitchen Knives

From washing your knife in a dishwasher to using the wrong cutting board, you may be inadvertently screwing up your kitchen knives.

kitchen knives

So you finally caved and bought yourself a fancy chef's knife. You've probably cut down your prep time by half now that you can slice and dice with ease. (Need a rec? Here's our definitive guide to the best kitchen knives you can buy.)

To protect that investment, make sure you're wielding your new blade with respect — namely, by avoiding a handful of common pitfalls even seasoned cooks commit.

We asked Eytan Zias, the bladesmith and cofounder of Steelport Knife Co., to help identify all the detrimental ways you're ruining your precious kitchen knives — and just exactly how you can turn those bad habits around.

You're using a dishwasher to clean your knife

    There may be nothing more harmful to a kitchen knife than putting it in a dishwasher.

    "Knives just cannot be exposed to water, heat and harsh chemicals for that length of time," Zias says. "Blades will rust, even if stainless, and rust eats through steel and causes pitting. Many blades people think are chipped are actually being eaten away by rust, which attacks edges first."

    Besides the blade, the dishwasher will go after you knife's handle. Wooden handles will swell and crack, and plastic handles will eventually break, too.

    how to sharpen a knife
    Even plastic handles can crack if surrendered to the whims of a dishwasher.

    You're cutting things you shouldn't be

    We love chef's knives because they're quite possibly the most versatile kitchen knife in a cook's arsenal. However, that doesn't mean they can cut through everything.

    Zias gives us this tip: "Anything you wouldn't cut with your teeth, don't cut with your knife."

    That means those frozen strips of steak are off limits, and you better not be trying to cut through the bones of a whole bird. On the other hand, if you have a meat cleaver in hand, go barbaric on those bones.

    You're neglecting regular maintenance

    Your kitchen knife might not need as much care and attention as your cast-iron skillet, but it'll still need a decent amount of upkeep to make sure it's in tip-top cutting condition.

    "As a professional knife sharpener for fifteen years, I have literally seen hundreds of thousands of knives come through, and the most common damage we have seen is caused by either rust or sharpening-gadgets," Zias says. "The first advice I would give people is that every knife needs regular maintenance — no matter the quality — and that they should not be intimidated by it."

    That means honing and sharpening the blade, as needed. Still here? Keep reading.

    knife sharpening
    Regular maintenance means honing and sharpening a blade, as needed.

    You're not honing your knife

    Honing and sharpening are two different things. When you sharpen a knife, you're shaving down part of the knife to create a sharper edge; when you hone it, you're realigning the edge. As Zias says, "the more you hone, the less you sharpen."

    So when should you be honing your knife? Once you notice your knife can no longer easily cut through a tomato, it's time to bring out the honing rod. But if you're waiting until your knife is completely dull to hone it, using a honing rod won't help much — only then, is it time to sharpen. Here's how to sharpen your knife the right way.

    You don't dry your knife after it's wet

    Carbon steel knives should always be dried immediately after they've gotten wet. Otherwise, rust can develop in no time.

    Despite common knowledge, the same rule applies to stainless steel knives. "They are stain-less not stain-proof," Zias emphasizes. Leaving your knives in the kitchen sink will guarantee the development of rust, which will cause pitting on your blade, leading to permanent damage.

    You're using the wrong cutting board

    Cutting boards come in all shapes, sizes and materials, but Zias recommends Japanese style "hi-soft" rubber cutting boards. Their soft surfaces help to maintain the longevity of a knife's edge, and while they can easily stain and become shredded up, a good sanding will get it back to normal.

    Rubber cutting boards tend to be a little expensive, so Zias says a home cook would fair well with a wood cutting board, especially an end-grain wooden board.

    You're scraping your cutting board with the knife's edge

    Instinctively, you might be using your knife's edge to help carry food from your cutting board to somewhere else. Zias this is probably the most under-the-radar way you're screwing up your knife. Instead, Zias recommends flipping the knife over to use the spine of the knife to move food around.

    "I've even seen people move the food over with the blade after every single cut," he says. "We see a lot of rolled edges from that."

    Better yet, opt for a bench scraper, which will make carrying food easier than using a knife.

    You bought the wrong knife to begin with

    If you bought a dud knife, you're going to have issues with it no matter how well you take care of it.

    When you're shopping for a knife, go for "quality over quantity," Zias says. "If you have a $100 budget, two $50 knives will serve you much better than 10 $10 knives."

    best kitchen knives
    No amount of maintenance will turn bad blade into a good one.
    Chandler Bondurant

    Need a new recommendation? Our guide to the best kitchen knives has tips and recommendations for all budgets and skill levels.

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