How to Take Care of Your Knives – Tips from a Pro

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Professional Knife Sharpening

A few weeks ago, I had my knives professionally sharpened – in my driveway. Gary, from Gary’s Knife Sharpening Service, sharpens knives at various Los Angeles farmer’s markets. Lucky for me, he also does house calls.

My knives are the most used tools in my kitchen. Most of my food preparation involves peeling, chopping, cutting, and slicing whole food ingredients like vegetables, fruits, and meats.

Though I have a favorite tool to keep my knives sharp, I do like having them professionally sharpened once a year or so. Sharp knives make food prep much faster and smoother.

Gary shared with me his top knife care tips over the grinding buzz of steel on stone. He set up a makeshift workspace in my driveway using a folding table and a generator for his sharpening wheel. Then he started the two step process for each knife,  sharpening – breaking metal and reshaping, and honing – aligning the edge.

And in complete defiance to big city living – we were in my driveway after all – he also shared his life story and his overnight transition to becoming a professional knife sharpener after a vivid daydream from his childhood.

         Gary's Knife Sharpening Service Checking my Knives   Gary, Professional Knife Sharpener, Giving Tips

Gary impressed me with his commitment to service and honesty (he’ll blatantly tell you not to spend $3 sharpening a $.99 knife).

You can also learn a lot from a knife sharpener with no previous knowledge in the field who used life experience and passion to spend his days doing something he enjoys.

Gary’s Tips for Taking Care of Your Knives

1. Use Wooden Cutting Boards

A wood surface is more forgiving than plastic on your knife’s edge. And maple is a better option than bamboo – it’s a softer surface. And always use a cutting board! Your marble counter is your knife’s worst enemy.

2. Avoid Cutting Frozen Items

Gary suggests keeping a cheap knife around for that, the frozen surface will dull out your knives quickly.

3.  Avoid the Dishwasher

Hand washing is best. The heat and drying cycles of your dishwasher can wear out the knife’s handles and the movement and vibration can cause the edges to hit against the basket and other objects dulling your knives.

4.  Store Correctly

If you’re using a knife block, store the knives with the sharp side up. Gary recommends magnet knife racks that you mount on the wall. I like keeping my knives in drawers and use a wooden drawer knife tray.

5. Use the Right Knife for the Job

I hope you’re not chopping vegetables with a pairing knife – your knife’s edge will dull before you’re done. And what are you using on those boxes?

My three most used knives are: a chef’s knife – for chopping vegetables, a paring knife –  for peeling fruits, and a serrated knife – for slicing bread and tomatoes. The chef’s knife is the one you want to spend the most you can afford on, but it doesn’t mean you have to spend your vacation money on a good knife. If you’re taking care of them they will last you a lifetime.

6. The Honing Steel is Your Best Friend

Gary recommends steeling your knife’s edge before and after each use. He has a video tutorial on his website.

A steel is a honing tool, not a sharpening tool, it aligns the knife’s edge. The honing rod will keep your knife from going dull, but it cannot make a dull knife sharp.

The steel is the best tool to maintain your knife’s edge, but to sharpen it you need a knife sharpener.

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This post is linked to The Healthy Home Economist | Monday Mania.

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