How to Care for your Professional Chefs Knives.
Christmas has come and passed, and you find yourself with a beautiful set of NEW Chef Knives. Nice! I’m often surprised at the poor care people take of there new stuff, this is a bit of generalization of course. However if you are a serious cook, your nothing with a dull knife! Much to my surprise, many folks don’t know how to care for there knives, including many professionals. If you, or your loved ones have gone to the trouble of buying you a quality set of knives, please learn how to take care of them. Especially when you understand that a decent set will cost between $500 – $1000 and up. If you click on the link below the image above, you can find some excellent knives at a fraction of major brands. I recently switched to NSF Cutlery, and am surprisingly happy with these custom made Damascus steel and wood handled knives. Because they are such high quality, I’m providing some care instructions for you. Of course these same principles apply to any similar knives, enjoy!
Caring for a Damascus steel blade is much the same as for a Carbon steel blade – moisture is the enemy. Once the blade has built up a patina it is much more forgiving, but a fresh Carbon steel based blade will begin to rust in a heartbeat.
- Leave the blade resting in standing water
- Rest the blade on a damp tea towel, wash cloth, etc
- Store in direct contact with leather
- Wash in a dishwasher
To help your Damascus steel knife become a heirloom, there are only a few things you need to do.
- Rinse clean under running water and wipe dry with a clean cloth
- Lightly oil using food safe oil
- Store in a dry place
While your blade is still developing a patina, it is a good idea to quickly wipe the blade down before moving on to a food preparation task not involving the knife.
A common mistake when oiling a blade is to use something like olive oil that will go rancid. We recommend mineral oil, as it is food safe, cheap, and readily available.
Many people new to Damascus steel knives approach washing their blades with trepidation. Cleaning your knife is straightforward: rinse it under running water, give it a wipe with a lightly soapy dish sponge, rinse it again and wipe dry. If you’re familiar with the term “Bachelor Wash” (or can decipher the connotation), this is all it takes.
The Damascus pattern will fade with use – this is normal and easy to rectify. Hot black instant coffee (cheap, nasty, and mixed at a ratio that would kill a large animal) is a mild etchant that we use as the final stage of our Damascus etching process. It is element of our process that contributes most to the blackness of the pattern.
Here’s how to refresh your own blades:
- Brew a batch of the cheapest and nastiest black instant coffee you can get your hands on. You’ll need enough to immerse the blade in.
- Wash the blade, then thoroughly wipe it down with methylated spirits to remove oils and contaminants
- Immerse the blade in the instant coffee, heating the coffee back up if it’s gone cold (heat increases the rate of reaction). Take care to avoid getting coffee on the handle.
- Expect the process to take anywhere between 15 minutes and an hour. Check the blade every 15 minutes by removing it from the coffee and allowing the coffee to drip off. Do not touch or wipe down the blade at any point.
- When the desired results have been achieved, remove the blade from the coffee then wash as normal before oiling and storing.
The Difference Between Sharpening and Honing
You’ve likely seen someone USING A STEEL to “sharpen” a knife. But the steel rod doesn’t actually sharpen your knife—it just straightens out the cutting edge on the blade to allow for smoother, safer cuts. Sharpening your knife, on the other hand, actually, well, sharpens it. So yes, you need to do both. Hone your knife weekly—every time you use your knife, if you’d like—and sharpen your knife every few months, or at least every year (depending on how often you use it, and how soon you notice dulling that honing doesn’t really improve).
How to Sharpen With a Whetstone
Our favorite way to sharpen a blade is to use a whetstone—a rectangular block that works almost like sandpaper, helping to straighten and refine the cutting edge on the blade as you slide the knife across it. Most whetstones are designed to be soaked in water before every use, so check the manufacturer’s instructions to be sure. (Fun fact: Whetstones aren’t actually named for the fact that most are used wet—”whet” is actually just an old word for “sharpen”).
If your whetstone needs to be soaked, submerge it in water until it’s completely saturated and there are no bubbles coming out of it, 5 to10 minutes. To use it, hold the knife at a 20-degree angle against the whetstone, and gently drag each side of the knife against it a few times. Most whetstones have both a “coarse-grind side” and a “fine-grind side”—start with the coarse side if your knife is especially dull, then repeat the process on the fine-grind side.
I don’t reccomend any other type of stone or device, in general they just ruin your knives because they remove to much metal. As a final mention, my friends at NSF have a promotion on right now, that included a whetstone with the set above. Check it out if your in the market for knives! Cheers, and Happy New Year!