While knowing how to sharpen your knives is important, learning how to properly maintain your knives ensures that they remain serviceable and last a long time. Below are some general maintenance tips to keep your Japanese knives in excellent condition.
Washing / Drying
Japanese knives, including its handles, should always be hand washed and hand dried. Do not put the knives in a dishwasher. While some knives will say “dishwasher safe”, it’s best to hand wash the knives whenever possible to get in the habit of cleaning the knives correctly. If you put your knife in the dishwasher, you run the risk of the knife rattling around, which damages the cutting edge and handle. To wash the knives, simply use a soft sponge with some dish soap and hot water. Many high-carbon steel knives are prone to rust and discolor quickly it left wet, therefore it is important to have a towel on hand to wipe off any moisture as you prepare food while using the knife.
Never use a Japanese knife to cut through tough objects such as bones or hard surfaces. While Japanese blades are made from very hard steel (often blades feature hardness ratings of 60+ HRC) which gives it its sharp edges, it also makes the knives more brittle as they’re much thinner as opposed to Western-style knives. Cutting through hard objects such as bones increases the chance of chipping your knife. Using the proper cutting technique is also important. It’s important to remember that a smooth cutting motion is the best way to cut objects. Don’t exert an excessive amount of force as you drive your knife down into the object, as Japanese knives are not made for this type of cutting. If you find yourself using a lot of strength, it means your knife is not sharp enough, you’re using the wrong knife, or you’re cutting something that you shouldn’t be cutting.
Your cutting board shouldn’t be so hard that it damages your blade. When looking for a cutting board, boards made from polyvinyl acetate or end-grain wood boards are the most recommended. Rubber or sani-tuff boards are also recommended. For those on a budget, soft plastic boards made of polyethylene are a suitable option but they tend to scratch easier and are more difficult to clean. Avoid boards made of hard materials such as granite, stainless steel, bamboo, hard plastic, or edge-grain wood as these boards will damage your knife edge quickly.
After cleaning and drying your knife, there are several options for everyday storage.
|Magnetic Strip||With a magnetic strip, you can mount your knife on a wall or even a refrigerator. This is a great option for people with smaller kitchens and not much counter space. The downsides of a magnetic strip is that it doesn’t offer any blade protection are the edges are exposed, however this shouldn’t be an issue if you mount the strip in a place where you can avoid unintentionally walking into it.|
|Knife Block||The knife block is a classic way to hold knives. They’re usually made of wood and come in many different styles and designs; however, the drawback is that they can take up valuable counter space. When looking for a knife block, make sure you purchase one that is tall enough for your knives.|
|Drawer||If you have extra space in a drawer, there are knife block inserts that fit in a drawer so that you can store your knives. If you’re putting your knife loose in a drawer, make sure you use a sheath or blade guard to protect the knife from chipping or excessive banging, and also to protect yourself and your hands as you’re reaching in to grab the knife.
If you’re a person that likes to travel with their knives, there are lots of options such as knife rolls, bags, and cases made specially for those who are always on-the-go. If you don’t have any of these, it’s recommended that you have at least a blade guard on your knife.
If you have a knife but aren’t planning to use it for a while, first make sure your the knife is completely dry, then wrap it in multiple layers of newspaper. The newspaper provides good breathability and the ink can help prevent the blade from rusting. Lastly, store your knife somewhere that is well-ventilated with low air humidity.
If you follow the tips above, you’ll now know how to properly maintain your knives. These tips not only apply to Japanese knives, but all types of knives as well.