You probably wouldn’t be surprised at the number of knife-related injuries in kitchens, but did you know that dull blades can cause accidents too? Contrary to what you might think, sharp knives are much safer to have around the kitchen. So, whether you’re a Chef working the line, or an avid foodie cooking at home, you’ll want to keep those blades in tip-top condition.
I’ve personally cut myself on numerous occasions because I let my knives get too dull!
Dull knives are more dangerous in the kitchen because they don’t bite into food as well as sharp knives, so there’s a higher chance the blade will shift or slip. In addition, blunt blades need a lot more pressure to cut, so if and when the knife slips, there’s a higher chance you’ll get hurt.
This article will discuss why dull knives are more dangerous, how often knives should be sharpened, how to keep the blades in the best condition, and how to use a sharp knife properly.
Why It’s Important To Keep Your Knives Sharp
One of the most common errors people make with kitchen knives is allowing them to dull. While this may seem like a minor slip-up, this simple oversight can cause severe injuries.
If cut with a dull knife, the result is usually a deep tear that can be difficult to heal, while a cut with a sharp knife is clean and able to heal faster.
Using a dull knife requires a significant amount of pressure to press through the food, and the increased force makes it more likely that you’ll lose control.
No doubt you’ve tried to cut a tomato once or twice and found it mushed under your knife rather than cut in half. Or maybe you’ve tried to slice an onion only to have the blade slip and hit the chopping board.
These are clear signs that your knives need to be sharpened.
On the other hand, sharp knives are safer because you don’t need to exert extra force. In addition, a sharp knife can “bite” through the surface of the food, gliding effortlessly into the flesh.
Further, a sharp knife produces cleaner, more precise cuts.
How Often Should I Sharpen My Knife?
A knife should be sharpened approximately once every two weeks, though it does depend on how often it’s used and for what. For example, it won’t dull as fast if you only cut fruits and soft items. But if you use the knife to cut thick root vegetables or bones, it will need sharpening sooner.
If you’re unsure if your knife needs sharpening, try the paper test:
- If the knife cuts through a regular sheet of paper, it’s sharp enough to use.
- If the blade is dull, the paper will tear.
- An extremely dull knife won’t scratch the paper.
Can Knives Be Oversharpened?
Knives can be over-sharpened, which will have the opposite of the desired effect. Instead of a sharp edge, you’ll simply grind the edge away, leaving the knife dull again. In a worst-case scenario, the blade may become too thin, leaving the knife unable to maintain any level of sharpness.
If the knife has been worn down too much, the entire knife blade may need to be re-profiled. Re-profiling will make the shape proportionate again. It’ll also re-establish the knife’s edge.
Should I Hone My Knives?
Honing a knife between sharpenings is ideal as it keeps your knife well maintained, but this process is primarily overlooked in homes. Honing doesn’t sharpen a knife. Instead, it keeps the knife edge well balanced. A balanced edge will slow the dulling process.
You can hone your knives at home using a steel honing rod or whetstone. It’s recommended that you hone every two to four uses, and each side of the blade should be honed no more than six times.
How To Prolong the Life of Your Knife
Besides sharpening and honing, knives still need some care to prolong their lifespan.
- Acidic foods like tomatoes, citrus, onions, and mustard should not be left on the knife blade as they can tarnish it. Specifically, carbon steel is highly reactive to high acid foods, so you’ll need to rinse the knife immediately after cutting these foods.
- Knives should be hand washed with hot soapy water. Dishwasher detergents are abrasive and dull blades, and the dishwasher’s heat and humidity can damage the steel and handle.
- Knives should never be left to soak in water and should be thoroughly dried after washing. Blades also need oiling occasionally. Use a food-safe, neutral oil like camellia oil, and apply the oil with a thick towel.
The Proper Way To Cut With a Knife
After selecting the proper sharp knife, follow these simple steps to help you cut food safely and avoid injury:
- First, pinch the handle with your thumb and the knuckle of your index finger.
- Next, make sure to hold the food correctly.
- Tuck your fingers under your knuckles, protecting your fingers as you cut.
Protect Your Knives by Cutting on Appropriate Surfaces
The surface you cut on can also impact the sharpness of your knife blade. Hence, you must use a cutting board.
Wooden cutting boards, specifically maple or teak, are the best to prevent your knife from dulling. Your cutting board should be at least an inch thick, and keep in mind that harder surfaces, like plastic, marble, or glass, can blunt your blade.
To care for a wooden cutting board once a month, oil it using mineral oil. Like your knives, you don’t want to soak the cutting board as the moisture can damage and age the wood. It’ll also need to be towel dried after cleaning.
If your board develops a smell, rub it with half a lemon.
How Does Cutting Affect Food?
It may be a surprise to you to learn that the sharpness of your knife plays a role in how your food cooks, the taste, and the texture.
A sharp knife produces more uniform cuts, which allows the food to cook evenly. A dull blade can leave some pieces of food overcooked and other pieces undercooked. A sharp knife can help aromatic herbs stay fresher longer.
An uneven cut will also affect the texture of the food, particularly meats and fish, as fish is even more sensitive to cuts than meat.
A sharp knife will create a better texture. In addition, the food will dehydrate less, preserving its juices before, during, and after cooking.
Prevent Dull Blades by Using the Right Knife for the Job
Knives come in various shapes with differing blade edges, and each serves a specific purpose.
Using the right knife for the right food is an important step that shouldn’t be overlooked or downplayed.
For example, using a small pairing knife to cut root vegetables will see it dull fast because that blade isn’t designed for such labor-intensive work.
Knives commonly found and used in home kitchens are listed below:
- Steak knife. Steak knives are generally reserved for the table. They’re primarily used to cut cooked foods, such as steak or chicken. They can be serrated, semi-serrated- or non-serrated.
- Serrated utility knife. Utility knives are 4-7 in (10.16-17.78 cm) long. It has a narrow glade and small tip; it’s best used for thin slicing and filleting.
- Chef knife. These knives range in length between 6-12 in (15.24-30.48 cm). It’s easily considered a multi-task knife and is a good choice for mincing.
- Santoku knife. This knife is the Japanese equivalent of the chef knife. However, it’s smaller and lighter. Also, it doesn’t rock on the cutting board, making it the preferable option for slicing.
- Paring knife. Paring knives feature a thin 3-4 in (7.62-10.16 cm) blade. The tip is pointed. It’s ideal for cutting and peeling fruits and veggies with great precision.
- Serrated bread knife. Unsurprisingly, the bread knife is often used for cutting bread. In addition, it cuts cakes, some meats, poultry, and seafood well. It’s easily one of the longer kitchen knives, as some stretch 10 in (25.4 cm).
Now that we know that a sharp knife is actually safer than a dull knife, it’s essential that you carry out knife safety further. Below are tips that’ll keep you and those around you safe when using a knife.
- Never touch the blade edge of a knife.
- When carrying a knife, point the blade edge down.
- Wash the knife with the blade facing away from you.
- Never leave your knife in a full sink where it might sink and be difficult to see.
- When handing a knife to someone, turn and hold the blade flat so they can grasp the handle.
A dull knife is a dangerous kitchen tool because it requires more effort and is more prone to slipping.
Sharp knives are a much safer alternative. In addition, proper maintenance and care can keep the sharpest knives in optimal condition, lessening the likelihood of injury, increasing the food quality, and preserving your investment.