Let’s Talk Knives


I love a good knife. My favorite knife is the santoku, which is why I have 5 of them (4 in the photo, 1 is in one of the blocks). My Wusthof  chef’s knife (far left on the magnetic strip) is also on my favorites list. So you might be asking why the hell I have two knife blocks and the magnetic strip. Well, it started out when my dad bought me my first block set about 8 years ago. He told me, “Be careful, they’re really sharp!” I thought to myself no shit, Sherlock. But I just nodded and said, “Ok, Dad.”

I quickly outgrew the block when he bought me more knives the next year, so he bought me the magnetic hanger, too. Since then, my favorite go-to knives hang on the strip for easy access, and I’ve continued to build my knife collection. (Word of caution on magnetic strips in the top 10 list below.) Everything else goes in one of the blocks. We actually got the Wusthof block (on the left) yesterday on clearance at Williams-Sonoma. We desperately needed a block space for our steak knives, so I’m glad we found it. I was planning to sell or give away the block on the right, but I realized I should probably keep it for my ever-expanding knife collection.

If you’re in the market for some knives, make sure you actually get to hold and feel them before you buy. There is one higher-end brand that makes an amazing knife, but they’ve never felt quite right when I’ve used them. I was eyeing them for a long time, but once I finally was able to use one, I crossed them off of my wish list. I’m sure there are loads of people who think they’re great, but they just don’t work well with my hands I guess.

If you’re knife shopping on a budget, you have a couple of options. Honestly the only three knives that are essential are a chef’s knife, paring knife, and a serrated knife (in that order). Let’s be serious, nobody actually needs 5 santoku knives (says the person who owns 5 santoku knives, but I’m really serious about only needing the 3 I listed). It’s usually more expensive to buy knives individually rather than part of a set, but if you’re looking to save money and get bare essentials, you can get by just fine with those three knives. The other option is to look for a block set. You can get sets for a good value, but keep searching clearance at places like Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, or online if you’re really looking to save.

You probably understand by now how much I love my collection of knives. I’m kind of obsessive about how they’re cared for. I want them to last! Here are my kitchen knife top 10 rules.

Don’t let them sit in the sink or soak in water. Knives in my kitchen should never actually enter a sink unless they’re being held and washed. If I can’t wash a knife right away, I place it next to the sink. I always wash them once I’m finished cooking.

No dishwasher! I’ll admit I’m a little liberal wish what should go in the dishwasher, but not with my knives.

Never put a wet knife back in the block. You don’t want the inside of your block to get wet and grow all kinds of science experiments. Some people will say to dry knives right away. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. When I don’t, I make sure they’re resting blade side up so they dry quickly and evenly.

Use a magnetic strip carefully. Some say that magnetic strips are bad for knives. But I like to use one, so I do it carefully. Put the knife on the strip blade side last. You should hear two clicks if you do it right – one when the first edge makes contact, one when the blade makes contact. Pull it off blade side first. Like the two click concept when putting the knife on, you should feel two releases when you take it off – one for the blade side, then one for the other side.

Choose your cutting surface wisely. No glass or granite! I usually use a plastic cutting mat or wooden board. Speaking of wooden boards, don’t leave them in the sink, soak them, or put them in the dishwasher either. And take care of  any wooden boards with some Boos Butcher Board Cream (also great for wooden spoons and such). Some people also use separate boards for raw chicken, meat, and fruits/veggies.

Never scrape ingredients across the board with the blade. Please, I am begging you, flip the knife over and move your ingredients around using the non-blade/top edge. Seeing or hearing someone scrape ingredients across a board with the blade side of a knife makes me cringe more than fingernails on a chalkboard. Why is this such a big deal? It’s better for the health of the blade.

Hone regularly. This doesn’t sharpen the knife, but it realigns the blade to keep it performing at its best.

Get your knives professionally sharpened once per year. Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table both offer this service. There are other options, but do your research before selecting someone. I don’t recommend DIY sharpening. My wife will sharpen our knives that aren’t super nice, but I take the nicest ones in for sharpening. Also, a well-maintained knife will also be easier to sharpen.

Use good knife skills. Watch some YouTube videos on this if you need to learn more. Good knife skills are essential for good cooking. Your ingredients cook evenly if they’re close in size and shape. Good knife skills are also a good safety skill; cutting your finger is no fun!

Don’t stab your spouse. (More on that here)

Cooking as a Couple (without killing each other)

My wife and I both like to cook. A lot. Her strengths are meat, grilling, and sauces. Mine are soups and baking. We’re a great combination in the kitchen, but sometimes things just go wrong. (Remember the “occasional disasters” in my tagline?) Like, stabbing with a knife wrong (before anyone gets concerned about domestic violence, keep reading).

We moved to Philadelphia when I graduated from college because that’s where I had the best job offer. We wanted to live in the city, and on an entry level salary it meant living in a shoebox. Our apartment was probably the size of the living room in our current house. Our kitchen was small and awkward, but we made the best of it. One of these days I’ll do a post on making the most of a kitchen the size of a postage stamp. Anyway, the kitchen was square shaped, and it was just big enough for us to both stand in it and rotate in place. So what does this have to do with stabbings? Well, we didn’t have a dishwasher, so we had to hand wash everything. One night I was washing the dishes, she was standing behind me drying. I handed her a paring knife (which wouldn’t go in the dishwasher anyway) to dry. Yeah, you see where this is going. For whatever reason, I took a step backward. Why would I do that in such a tiny kitchen?! Where did I think I was going?! “Aaahhhhooowwww! You stabbed me!” “You backed into it!” “Ok, yeah, I did, but I still got stabbed!” I was fine and we laugh about it now, but you will still hear us yell “knife!!!” when one of us is in motion with a knife, even in our much larger kitchen. “Hot,” “behind,” or any combination hot-knife-behind are also pretty common around here. Lesson: Warn your spouse so you don’t stab each other!

Here are some other rules from our kitchen, in no particular order. Ok, some of them are just my rules, but whatever.

  • If you’re not doing the dishes, don’t criticize the person loading the dishwasher (I’ll admit this is my rule because I’m normally the one receiving the criticism, usually for not rinsing or scrubbing dishes enough. Sorry honey. Not sorry. You still love me.)
  • It’s better to give feedback when it’s been solicited if a dish is still in process. (Duh that needs more seasoning, I’m still adjusting! Did I ask you to taste it yet??)
  • Feedback when the food is done is fair game.
  • Sometimes we will need to be rescued. Ask for help! And give help.
  • Dont’t scrape knife blade across the cutting board to move ingredients. FFS flip it over and scrape with the dull side! Knives are sacred around here.
  • Disasters happen. As long as we’re ok, laugh and move on. And then laugh about it more later. (Uhhh… like the caramel I caught on fire or milk I burned. Oops.)
  • Can we please not argue about whether convection is appropriate for this situation?
  • You can’t be perfect all the time. Don’t have a meltdown if something isn’t working. (Refer to the point on asking for help. This is mostly my wife’s rule for me.)

If you’re reading this, honey, I love you. 💕