Care and maintenance.
Regardless of how much money you spend on a set of knives, practicing good knife maintenance will keep them sharper and help them last longer.
You can find a lot of debate about the best way to store your knives. Some people say a magnetic strip is best, while others swear by a wood block. Both methods can be good for storing knives, as long as you’re using them properly.
According to me, magnetic strips can be great if you have a small kitchen, but you should never place the edge of a knife blade against the strip, or you might bend the edge (always place the dull spine of the knife against the strip). Likewise, a wood block can keep your knives tidy; just don’t ding the knives’ edges against the wood. I also recommends using simple plastic or wood sheaths. Each sleeve goes directly over a blade, and you can then store the knife in a regular cutlery drawer. In-drawer knife blocks, such as this one, are also great for storing knives and don’t take up space on a counter.
I recommends using cutting boards made from softer materials, such as wood, which won’t dull your blades (at least, not so quickly). He says to avoid cutting on boards made of glass, ceramic, or plastic. The exception to this rule is when you’re working with raw meat; you should always use a plastic board for that task, so you can easily disinfect it in the dishwasher or with a bleach solution.
When it comes to washing knifes, never put them in the dishwasher. The high heat and detergents in a dishwasher can compromise the blade and cause wooden handles to loosen or crack over time. (Sharp blades may also cut through the plastic coating of your dish rack, potentially causing rust.) Always hand-wash knives and dry them promptly to prevent rust from building up on the blade. Along the same lines, you should never leave a knife in the sink to wash later or submerge it in water—not only do you risk dulling the blade this way, but doing so is a safety hazard.
No matter how nice your knives are, if you don’t sharpen them, they won’t do you much good. Most home cooks can get by with sharpening their knives professionally about once or twice a year. Unless you’re a particularly experienced knife sharpener with a whetstone or grinder, you’ll probably just take the edge off your knife if you try it yourself. If you’re determined to sharpen your knives at home, check out our picks for the best sharpening tool. Remember, the honing steel that comes with a knife set is really meant only to tune up your knives by taking sharp blades and straightening out the little bends in the edges that develop after regular use.
For more information on knife care and honing technique, see our guide to the best chef’s knife.
How we picked and tested
To determine the most essential knives for home cooks, We concluded that a good set should include the following pieces: