Everything You Need to Know About Knife Safety
Knives are the soul of a kitchen. They're also one of the most dangerous tools in the kitchen. Because of this, knife safety in the kitchen is very important. It involves keeping knives in good condition and using them in the right way. Here are some simple knife safety tips you can follow to keep your kitchen safe.
Keep Your Knives Sharp
Dull knives make a dull company. A dull knife slips often when being used and this wastes a lot of time and could lead to injury. One of the most important rules of knife safety is to keep them sharp at all times.
Of course, excessive sharpening eventually wears knives out, so it should only be done when really necessary. Most of the time all you need to do is to hone the knife to realign the edge.
When you need to sharpen the knife, use a knife sharpener you're familiar with to avoid damaging the knife instead of sharpening it. If you still aren't quite sure how it's done, you can always take the knives to a professional knife sharpener.
Keep Knives Clean
Clean your knife as soon as you've finished using it. This prevents dirt from accumulating, and it also prevents staining and corrosion. It's also easier to clean a knife immediately after it's been dirtied than when the dirt has gotten stuck because it was left on for too long.
Never leave knives soaked in a sink full of soapy water. You may injure yourself by putting in your hand to take them out. Soaking knives also increases the risk of corrosion. Remember, corrosion resistant doesn't mean that the knife will never rust regardless of how it is used. It means that if well maintained the knife will not rust. Even the best stainless steel will corrode if constantly exposed to harsh conditions. This is because most knife blades have small traces of carbon in them to lend some firmness to the soft steel.
Wash knives in warm, soapy water with the edge held away from your body. Some knives are labeled as dishwasher safe, but conditions in the dishwasher are usually harsh and can eventually damage knives.
Always remember to wash the joints and crevices in the knives, such as in between the two halves of the handle, or where the handle and the blade meet. This is because food debris often gets stuck in between these cracks, and they attract harmful bacteria that could contaminate the food.
Store Knives Safely
Most kitchens have that one drawer where all sorts of tools and utensils are kept. It's tempting to have everything accessible in one place, but a common drawer is no place for a knife. For one thing, the constant rubbing against other utensils will dull the edges of the knife faster than usual. For another, poking around in a drawer containing sharp knives can be quite risky.
Instead of a common drawer, there is a number of knife storage equipment that are safer for you and which also keep the knives in good shape. These are:
A knife block
A magnetic strip
A knife bag
A knife sheath
Use the Right Cutting Surface
An important aspect of knife safety is the surface you cut on. People don't usually consider the cutting surface when thinking about knife safety. And yet, you spend a lot of time with your knives, so the surface you cut on is very important.
Avoid cutting ingredients on very hard surfaces such as marble, ceramic, or glass because hard surfaces dull knives very quickly. They're also slippery and dangerous. Use a wooden or plastic cutting board instead. Even with wooden boards, make sure the wood is hard enough not to get easily gouged by the knives, but not so hard that it dulls the knife each time it is used. A simple hardwood chopping board would do just fine.
Always Use the Right Knife
Not all knives are the same. Some are made for tough jobs while others are very delicate. Using a knife for the wrong job could permanently damage it. For example, although a chef knife can be used for almost any task, it shouldn't be used for really heavy-duty jobs like chopping bones. That's what meat cleavers are for. Some characteristics of knives make them suitable for specific types of jobs and improve knife safety. For instance:
- Flexibility - Some tasks require a particularly flexible knife, like the filleting knife, which needs to be flexible enough to separate the tender flesh from the bone without tearing the flesh. On the other hand, a chef's knife needs to be firm, as most of the ingredients it deals with are hard.
- The edge - Some ingredients are best cut using a knife with a serrated edge, like bread, while others require a straight-edged knife, like vegetables.
- The size of the blade - The size of the blade should match what you're cutting. For example, using a paring knife to cut large vegetables would wear both you and the knife out.
Use Knives for the Right Purpose
Knife safety also involves using knives for what they're supposed to be used for. It's good to improvise, but some of the extra jobs we give our knives may be slightly risky. Some of these include:
- Using the knife to transfer ingredients to the pan- Many cooks are guilty of this. You can get away with this if you're using a Chinese vegetable knife because they're broad and flat-tipped. They can carry a lot at a go and there's no risk of accidentally poking someone as you go from the board to the pan. Alternatively, you can also use a bench scraper. This will also prevent your knife from going blunt due to all that scraping.
- Avoid using kitchen knives to cut non-food objects like packages, as this will dull them faster. Keep a pair of kitchen scissors or a cutter for such tasks.
With these basics of knife safety in the palm of your hand, you can get down to business and enjoy your cooking experience.