The chef’s knife is one of the kitchen tools a home chef uses most. What most people don’t know is how easy it is to ruin a kitchen knife. If you have some beautiful blades you want to have for years, there are a few good habits to get into — and some to break — to keep that knife sharp and sturdy for years.
Storing your blade improperly and cutting on rough surfaces are obvious ways to ding and dull a chef’s knife, but there are more unassuming practices that will damage the edge. One example: Scraping your knife sideways and with force against a cutting board to clean off the block will do harm to your favorite Wüsthof or Shun. I’m as guilty of it as the next home cook, and it’s the one bad knife habit I’m looking to break in 2023.
If you’re looking for a great new knife, we’ve tested to find the best chef’s knives for 2023. If you’ve got one you love, below is a list of kitchen knife no-nos to avoid that will ruin your knife in no time. These are the top seven ways you might be ruining your kitchen knives and how to become a better blade owner in 2023.
Seven habits that will ruin a kitchen knife
1. Scraping your knife sideways on the board
Knives were really only made to cut in two directions, back and forth and not side to side, so try not to use your good knives in a scraping manner. It may be instinct to move and gather all that chopped food on the board with the blade of the knife but it will damage the edge over time. If you can’t break the habit completely, at least try and do it gently and without much downward force.
2. Cutting on anything but wood or plastic
There are boards and blocks made from all sorts of materials but many of them are not knife-friendly. Stone or marble boards and glass surfaces should be reserved for serving food, not preparing it (at least not with a knife) since they will dull your blade faster than almost anything else.
Bamboo and plastic are technically the softest (and cheapest!) materials you’ll find cutting boards made from, and thus will be the gentlest on your blades. Most wooden cutting boards, however, should have enough give to not damage your blade.
3. Storing your knives free in a drawer
This is probably the biggest mistake folks make with their kitchen knives. I’ve seen it more times than I can count and it hurts me every time. Letting your knives clink around in a drawer with other knives and metal tools will dull or chip them over time. I get that you might not want to keep a clumsy block on the counter, but there are some pretty sleek options these days like this and this. You can also buy an in-drawer wooden knife racks or sheath your knives with plastic cases. The coolest option may be to store the knives on one of these magnetic knife racks ($24 on Wayfair) and show off your shiny blades to dinner guests.
4. Letting knives sit in the sink or putting them in the dishwasher
For many reasons, your knives should never go in the dishwasher. It’ll likely damage the handles, and the blades should never be exposed to water for that long. Speaking of which, never let a knife sit wet in the sink or anywhere else for that matter. That means no soaking, ever, and when you’ve finished washing it by hand, dry it immediately or the metal will become susceptible to rust and corrosion.
5. Cutting nonfood items or using your knife as a general tool
Good knives may seem like a multipurpose tool but they should only be used for food prep. Try not to cut any nonfood items like plastic, cardboard or other packaging. And don’t even think about employing your knife as a screwdriver or lever to pry open something that’s stuck.
6. Using a metal scrubber or rough sponge
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that using metal or another rough material to clean your knife blade could lead to big problems. Instead, use hot water and a soft sponge or cloth. Your knives should never be so dirty that those aren’t enough to get them clean.
7. Oversharpening a knife will also ruin the blade
There comes a point at which a knife blade can’t be sharpened anymore, and if you continue to pound it on a steel or whetstone, you’ll only be shaving off the blade itself and shortening the knife’s life span. Here’s a guide to sharpening your kitchen knives.