River Cottage Australia

Top Tips for Using and Caring for your Knives

If you like preparing food for your family and friends but your knife skills aren’t up to scratch ... Paul offers a few tips to improve your time in the kitchen.


• Using the right knife for the job at hand will make light work of whatever you’re preparing.

• A must have is the BASIC CHEFS KNIFE. The blade length generally varies between 20 and 30 cm with a high heel and long cutting edge. You can use this knife for almost all of your meat and veg prep. It’s worth getting the best quality you can afford as this knife is the most versatile and you’ll likely use it more than any other.

• The flexible blade FILLETING KNIFE is another good one to have, especially for filleting fish. You could just buy already filleted fish but catching or buying whole fish is more economical because you can use the fish carcass, after taking off the fillets, to make a fish or seafood stock. Make sure the knife is flexible; this will ensure the blade follows the contour of the bone reducing any wastage of flesh.

• A BONING KNIFE is used to take out the bones from larger pieces of meat. It has a rigid blade and fine point. It can be used for jointing and butterflying whole chickens and other fowl as well as deboning legs of lamb and if you’re up for the challenge, separating whole animals into various cuts.

• A PARING KNIFE is used for smaller, fiddlier jobs with fruit and vegetables. It’s used for peeling and segmenting and slicing and dicing shallots and taking eyes from tomatoes and potatoes.

• The BREAD KNIFE is another knife recommended in the kitchen. If you bake your own or buy your bread unsliced, this knife’s serrated edge will protect the crust and bread from squashing, keeping the size and shape of the slice.


• Store your knives in a block or on a magnetic holder. Avoid storing them in drawers unless they are kept in a sheaf as the movement of the drawer can chip and damage the knifes edge.

• Clean your knives after each use. For knives that are supposed to be hand washed, take a soapy cloth and gently scrub the knife, then wash it off with hot water. Dry with a clean cloth.

• Keep your knives dry as carbon steel knives can rust if left damp. It’s also a good idea to oil your knives after use with food grade mineral oil; this will also help prevent any corrosion.

• Steel the blade of your knife before use as a knife’s edge can shift after use. Take your steel in one hand, and hold the back corner of the knife's edge to the end of the steel closest to you. Sweep the blade towards the tip of the steel, making sure that all of the length of the blade comes in contact with the steel. Do this ten times for each side of the blade.

• Periodically get your knives professionally sharpened; your local butcher will most likely do this for a small fee. There are also mobile services that can come to you or key cutting shops are another place to get your knives sharpened.

• Try not to use glass, marble or ceramic chopping boards; they’ll damage a knife’s blade instantly. Instead use wooden and plastic boards as they have a much lower dulling effect on the blades of your knives.

• Wash your knives by hand and avoid the dishwasher; dishwasher detergents can damage your knives. Also, the movement of the knives during the cycle can cause the blades to bang against each other or other things in the dishwasher, causing further damage.


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