Both seasoned and beginner chefs know that high-quality knives are critical for a kitchen success. Of all chef blades, high carbon steel knives are a must-have, especially if you are serious about your culinary endeavors.
While professional carbon steel knives can come with a hefty price tag, you can nonetheless also find excellent carbon steel ones and create veritable gourmet artworks.
What pros know and beginners should learn, however, is that you have to care for such blades, and do so properly. So today, we will discuss and tell you how to take care of carbon steel knives and give you some maintenance tips and tricks!
Why Are Carbon Steel Knives so Precious to Chefs?
Before we delve in the realm of the dos, don’ts, and maintenance tips, we need to set some things straight. Carbon steel knives are the go-to choice of professional chefs because, when maintained properly, they preserve their sharpness for an extended period of time, compared to blades with a stainless steel surface.
Also, the newer models of Japanese tradition and technology also have an outstanding balance, grip, endurance, and are aesthetically pleasing. Today, carbon steel knives are some of the best knives (under $50) to get if you are a beginner in the culinary arts.
Chef Carbon Steel Knives Maintenance Tips, Tricks, and Ideas
In comparison to stainless steel knives, carbon steel knives require a little more maintenance work than your day-to-day knives. One of the first issues beginner chefs need to deal with is patina.
1. Understanding Patina, Rust, and the Correct Knife Maintenance
No matter how you care for your carbon steel knife, in time, it will turn a gray-blue color. This is what we know as “patina” – or losing the shine and gaining a dull, darker nuance.
You did nothing wrong, and the knife is perfectly fine. It happens to all carbon blades, as this is in the nature of this type of steel to develop a patina, and you do not need to worry about it.
Plus, a patina is a good thing as it protects the knife from corrosion. That’s why professional chefs with a knack for carbon steel knives force a patina on their kitchen knives. (Here’s a quick guide to how to do it properly.)
Rust, on the other hand, is a serious problem, but one that can be prevented.
While a healthy patina can protect the blade against rust, you should also know there are several ways of preventing it from attacking your blade:
- Keep the knife as clean and dry as you can – you should wash and dry the blade as you cook (more on this in the following);
- Oil the blade periodically.
To further protect the carbon steel blade from rusting, you could also remove rust spots as soon as you see any. You can use steel wool to scrub away small and newly formed rusty areas.
Some knife makers recommend using wet and dry emery paper if the rusting is severe, but make sure you work with it gently to prevent damaging the blade.
2. Clean Your Carbon Steel Knives as You Cook
It may seem like a real humdrum at the beginning, but cleaning your carbon steel knives will help you prevent rust and preserve the knife for years. To correctly clean your knife, do the following:
- Pick a damp kitchen towel or a washcloth, fold it in a square, and place it on your cooking table or countertop.
- Make a habit of wiping both sides of the blade on the damp cloth every time you finish cutting something (you could also pat dry the knife with a paper towel).
Some of the biggest enemies of carbon blade are onions, tomatoes, and most fruits – because they are what we call acidic food.
If you are cutting different types of meat, you should wipe the blade often to keep things hygienic at all times.
You will especially want to clean your knife properly after you’ve finished using it. Here is what you need to know:
- Use warm, soapy water to wash the knife.
- Use a soft cloth to gently remove all leftovers and spots from the blade.
- Rinse thoroughly with warm water.
- Hand-dry the knife with a dry and soft cloth or dish towel immediately after you’ve washed it.
- Apply an oil coating before storing it.
- Never leave your carbon steel knife in a sink full of dishes, water, or food leftovers!
- Never wash carbon steel blades in the dishwasher!
3. The Oiling
Oiling is an essential part of learning how to take care of carbon steel knives. By doing this, you can protect the blades against corrosion and rust. Some experts recommend using cooking oil.
While sunflower, olive, or canola oil may play their part in this maintenance process, we all know that cooking oils tend to leave behind a sticky residue.
Besides the fact that this unaesthetic layer might lower the knife’s usefulness, it could also act like flypaper for dust, powders, germs, and all sorts of particulate debris found in a kitchen.
If you are serious about your chef knives, mineral grade oil might be the best solution. Here is what you need to do:
- Dry the knife blade with a cloth, carefully, on both sides.
- Apply the mineral oil on the blade while spreading it gently with a cloth until it starts gleaming.
You can oil the blade as often as you want, especially after a long day of hard use. If you do not use the knife daily or intensively, then it is enough to oil the blade on a weekly basis, for good measure.
4. Knife Sharpening and Honing
Honing allows you to enjoy a perfectly balanced knife. If you have a honing rod, you should use it daily to keep your knife re-centered and fully functional.
Sharpening involves shaving off tiny parts of your blade to achieve a fresh, razor-sharp blade. If you use the carbon knife daily, you should use a sharpening steel weekly and a sharpening stone monthly.
- If you do not use the knife on a daily basis, you should considerably lower the sharpening frequency to three-four times a year.
Expert chefs recommend you hone the knife each day before you begin your work.
It just as important to properly store knives as it is to clean them. The rule of thumb is to NEVER casually throw your carbon blade knife in the same drawer together with other utensils. This can get the steel blade scratched or even dented, while the tip might bend or even break.
- If you do not have any alternative to storing steel carbon steel knives in the utensils’ drawer, at least use a knife sheath to guard the blade and preserve the integrity of the knife.
- ATTENTION! Never place the knife in a wet sheath.
- Moreover, you can add a few drops of mineral grade oil into the sheath, place the knife in it, and enjoy a well-preserved and waterproof knife next time you use it.
If you want to store your carbon steel knives in perfect conditions, then these are your new best friends:
- Magnetic knife strip.
- Knife wooden block.
How to Take Care of Carbon Steel Knives: Extra Tips
The following suggestions generally apply to all chef knives, but keep them in mind, especially when you’re using carbon steel blades:
- Never use the knife for other purposes than its chief function.
- Always wash the knife after you’ve finished using it. Food juices and particles are hard to remove when dry (and they will eat away at the blade).
- Do not let carbon steel blades dry in the dish rack. Instead, always dry them by hand and store them immediately afterward (just as we mentioned above).
- Always cut on boards and not on your table or countertop. The best cutting boards for carbon blades are soft wooden and plastic ones.
If you follow these carbon steel knives maintenance tips and tricks, you should get to enjoy your professional blade for years. Now that you know how to take care of carbon steel knives, let’s get cooking, shall we?
Also, if you want to share your own tips and tricks on how to best care for carbon steel knives, feel free to use the comments’ section below!
Daniel has a passion for knives. He even crafts them in his spare time. Daniel is a valuable member of our team and he’s here to share his knowledge about all types of kitchen knives. What to know the difference between German vs Japanese chef knives? He’s the right man for the job. What to know what knife to use when cutting fruits? He can answer that in a second.