No matter how much experience you have as a cook, it is vitally important to keep in mind that knives can be incredibly dangerous and harmful if used improperly. Regardless of how confident you are in your knife skills, or how much time you have spent in the kitchen, you are not immune to accidents.
There is no way to make working with a tool designed for cutting absolutely, 100% safe, but there are certainly some steps you can take to reduce the risk of a tragic or painful error.
While it may even seem counterintuitive, the most important thing you can do to stay safe while working with knives is to ensure that they are as sharp as possible. While a blunt knife may sound like it is less likely to cut you, using them requires you to exert far more force than is normal. As a result, it is more likely for a dull knife to slip and cause injury. No matter how dull it may be, a thin piece of steel moving fast can cause serious damage.
There are two standard options when it comes to this, those being honing steel (often misnamed as sharpening steel) and a knife sharpener. The honing steel is a thin metal rod that, when pushed against the edge of a blade at the correct angle, corrects any little dents and bumps by pushing them back into a straight edge. These come standard with many kitchen knife sets and are definitely worth having.
Unlike the honing steel, a knife sharpener actually shaves steel away from the blade to create a new, sharpened edge. These are often faster and easier to use than honing steel, which may take some practice to master. That said, since sharpeners do in fact shave metal away from your knives, they cause your blades to wear down much faster than honing steel might.
Whether you prefer to use a sharpener or honing steel, maintaining sharp edges is perhaps the most vital part of ensuring kitchen knife safety. If you keep your knives sharp, the blades will more easily glide through whatever you are cutting with less risk of sliding off in the wrong direction.
If you aren’t comfortable sharpening your own kitchen knives, most knife manufacturers will let you send your knives back for professional sharpening. William Henry offers sharpening for any William Henry knives, for only the cost of shipping. Fill out this form and you will have your sharpened knives back in 2-3 weeks.
It may feel obvious, but always use your knives on a flat surface such as a cutting board or scratch-resistant counter. Using your kitchen knives on a plate could scratch or chip it, as well as lead to slipping and disaster. Even worse is cutting something directly in your hand. You may have done so successfully in the past, but it simply is not worth the very real risk of injury.
Another way to decrease your chances of nicking your fingers or worse is just to use the right knives for the right tasks. Kitchen knives are by their nature versatile tools, but using the right ones will help you avoid accidents or injury.
There are many types of kitchen knives ranging from the standard chef’s knife to tools as specified in their intended usage as the tomato knife. That said, there are only a couple of aspects of a sharp knife that generally would be considered crucial for ensuring safe usage of your kitchen knives.
First off would be the size of the blade. For example, if you are peeling fruits and vegetables or generally working with small foods, you should avoid using a knife with a large blade-like a chef’s knife or cleaver. A small paring knife would be a safer choice in this situation and would give you more control while you work.
The next most important example would be the kind of edge that your blade has. If you are looking to slice bread, you should always opt for a knife with a serrated edge blade. This will allow you to more easily and safely glide back and forth through the bread. A straight edge blade would not only squish the loaf, but possibly lead you to apply too much pressure out of frustration and cause the knife to slip.
If you are new to working in the kitchen, there is no need to splurge and buy every kind of knife under the sun. That said, you will want some standard blade types so that you can easily work with most foods in a safe and efficient manner.
Most important for any cook is a classic chef’s knife. The blade is firm and curved, making it very useful for chopping and slicing meats and vegetables. If you could only afford to buy yourself one kitchen knife, this would likely be it. That said, there are absolutely a few other knives that you should aim to have even at the start of your culinary journey.
The next most handy piece of equipment would be the paring knife. As mentioned above, the paring knife is especially useful when working with fruits and vegetables and for peeling, pitting, and other work that requires precision. Using a larger blade for these tasks is one of the most dangerous positions you can find yourself in when in the kitchen.
A serrated knife of some kind is also a great tool to have, and there are many affordable options for you to add it to your set.
Using the right knife for whatever you are cutting will not only make the cooking experience smoother and more enjoyable but also safer. As your collection grows, you will pick up more skills and tricks for properly using them.
Perhaps more vital than any other aspect of kitchen knife safety is making sure that you hold your sharp knives properly when using them. Proper grip and technique will not only keep you and your fingers safe, but will also make your cutting and chopping far more efficient.
Regardless of the type of knife, you are working with, you will almost always want to hold the handle of the knife firmly, with your thumb and pointer finger pinching together at the base of the blade. This will give you far more control over the movements that your knife makes, making it far less likely for you to experience knife slips or a falling knife.
Not only does gripping the blade this way afford you better control over the knife, it also allows you to use much more of your arm’s strength without putting added strain on your wrist.
Aside from your grip on the knife itself, also be careful to watch your other, “helping,” hand. Using your non-dominant hand, keep your fingers curled to a near fist when gripping your food, cutting alongside your curled digits. Doing so will help deflect any slices from hitting your fingers, as well as help you to make even, consistent slices and cuts.
While not as exciting as the other aspects of working with kitchen knives, proper maintenance and storage of your knives is important for your safety and the longevity of your blades. Properly washing and storing your knives will help avoid nicks and scratches on the blades, which can be hard to get out as well as lead to snagging during use.
Avoid tossing your knife into the sink and leaving it to bump and scrape against your other dishes. This is detrimental to the edge, and leaves you with a chipped knife, which can be incredibly dangerous to use. If you do decide to run your knives through the dishwasher, place them inside securely in a way that it will not shake and bump into other dishes. Otherwise, try to wash and dry your knives by hand immediately after use.
Another way to prevent damage to your knife is to store it in a block or attach it to a magnetic strip. Storing your knives in a kitchen drawer like the rest of your cutlery will make them shake around loosely and will certainly cause more damage than the alternatives. Knife blocks help you to store full sets securely and safely, and frankly look pretty good on a countertop.
If you don’t have much counter space, or don’t have enough knives to warrant a full-sized knife block, a magnetic strip is an easy and convenient place to keep a knife or two outside of the drawer.
William Henry has gorgeous knife sets perfect for beginners and professional chefs alike. Pick up a set of stunning Damascus steel kitchen knives with beautiful exotic wood handles and stone inlays. All sets come with a professional-grade leather roll with blade covers, as well as an elegant display block.