Investing in a reliable kitchen knife is a big step in mastering your cooking. Buying the thing is only half the battle, though -- you've also got to know how to properly care for your hardware. Here's how.
Sharpen it twice a year
If you do a fair amount of cooking, your blade will need a touch up every six months or so. To do it, you've got a few options:
Use an electric sharpener. It works, but only barely. Even the good ones provide mediocre results, and remove way too much steel to create the sharpened edge. Your knife won't live up to its fullest potential, and its lifespan will plummet.
Let a professional handle it. Drop your knife off to any good knife sharpener and they'll take care of it for about ten bucks. This is the easiest route, and it'll give you good results for not much money, so it's worth doing if you don't care much about the DIY aspect of sharpening your own blade. Like using an electric sharpener, though, the grinding stones that the pros use take off a good amount of steel from your blade, which reduces the lifespan.
Sharpen it by hand with a stone. This is our recommendation. It takes a bit of practice, but once you get the hang of it, sharpening is quick, easy, and highly effective.
Hone it regularly
Sharpening a knife shaves down some of the steel to create a new, sharper edge, which you don't need to do too often. Honing, on the other hand, simply realigns the existing edge by straightening out any microscopic nicks -- which you should do every time you use your knife to really get the most out of the thing.
All you need is a honing steel, which are inexpensive and easy to use. Pick one up and it'll serve you well for years.
To use it, hold the steel in your non dominant hand, and your knife in your dominant one. Hold the heel of the knife against the steel at a 45 degree angle and slide it across. Repeat a few times on each side.
To see the process in action, jump to the 2:03 mark in our video of The Knife Skills You Need to Know.
Dry it off completely once you're done
When you're finished for the day, don't put your knife in the dishwasher or let it soak (and get banged up) in the sink. Just gently wash it off by hand, and then -- this is the important part -- dry it thoroughly with a towel.
By keeping the steel dry, you'll prevent the knife from rusting, which will keep it safe from an early death.
Store it properly
Keep the edge covered, or out of harm's way. You can use a knife block, a wall-mounted magnetic strip, or a simple blade cover.
If you were to just put the knife into your drawer by itself, the edge will inevitably bump up against your other gear and get dinged up. Not to mention the risk of potential cuts when you reach down to grab an uncovered knife from a crowded drawer. Ouch.
Use a wood cutting board
Plastic cutting boards are cheap, but they'll wreck your knife's razor edge. Avoid 'em. Instead, use a sturdy wood cutting board. There are two kinds: end grain and edge grain.
Edge grain boards use the edges of thin strips of wood, all pressed together. They're reliable, cost-effective, and a significant step up from plastic.
End grain is the top shelf version, which uses (you guessed it) pressed-together ends of multiple wood cuts. That creates a softer cutting surface which won't damage your blade.