Knives are some of the essential tools needed in a professional kitchen. Good knives offer increased productivity with food prep tasks as well as cleaner cuts in food. Maintaining your professional cutlery is vital to keep them performing at their best as well as keeping users safe – a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one! We discuss useful tips for cleaning, drying, and storing your knives for a long life in a commercial kitchen.

Knife with oranges on a cutting board

How to Clean Knives

Not all knives are created equal in a professional kitchen. Depending on the blade and handle construction, knives will need different cleaners and methods to get them clean without damage. Below are the best ways to clean your knife for steel blades. For additional information on cleaning stainless steel, read our article on caring for stainless steel cookware.

When to Clean 

What to Use 

Do Not Use 

Pulling out of storage 

Hot water and sponge/wet cloth 

  • Abrasive cleaners 

After use on foods 

Hot water, mild soap, and a non-abrasive sponge 

  • Dishwasher 
  • Abrasive cleaners 
  • Abrasive sponges 

Why Can’t I Wash Knives in the Dishwasher?

You shouldn’t wash knives in the dishwasher – yes, really. A dishwasher can cause a lot of damage to your cutlery by dinging blades against silverware or dishes. The chemicals in dishwashing detergent can also dull blades. It’s best to hand wash any knife that you want to keep in top-performing condition.

How to Dry and Store Knives

Along with cleaning, it’s crucial to dry and store your knives properly. Drying your cutlery completely will help prevent rust and water spots on the blade, therefore adding life to your knives. Carefully storing your cutlery is equally important in increasing longevity of use. 

Drying Cutlery 

To dry your knife, hold by the handle and point the blade away from you. Take your cloth and fold around the blade. Use medium pressure and swipe the cloth from the base of the blade (bolster) to the point. Swipe the cloth until the blade is dry. 

Consider these tips for drying your knives safely:  

  • Use a clean microfiber cloth on your knife after washing. Microfiber is ultra-absorbent and will dry a blade in one to two swipes.  
  • Dry the handle of your knife before you dry the blade. A dry handle will give you a better grip, allowing you to dry the blade safely.  
  • Ensure your hands are completely dry before attempting to dry a knife to avoid injury. 

Storing Cutlery 

Access to your knives should reflect the flow of your commercial kitchen. If your kitchen is in a correctional facility, you’ll store knives differently than if you work in a restaurant. Luckily, there are storage solutions available for every type of professional kitchen. 

Where You Should Store Your Knives 

There are several ways to store professional knives that keep them free from damage, wear, or loss. Below are recommended places to keep your knives when not in use.

Storage Type Benefits Not Recommended If

Carrying Case 

  • Portable 
  • Convenient for line prep/cooking 
  • Easy for front-of-house carving
  • Only accessing knives at a back-of-house food prep station 
  • Accessing multiple knives per food prep task 

Block 

  • Good for residential storage 
  • Keeps knives in a secure spot away from debris
  • Using large/specialty knives 
  • Limited counter space 

Cabinet 

  • Keeps knives secure 
  • Some models lock for extra security or include UV sanitation features
  • Needing quick access to several knives at once 
  • Low on wall space

Bar/Strip 

  • Access several knives quickly 
  • Economical option 
  • Small storage footprint 
  • Needing locked storage 

Where You Shouldn’t Store Your Knives

Drawer

As with a dishwasher, a drawer is a bad place for a knife to be. Storing a knife in the utensil drawer along other knives or silverware can cause damage to the blade. A knife hanging out in a drawer can also pose a safety risk when retrieving.

Sink

Sometimes it becomes a habit to leave dirty knives in the sink to soak in water, or even to lay in wait for washing. Leaving a knife in a sink of water and soap isn’t recommended as it can break down the metal over time and cause rust or weaknesses in the blade. You should also avoid leaving a knife in a sink with other dishes as it can get dinged or damaged.

Box/Container

You may have extra food boxes or storage containers lying around your kitchen that your knives could fit in. However, it’s not recommended to store knives together in any box. If knives are stored freely mixed, they can sustain blade damage.

knives laying on table

Sharpen Your Knives 

It’s common advice to keep your knives sharp in order to maintain the blade and ensure long product life. You might wonder why this is so important in a professional kitchen, and how to ensure your blades are kept sharp.  

Why Keep Knives Sharp? 

There are several reasons to keep the cutlery sharp in your professional kitchen. Listed below are the purposes of maintaining a sharp edge on your knives: 

  • Prevent injury from using a dull blade 
  • Get consistent cuts in produce and meat 
  • Increase productivity in food prep tasks by cutting more easily/with less hesitation 
  • Prevent product waste resulting from a bad cut 
  • Improve the life of the blade 

What’s the Difference Between Honing and Sharpening? 

You hone sharp blades, and you sharpen dull blades. Honing is the process of running a sharp blade along honing steel to keep an edge sharp. Sharpening a blade is often done by professional knife sharpeners and involves grinding down the blade and eliminating the burr that is produced in the process. Sharpening results in a knife that will perform like new. 

How Often Do I Sharpen My Knife? 

If you operate in a professional kitchen, you should hone your knife after every use. This will maintain that sharp edge of your blade. Similarly, if you work in a commercial kitchen, it is recommended that you sharpen your knife every four to six months using a sharpening stone. 

Tip: If you’re struggling to cleanly cut a tomato, you need to sharpen your knife. It should cut straight through the tomato without squishing it. 

Sharpen and Hone Your Knife 

Using honing steel is a quick way to maintain a sharp edge on a knife. Every professional kitchen needs to have both honing steel and a whetstone to maintain a sharp blade. 

This video on How to Sharpen Dull Knives demonstrates step-by-step how to hone and sharpen your knives!

More on Professional Knives 

Are you looking to learn more about selecting the best knife for you? Read our article on How to Find the Best Meat Knife for an in-depth look at buying professional knives.