Carbon Steel Care
Whether it's your first carbon steel knife, or your latest, these knives require more attention and care to remain in top condition. Because the steel is reactive, it will change with time, depending on what you use it for. Foods that are more acidic or basic will have a faster reaction with the steel. I recommend rinsing your knife soon after cutting foods like citrus and alliums. Foods like fatty meats give carbon steel knives beautiful electric blue patinas, you should try it sometime.
- Keep a slightly damp towel by your cutting board, and wipe the blade clean when not in use. Wipe completely dry before storing.
- Apply a small amount of food-safe oil or wax to the handle and blade occasionally. This will protect the blade from rust, and rejuvenate the wood in the handle. Avoid using cooking oils, as they will go rancid with oxidation.
- Hand wash knives with soap and water. NEVER wash your knives in the dishwasher. Dish-washing detergent is corrosive to the steel, and can damage your knife irreparably.
- Carbon steel knives develop a patina with use, this means that the knife will have a gray/blue-green tint to it where it has reacted with the food it has cut. A patina will help resist corrosion. Be mindful of the color of the steel, rust and corrosion appears red, orange, or brown.
- If you do encounter rust, scrub the affected areas with the scrubbing side of a sponge or a Scotch-Brite Scouring Pad. Continue until the rust is gone and the area is smooth to the touch. Apply a food-safe oil or wax and store.
- Store knives in a safe place where the edge and tip are not coming into contact with things around it. A drawer is not a safe place to store a knife, for your knife or for whoever reaches into the drawer to grab it. Knife blocks and wall magnets are great options for safely storing a knife.
- Keep your knives sharp. A sharp knife is a safe knife, as less pressure is needed to cut things, reducing the chance of your knife slipping. Sharpen your knives on whetstones, avoid using anything in the pull-through family of products. Water stones abrade the steel in a slower, more controlled way, and produce a far superior edge. I recommend a 1000/6000 water stone for beginners. Avid homecooks and professional chefs should sharpen their knives regularly, every 1-3 months. Less-inclined users should have knives sharpened 2-3 times a year. I offer a local knife sharpening and repair service, if you are in the Baltimore area. Please see my Sharpening Services page for more details.
- Gently hone your knives as to not unintentionally dull the blade. To properly hone your knife, take your honing rod in your non-dominant hand and anchor the tip down on a towel or cutting board. Looking down the spine of your knife, tilt the knife to have the edge meet the rod, at approximately 15-20 degrees. Using only the weight of the knife, hone the edge in one smooth, downwards motion from heel to tip. Each pass, switch the side that you are honing by either flipping the knife upside down, or by carefully reaching the knife around to the other side of the rod, and repeat. After 10 or so passes, you're done. Test your edge. If honing does not improve your edge, the knife needs to be sharpened. You should hone your knife once you feel that the edge is starting to slide rather than cut. This frequency depends on the amount/type of use the knife gets.