Quality kitchen tools make cooking easier, safer, and a lot more enjoyable. Whether it’s a perfectly balanced chef’s knife that slices through vegetables effortlessly, a sturdy set of pots and pans that distributes heat evenly, or handy gadgets that simplify tedious tasks, having the right gear makes all the difference in an efficient, well-stocked kitchen. The best part is that with proper care and maintenance, these high-performing cooking tools can easily last for many years of continual use.
Taking good care of your favorite pots, pans, knives, utensils, and other cooking equipment protects your investment in these items and extends their working life significantly. Implementing just a few simple habits like hand washing delicate items, storing knives properly, and sharpening blades regularly can add years of extra service to kitchen tools. Following the manufacturer’s care recommendations coupled with some extra TLC will keep tools looking and functioning like new.
Quality cookware and implements do represent an investment for passionate home cooks. But with our easy tips for caring for kitchen tools, you can be assured that your favorites will continue delivering reliable, high-performance cooking for many meals to come. Read on for 10 great tips to keep knives, pans, gadgets and other essential gear in top condition year after year.
1. Hand Wash Knives and Delicate Utensils
Protect the fine edges and points on knives and delicate tools like vegetable peelers by always washing them by hand. The harsh heat and detergents in the dishwasher can damage and prematurely dull fine knife blades. Likewise, the jostling of the dishwasher can bend or snap thin, sharp utensils.
When hand washing knives, use a mild dish soap and warm water. Gently clean the blades with a soft dish sponge or cloth. Avoid abrasive scouring pads or bristled brushes, which can scratch the blades. Be sure to thoroughly rinse off all soap residue, then hand dry knives immediately. Allowing moisture to sit on blades can lead to rust over time. Store knives in protective sheaths, or use a magnetic strip or knife block to keep blades safe and organized. Following these simple practices will keep knives performing like new.
2. Don’t Soak Knives
While it’s tempting to let dirty knives sit in the sink, avoid soaking knives in water for extended periods. For knives with wooden handles, soaking can cause the handles to crack and warp over time. The prolonged moisture exposure can also damage the glue bonding the handle to the tang. For metal knives, soaking leads to corrosion and rust on the blades.
Instead, get in the habit of washing knives promptly after using them. Use a damp soft sponge or cloth to gently wipe down blades, removing any food residue. Pay special attention to the knife joints and bolsters where food can collect. Then immediately dry knives thoroughly with a soft towel. Never let moisture sit on blades or handles. Implementing quick and regular knife washing will extend the life of your knives and keep them performing optimally.
3. Oil Wooden Handles and Boards
Wooden kitchen tools like spoons, cutting boards, and knife handles need occasional conditioning to prevent drying out and cracking over time. Every few weeks, rub a small amount of food-grade mineral oil onto wooden tool handles and boards. Use just enough to lightly coat the surface while avoiding excess pooling.
Let the mineral oil soak in for at least 10-15 minutes before wiping away any remaining excess with a clean cloth. The oil will penetrate the grain of the wood to keep it from drying out. This is especially important for frequently used tools like cutting boards, which are exposed to lots of moisture. Occasional oiling maintains the beautiful look of wooden kitchen items while preventing damage. It’s a simple way to care for treasured wooden tools that can otherwise split or crack with repeated use and washing.
4. Avoid Putting Knives in the Dishwasher
While it may be tempting to toss dirty kitchen knives into the dishwasher, resist that urge to protect both your knives and dishwasher. The harsh heat and caustic dishwasher detergent can damage knives and greatly accelerate wear and tear.
The high heat and moisture environment inside a dishwasher can damage wooden handles on knives. It can also degrade special non-stick coatings on knife blades. In addition, the force of spray jets and jostling of the cutlery basket bash knife tips against other items, dulling and chipping the sharp edges.
Instead, always gently yet thoroughly wash knives by hand using warm water and mild dish soap. Pay close attention to removing food residues near handles and where blade and handle join. Then be sure to immediately and thoroughly dry knives before storing. Handwashing shows care and extends the life of fine cutlery. Likewise, keep other dishwasher-unsafe items like cast iron pans out of the machine.
5. Hand Dry Knives and Tools
After washing knives, pots, pans, and other prized cooking tools by hand, don’t just toss them into a dish drainer to air dry. Allowing wood, carbon steel, cast iron, and other sensitive utensils to sit wet for prolonged periods can lead to damage.
Wooden handles and blocks can crack and warp from extended moisture exposure. Uncoated carbon steel knives may develop rust spots if left wet. Cast iron with its seasoning can start to show surface rust as well. Instead, always dry these types of cooking tools immediately by hand after washing.
Use a soft lint-free towel or cloth to gently yet thoroughly dry each piece. Pay special attention to knife handles, knife joints, and cast iron cooking surfaces where moisture easily collects. Allowing high quality cooking tools to properly air dry prevents damage and maintains their performance. Implementing this simple habit of hand drying certain pieces extends their lifespan significantly.
6. Store Knives Properly
Protect both your knives and fingers by always storing knives properly when not in use. Loose knives thrown in a kitchen drawer can quickly get damaged, and you can easily cut yourself on a stray sharp blade when reaching into the drawer.
Instead, keep knives safely stored in protective sheaths, a countertop knife block, or on a magnetic strip mounted inside a cabinet door. Sheaths cover the blades and protect the edges. Knife blocks and magnetic strips hold knives securely in place while keeping the blades exposed for easy access.
Proper knife storage also helps organize your most-used knives so they are handy when cooking but out of reach of children. Storing knives improperly in drawers or loose on counters is an accident waiting to happen. Take time to organize knives in one designated safe storage area to extend their lifespan and ensure safety.
7. Maintain Cutting Boards
Cutting boards take a beating during food prep, so they require regular maintenance to stay in good shape. For wooden boards, occasionally rub with a food-grade mineral oil to protect the surface and fill any nicks and cuts. Let the oil fully soak in, then wipe away any excess.
For plastic boards, sanitize weekly by scrubbing with hot water and vinegar. Rinse and air dry completely. Occasionally disinfect by making a dilute bleach solution, scrubbing the board, letting it sit several minutes, then rinsing. This kills any lingering germs in crevices.
No matter the material, thoroughly scrub cutting boards with hot soapy water after each use, and allow to fully air dry. Replace any boards that show deep cuts, stains, or deterioration. With proper care, quality cutting boards can serve faithfully for many years. Maintaining their condition is key to longevity and food safety.
8. Condition a Wooden Butcher Block
Wooden butcher block countertops and cutting boards take a beating and need periodic deep conditioning. Start by sanding the surface lightly to remove any deep stains or cuts. Always sand in the direction of the wood grain. Once sanded smooth, apply a generous amount of food-grade mineral oil over the entire surface.
Let the oil soak in for at least an hour, then thoroughly wipe away any excess oil with clean cloths. Continue reapplying oil and wiping it away until the wood will no longer absorb any oil. This saturation of oil helps seal and protect the porous wood.
Allow the oiled surface to cure for 24 hours. From now on, oil your butcher block at least monthly under regular use, and promptly clean up any food spills. Proper conditioning preserves the integrity of the wood grain and prevents contamination. Your butcher block will look beautiful for years with this simple periodic maintenance.
9. Clean Cast Iron Properly
Cast iron pans should never be scrubbed harshly or soaked in water, which can damage the natural nonstick seasoning. After cooking, food residue can be cleaned by wiping the pan with a paper towel while still warm. If more cleaning is needed, wash with a stiff brush and hot water.
Use a small amount of mild soap only if necessary to remove stuck-on food. Avoid abrasive scouring pads that can scrape off the seasoning. Dry the pan promptly and thoroughly after washing by carefully wiping with clean towels. Letting cast iron air dry promotes rust.
Occasionally re-season the pan by wiping with a thin layer of oil and baking upside down in a hot oven for an hour. This re-seals the surface. Proper care like handwashing, prompt drying, and occasional re-seasoning will help cast iron develop a natural stick-resistant patina. Treated right, cast iron lasts forever.
10. Sharpen Knives Regularly
A sharp knife is a cook’s best friend in the kitchen. But constant use will dull knife edges over time. Sharpening restores the edge and makes cutting easier and safer. How often you need to sharpen depends on how frequently knives are used. For home cooks, every 4-6 months is a good guideline.
Use a whetstone, electric sharpener, or professional sharpening service to put a fresh edge on dull knives. Hold the blade at the proper angle and use smooth, even strokes. This removes metal to reform a clean, sharp edge.
Well-sharpened knives mean you can make precise, thin cuts with ease and less chance of slipping. Coarsely chopped produce will have clean edges instead of being mashed. Sharpening takes skill, so practice on cheap knives first. With regular sharpening, quality knives can slice like new for decades. Don’t wait until blades are completely dull to sharpen them. Maintaining edges saves time and frustration in the kitchen.
Caring for kitchen tools properly helps them work and look their best for years of cooking enjoyment. Implement some of these tips to extend the life and performance of your favorite pots, knives, gadgets and more.