Your kitchen knife questions answered

Kitchen knives

Your kitchen knife questions answered

By Matt Stevens

Article 6 of 7

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Your kitchen knife questions answered

What are forged knives? And are wooden or glass chopping boards best? Below, we answer your questions about knives.

Are there any advantages to buying a block of knives over individual knives?

The quality of knives in some blocks is quite variable, so you won't always get the best set of knives for every task.

You could always start with a simple knife block until you get to know which knives you prefer, then upgrade to better versions of the ones you use most often.

A knife block itself provides a home for your knives and stops them damaging each other, so you need to sharpen them less often. One of the things we look for in a Best Buy kitchen knife is how long they stay sharp. Some blocks also incorporate a knife sharpener.

If you have difficulties with dexterity, keeping knives in a block can make them easier to pick up, as long as they're not too close together, and also reduces the chance of cutting yourself when you're rooting around in drawers.

Should I use a glass or wooden cutting board?

Slicing against a solid glass or ceramic surface will damage and blunt your blade. Cutting on a wooden or polyethylene surface will help preserve a blade's sharpness.

If you're using your cutting board on a smooth surface, put something underneath to keep it from moving around – you can buy plastic and non-slip mats for this purpose, but a damp kitchen cloth will also do the trick.

Are forged knives better than stamped ones?

A forged knife is individually crafted, whereas a stamped one is pressed out of a sheet of metal.

Which? tests knives for sharpness and how long the blades stay sharp, and we've found nothing to suggest that a forged blade is always better than a stamped one. We've seen good and bad knives of both types.

Which knife should I use to cut which foods?

The knife you choose for a task is down to personal preference – for most cutting jobs there is no right or wrong.

A chef's knife is a good multipurpose knife designed for a range of food preparation tasks. When we gave them to a group of keen cooks, we found that a chef's knife is easier to use for chopping herbs and slicing tomatoes or cucumber than cutting meat or cubing hard vegetables such as swede.

How can I keep my kitchen knife sharp?

Most plain-edged knives need sharpening to maintain a safe, sharp cutting edge. The secret is to sharpen little and often.

Draw the knife along a sharpening steel a few times, at no more than a 20-degree angle, then wash it before using. This helps the knife last longer than if you let it go blunt and have to give it an entirely new edge. 

Follow our tips to make sure your knife stays as sharp as possible.

  • Store your knives in a wallet, a knife block, or on a wall-mounted magnetic strip, rather than in a tray or drawer where they can bang together and damage each other.
  • Don't use cook's or chef's knives to cut bone. The steel is not designed for this, and the blade will be damaged.
  • Don't use a glass cutting board.