Magnus Pettersson has been dealing with professional chef knives for over 25 years. He often jokes that he’s a knife doctor and loves and hates carbon steel knives. If you ask him what you’d get from a carbon steel knife that you wouldn’t get from a stainless steel knife, he’ll laugh, â€œRust! “
From a practical standpoint, chefs use high carbon blades because they can get sharper and hold their edge better than stainless steel knives. There’s also a certain level of romance, which even Pettersson says he’s not immune to. â€œKnives are useful for me. They are tools, â€he says. “Tools that tell stories, and nothing tells a story like a carbon steel knife.”
Now the lead sharpener for the new mail order knife sharpening service KnifeAid, Pettersson likens a carbon steel knife to a pair of worn jeans. â€œI can tell if the person who owns the knife is using a push or pull cutting motion, how they store the knife and their dominant hand pretty quickly. It’s beautiful. â€Here’s how to take care of a carbon steel blade, according to an expert.
Do not sweat stains
Stains and rust occur naturally when using carbon steel knives. “If you’re bothered about having to wipe the knife every once in a while while cooking, or worried about a little rust, I wouldn’t.” [use a carbon steel knife]Pettersson says. â€œMost of the nicer stainless steel knives are so good today that there isn’t a huge difference in edge retention and so on. “
Build the patina early
With his personal knives, Pettersson says the first thing he does is force a patina on the blade to protect it from rusting. â€œYou can do this with almost anything that has acid in it: instant coffee, vinegar, potatoes – a lot of things,â€ he says. “Just rub it on the blade and polish them. It makes a better shield for the steel than anything it comes with.”
Use mineral oil
To prevent rusting, Patterson recommends washing your knife soon after use and lubricating the blade. â€œFood grade mineral oil is probably the best [oil] you can use, â€he says,â€œ a lot of other oils will turn like a resin over time and get really, really sticky. [Food-grade mineral oil] does not go that way. It is always smooth and keeps a good shine.
Throw away your knife block
“[Knife blocks] are usually in the kitchen, so they’re in the danger zone, â€Pettersson explains. â€œSplashes of water or liquid can get into the block, and some people don’t dry the blade 100% before putting it in place. That makes the knife block a rust factory, basically. On top of that, knife blocks are generally breeding grounds for bacteria. Pettersson uses a magnetic strip on the wall to store his knives but also recommends wrapping carbon steel knives in cloth or paper.
Sharpen by hand
According to Pettersson, anyone who knows how to sharpen a knife by hand or wants to learn should prefer carbon steel over stainless steel. “They’re just easier to sharpen than stainless steel – the metal erases cleaner and doesn’t chip off as easily.”
Know your knife
Pettersson says knowing the makeup of your knife is the best way to know how delicately you need to treat it. â€œIf you have high carbon steel knives – like 0.8% carbon and above – they get very reactive to rust. Between 0.3 and 0.8%, it will rust less and will be a little easier to maintain.
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