Three Steps of Caring for Your Wüsthof Knives
A Wüsthof knife set can be a significant investment for a commercial kitchen and especially for a home chef. So, once you’ve built your collection of can’t-live-without-them cutlery, the last thing you want to do is care for them improperly. So, from cleaning to sharpening, we offer this guide to complete care of your knives that should help them – like those made more than a century ago that are still in service – last for generations.
Step 1: The Right Way to Use a Knife
Of the three main parts of properly caring for a knife, this is one. We say that not just in jest, but to point out that each step in this care and maintenance guide is critical. The folks at the factory and professional chefs will tell you that. So, don’t just read this part because it’s at the top and assume you’re doing everything you need to.
That said, the reason you have knives is to use them, and you’ll do more of that than anything else on this list, which means these tips could be the most critical to extending the life of your cutlery. There are a few practices that are common among both home and professional cooks that are just downright bad for blades. Below are some tips on things you should and should not do with Wüsthof knives.
- Do not: Cut on a hard surface. This includes certain types of cutting boards that are pretty, but really shouldn’t exist in the same kitchen with good knives. That means glass, hard plastic, and stone like marble and slate. Also, some commercial kitchen workers use stainless steel work tables as cutting surfaces. The issue here is that driving the blade repeatedly into a hard surface will bend and warp the edge at a microscopic level.
- Do: Use a cutting board made of a softer material like wood, bamboo, pressed fibers, or softer plastics like polyethylene. A good rule of thumb is that if you can stick the point of the blade into the board and have it stick there, it’s soft enough. These offer enough give that they won’t damage your blades unless you have a really terrible technique. Keep in mind that the first two in that list will require hand washing in water that isn’t too hot, as higher temps and dishwashers can cause them to dry out, crack, and split.
- Do not: Try to be like those professional chefs you see on TV on your first time holding a good knife. They have years of experience under their belts, so they know how to use a good rocking motion or a quick chop. One of the most common reasons inexperienced chefs have trouble with their knives is using a bad motion, which quickly dulls their blades.
- Do: If you really want to imitate your favorite kitchen star, use an old knife that you don’t care about ruining and a cutting board that is nearly ready for retirement, then practice. In reality, there’s no reason most home cooks will need to develop this skill, so we recommend you just forget about it. Also, remember that dull knives are the ones that are likely to slip and cut you, so make sure safety, rather than showmanship, is always your first priority.
Step 2: Clean Knives with Care
The folks at Wüsthof have done everything they can to ensure their knives can stand up to years of use and won’t corrode. Still, there’s only so far high-quality stainless and high-carbon steel can take their cutlery; the rest is up to you.
Unfortunately, proper knife-cleaning skills aren’t something most parents teach their kids, nor are they as big a part of the curriculum in most culinary schools as good knife skills are. So, here are the major things you should know.
- Soak your knives.
- Put knifes in the dishwasher.
- Use harsh cleaners on cutlery.
- Allow blades to air dry.
- Store your blades in a jumbled drawer.
- Wipe knives off if you won’t be washing them immediately after use.
- Wash knives by hand in warm water with a mild detergent.
- Use cut resistant gloves when washing.
- Dry knives completely immediately after washing and rinsing
- Once they’re clean, store your knives on a magnetic strip or in a wood block.
Step 3: Honing and Sharpening Your Knives
We put these two together not because they’re both done as frequently, but because they’re constantly confused as being the same thing. In actuality, you should hone your knives after every use, while you’ll only rarely need to sharpen. Doing each at the proper times should keep your Wüsthof knife set slicing easily long into the future. So, what’s the difference?
Honing a knife is typically done with the help of a honing steel, a rough metal rod that is often mistakenly referred to as a sharpening steel. In actuality, it’s not meant to sharpen at all, though it seems like that’s what it’s doing because it will make the knife cut more easily, particularly if you’ve neglected this important maintenance task for a while.
A honing rod is used to realign the blade so that it’s working in the same direction along its entire length. Though it seems to our puny eyes that the edge is just one smooth piece of metal, it’s actually composed of millions of jagged bits of metal that look sort of like a feather under magnification. When in good condition, those all align and work together. However, during use, they get all bent and end up going in different directions. The honing steel fixes that by pushing all the little edges back into one single blade.
Because Wüsthof knives are made in the German tradition, they typically have about a 22-degree edge angle. To hone them to that mark, put the point of your steel into a non-slip item like a shammy on a hard countertop, then put the edge of the blade against the rod at a right angle, which is 90 degrees. Bring the knife closer to the rod by half of that angle, which should give you about 45 degrees, and finally, cut that by two-thirds. That should give it a roughly 14-degree angle.
Now that you’ve established the angle, pull the knife from handle to point against the rod, moving it toward yourself and down the rod simultaneously. Do this about 10 times per side (these knives typically have a V-edge, also because they’re German). Though that may sound like a tricky process, it’s not too hard to master. Of course, that’s assuming you’re not sharpening a serrated knife, which can make this task more complicated.
When you’ve used your blade so much that honing no longer gets it back into prime cutting condition, you’ll need to perform a full resharpening. To do this, soak a whetstone in water for a few minutes, then put it on a flat, sturdy surface with a non-slip material underneath it. Find the same angle you use on your steel, then move the knife along the surface of the stone, drawing the full length across it as you do. IMPORTANT: Always move the knife away from your body to avoid serious injury.
Wüsthof also offers combination units that will automatically hone and sharpen your knives at the right angles. Some professionals are wary of items like this because they don’t always stand up to the demands or provide the precision edge required in commercial applications. While that may be true of similar products, we talked to a factory rep who assured us that’s not the case with these. Certainly, if you’re a home chef, you should have no qualms about getting one of these and making your life a little easier.