Kitchen knives are a part of every reasonable kitchen setup. These sharp blades are often so powerful that they’d probably be used as swords in ages past.
So storing and swinging these bad boys safely is quite important for avoiding painful and potentially lethal kitchen accidents. These are the 20 most important tips that you should incorporate in your home kitchen and restaurant kitchen:
1. Keep em sharp
The sharper your kitchen knife is the better. You will avoid many accidents that would otherwise happen if you tried cutting hard pieces of meat, vegetables, cheese and other dense foods with a dull knife.
But even the best knives lose their sharpness after a period of use. You can use a simple kitchen knife sharpener any time you feel like your blade has lost its edge. I use the MITSUMOTO SAKARI knife sharpener (link to Amazon) in my kitchen. It’s a safe and effective tool for bringing my knives quickly up to snuff.
2. Have a fast-access knife stand
Instead of having to open a drawer to find your sharp knife every time you’re preparing a meal, it’s safer to have a knife stand for those important knives out in the open. This makes them more accessible and saves you time.
When you’re in a hurry, having to open drawers to find the stuff you need can lead to dropping the knife in the process or getting cut if the knife is placed awkwardly in the drawer. A knife stand drastically reduces the chance of this happening.
I like to have a see-through knife stand where you can see the entire knife instead of having to guess which one it is based on the handle that sticks out.
If you don’t have a knife stand already, I recommend looking into the Swiss Kuhn Rikon knife stand which is both see-through and very easy to clean.
3. Use an in-drawer knife organizer
Consider using an in-drawer knife organizer for those knives you don’t want to have in the open. Either because you have little children playing around or because you don’t use them too often.
Seriously, knives that are placed with the sharp blade on top are an accident waiting to happen. And as we put more things in the drawer they can easily shift into this position without us being aware of it. Especially if the kitchen is used by more than one person, and the unsuspecting visitor is not aware of our arrangement.
I have this bamboo knife block in my kitchen drawer which can hold up to 12 knives. AND it has a spot for a knife sharpener.
4. Have an emergency kit for accidents
Despite of your best efforts to improve kitchen knife safety accidents can still happen. Especially if there are other people who are using the kitchen.
Sometimes people forget to put everything back in the right place. Someone else comes along and notices their mistake when its too late.
Whether that’s a knife in a sink full of water, a knife placed in a drawer pointing up or simply a knife that should be sharp but isn’t, leading to an accident during a cutting attempt. And let’s not even go into trouble that children can get into wielding sharp objects.
An emergency medical kit will put your mind to rest and be of much help when its needed. Keep band-aids, pain relief pills, rubbing alcohol and other first aid meds stored in an easy-to-reach place in your kitchen or nearby to be on the safe side.
5. Keep the knives away from children
This is a a real no-brainer. Kids under 4-5 years cannot be trusted with sharp objects. Perhaps smaller, less sharp knives, but certainly not a meat cleaver or a knife you’d use to cut bacon into very delicate pieces.
Keep your knife stand high enough that the kids can’t reach it, and also far enough from the edge so that it can’t accidentally fall on the floor. Your knife drawer should also be fairly high, locked or hidden from small children.
Having said that, don’t keep the knives so high up that you have to stand on your toes in order to reach them. Shoulder height is ideal for most people.
6. Use a hard surface for cutting
Use a simple cutting board to protect other surfaces in your kitchen and for extra cleanliness.
7. Don’t use a knife to open cans and jars
Use a can open or a jar opener, but never a knife. The first sign of trouble is pointing the sharp end towards yourself, and that’s what you’ll probably have to do in order to open a jar.
8. Use the right knife for the occasion
A bread knife will not be adequate for slicing meat, and a meat cutting knife will feel like too much for cutting vegetables.
Make sure that your knife set includes different types of knives for different food types and textures. I recently purchased the Home Hero Stainless Steel Knife Set, which contains:
- 13 different kitchen knives (carving knife, utility knife, cheese knife, pizza knife, chef knife, bread knife, paring knife, steak knives)
- a knife sharpener
- acrylic see-through stand
I didn’t need an extra knife sharpener, but I heard so many good things about this set that I got it anyway. And I’m glad that I did. For under $50 I got a dashing set of knives to supplement my existing collection.
9. Lay the food down on its flat side before cutting
This is pretty logical – you don’t want to place any food on its wobbly side while cutting.
10. Don’t rush it
Take your time with chopping the carrots and other goodies. Rushing things leads to mistakes, and mistakes can be quite painful when sharp knives are at play.
11. Never wash a knife in a sink full of water
Don’t drown the knife in a sink full of water and then search for it with your hand. It’s a recipe for injury. Either use a dishwasher to wash multiple knives at once, or wash each knife carefully by hand and place them on a different surface. Just stuffing them into a sink full of soapy water is a rookie mistake that has the potential to ruin your day.
12. Don’t try to catch a knife mid-air
It’s falling, it’s falling… and you have that instinctive urge to catch it mid-air and prove that you have a talent for an exotic knife-catching sport. But chances are that you’ll catch the knife not by the handle, but by the razor-sharp side and cause a serious injury to your hand. Let the knife fall and do everything you can to remove your feet from the potential landing strip.
13. Hand it properly to another person
When handing a kitchen knife to another person, it’s best to lay it down on a hard surface so that they pick it up.
Direct hand-to-hand transfer of a sharp knife is never a good idea because the handle is too small to be grabber by two hands at the same time. So inevitably one person will have to take it by the blade, while the other holds it by the handle.
Any swift movement during this process will lead to one person getting cut. Not to mention the risk of the knife falling and slicing someone’s toes in the process.
14. Walk with it by your side, sharp side facing back
Sometimes you just have to take a knife from point A to point B. Keep it by your side, with the sharp side facing back. This way you’ll minimize the chance of the knife hitting your feet in case it falls. And if you slip, there’s less chance that the sharp side will make a serious connection with your body.
15. Refrain from licking a knife
One of the fun parts of cooking is tasting the meal before its finished. But licking from a knife is not a good habit to develop, either from the hygiene or the safety angle. If you want to taste that vanilla cream or that nice piece of meat, rather use a spoon or a fork than a sharp knife which can easily cut your tongue or the inside of your mouth.
16. Use the claw hand position when cutting
When cutting fruit and vegetables, hold it in place with the tips of your fingers only. This will minimize the risk of finger cuts.
17. Develop proper cutting technique
The claw and so many other common sense technique require practice to master and remember. But it’s not rocket science by any means. Here’s a cool video explaining some of the basics:
18. Keep your knives clean
Getting cut (or pierced) by a kitchen knife is not the only potential health hazard. A knife that you used to cut some fresh meat or fish should be cleaned as soon as possible to avoid contaminating other parts of the kitchen with bacteria.
An unsuspecting coworker or housemate could use the knife shortly after you’re done with it without knowing what it was used for. At the very least, keep a designated place for dirty knives (but not a sink full of water) that everyone who uses the kitchen knows about.
19. Eliminate distractions
Don’t watch your favorite episode of Everyone Loves Raymond while cutting pork chops. So many of us do this (I’m guilty of this too!), but multi-tasking is not a smart idea when wielding a sharp object.
It’s interesting that beginners will rarely get so distracted to cut themselves, but some of us with more experience can get dangerously complacent. Keep the radio on if you need some entertainment, but make sure that your eyes are focused on the pork chops.
20. Make a plan before preparing a meal
Rushing into meal preparation is a recipe for disaster. Not only can it ruin the meal as you try to make it faster than its possible, but you also risk accidents, from kitchen fires to cut fingers.
Have a step-by-step plan of what you have to do in order to make your meal. You don’t have to write it down necessarily, but it can definitely help. After all, recipes and cookbooks are exactly that – step by step plans for creating specific meals.
But more than that, have a plan of the knives and other kitchen gadgets you’ll need and know exactly where they are before you start. Doing this will actually save you time and reduce any kitchen anxiety, as you won’t search for that frying pan or that strainer in panic.
Final Word: Kitchen Knife Safety Precautions
Kitchen knives are serious business! If you’re not careful you and other people around you can get seriously hurt. Kitchen knife accidents are some of the most common ones found in professional kitchens and in regular households.
By using these kitchen knife safety tips you can improve the safety of your kitchen by a huge margin. Hope this helps!