Safety with Kitchen Knives

A cook's best friend and most important utensil is a sharp knife. You may not notice, but through repeated use, knives become dull. Most kitchen accidents are knife-related, and dull knives are often the cause. Keep the following tips in mind when working with your kitchen knives.

Purchase a good knife. A good knife is heavy and well balanced compared to a flimsy knife that can easily bend or snap. Poorly constructed knives have a difficult time maintaining their edge, and they can warp over time. A good, forged knife with high carbon content and a molded handle will last a long time, if cared for properly.
Always use a cutting board. Knives should not be used on kitchen counters, metal, glass or steel surfaces when chopping, slicing or mincing. Using a knife on such a surface can cause slipping and sliding. When setting up a work area, place a damp kitchen towel beneath the cutting board to prevent it from slipping while you work.
Select the proper cutting board. Most plastic boards are economical and dishwasher-safe and remain more sanitary than wooden blocks. However, plastic boards do tend to dull knives more quickly. Wooden boards are ideal, yet they require a thorough cleansing to remain sanitary, as the pores of the wood tend to trap bacteria. What ever choice you make, purchase a big board, with ample space for cutting.
Know your knife. The tip of the knife is the most delicate part of the utensil - ideal for slicing mushrooms. The mid-section is the most commonly used area and does the majority of the work. And the heel or back 1/3 of the knife is the heavy work area - ideal for cutting off a bunch of celery.
Protect your fingers. Curl your fingers under and position them on top of the item to be cut, for example an onion half. With your hand on the item and fingers safely tucked, place the side of the knife next to your knuckles. Maintain a strong grip on the item you are cutting.
Sharpen your knife. Many tools, such as steel sharpening rods, whetstones, and hand sharpeners are available to keep your knife sharp. Steel rods, complete with many knife sets, should be used for quick rehoning. If using a sharpening stone or whetstone, place the stone securely on the counter top using both hands to hold the knife gently against the stone. Keep sharpening stones oiled with food-grade mineral oil. Other oils can ruin the stone. When using manual, electrical hand-sharpeners, follow operating instructions carefully.
Always store knives in a knife holder. Storing knives loose in a drawer with other tools can damage the knife blade. More importantly, it can lead to severe cuts.
Never attempt to catch a falling knife. Step back and let it hit the floor.
Never cut anything that is placed in your hand. Instead of "palming" food, place it on the board.
Use the knife for its intended purpose. Don't use them to open cans, remove jars and bottle caps, or cut string, bones, metal or paper.
Clean knives. Carbon steel knives should be washed and dried immediately after using to prevent rusting. Never soak knives in water. Do not place your knives in the dishwasher - always wash them by hand or the handles will gradually deteriorate and the blades will dull.
Select the correct knife for the job.
Focus on the job at hand. Keep your mind on your work when holding a knife and cut away from the body.
The safest knife is a sharp knife. With a sharp knife you have control and can easily cut through food. When the blade is dull, it forces the knife through the food.