Monday, March 15, 2010

Reader Question: The Best Way to Store the Knives?

bamboo knife block with horizontal slots

The question of "what's the best way to store my knives?" comes up whenever I teach my kitchen organizing class, and I never have an answer that I like.

The magnets are easiest access, but can be a problem for pet/kid safety (how are they in earthquakes?), and feng shui says they're an absolute no-no. I've been told that the blocks dull the knives (and they take up counter space, except for that nifty under-cabinet one you showed us!), but they're probably great for ADD-style folks (as are the magnets) -- no drawers to conceal things.

-- organizer Claire Josefine, commenting on my last post about knife storage

I doubt there's any one best way - your choice will partly depend on your kitchen and your sense of aesthetics. But let's address some of the questions raised by Claire - and by others who commented on the last post.

1. Does a knife block dull the knife blades?

Here's what Jeffrey Elliot, executive chef for knife manufacturer Zwilling J.A. Henckels, had to say on the Real Simple web site.
If you prefer a knife block, the slots should be horizontal so the knives slide in parallel to the counter rather than resting on the blade edges, which can dull over time.
Of course, Zwilling J.A. Henckels sells a number of knife blocks of the type Elliot recommends - including the one above, made from bamboo.

2. Is a knife block unsanitary?

The only concern I'm reading about is that your normal wooden knife block cannot be cleaned on the inside - at least, not easily. If this bothers you, you'll want to pick another storage mechanism. You could get the germ-eliminating knife block, I suppose - but it's hard for me to be enthusiastic about that one.

knife stand

3. Isn't there a potential problem of buying a new knife and finding out it doesn't fit in your knife block?

The Ekobo knife block and the Kapoosh knife block, mentioned in earlier posts, address this concern - but some folks aren't too happy with the Kapoosh. Another product that addresses this issue is the knife stand from Tools Design, created for Eva Solo, with both angled non-angled versions, and sold many places online.

4. What can you recommend for someone with ADD?

Here's what Susan Pinsky says in her excellent book, Organizing Solutions for People with Attention Deficit Disorder:
Pare your knife collection down to the four or five that are sharp and that you use most frequently. Do not then leave these fortunate and useful few to rattle around threatening bodily hard with every blind reach into the cutlery drawer; instead store them in a drawer knife block.

I prefer drawer knife blocks because even with the extra step of opening the drawer, it takes less effort to slide a knife into a long slot open on the top than to stab it from the side into a tiny hole.
5. Any other knife storage ideas?

Claire got me inspired to dig a bit more, and I found a few things that might be of interest.

chopping board with drawer to store knives

I wonder if the knife storage option shown above might help people who don't want to use a knife block or magnets. It still uses a drawer, but it's a drawer associated with a chopping block. Update on June 18, 2011: I'm no longer finding this product on the web, but MIU makes a similar product.

wall-mounted magnetized knife rack

And here's a wall-mounted magnetized knife rack that doesn't have the blades exposed, lessening some concerns about safety and bad feng shui. Update on August 7, 2013: I'm no longer finding this knife rack.

Finally, there are the built-in options, including a knife rack that can be built into the countertop. Or you could get a knife block pull-out cabinet.


JustGail said...

ok, my comments from yesterday seem to have wandered away never to be seen again!

anyway - I was going to say that I hadn't had any dulling of knives due to the knife block, as the one I have holds the knives horizontally, as recommended in answer #1. I have heard that bamboo might not be the best for knives due to all the glue used to laminate it together.

also, I had mentioned that I use a can filled with cut-off bamboo skewers for the *small* knives that I don't have room for in my block. It seems to work OK, but I'm keeping my eye out for another (or just a bigger) block.

My mom uses a home made version of the in-drawer holders - a 2x4 with slots cut in it. As she says - the price was right, and no one sees it anyway.

As far as blocks being unsanitary, if you clean the knives first, I don't see an issue, except for dust.

You've found some lovely wall and drawer units, unfortunately, neither would work out for my kitchen. I do my cutting/chopping on an island, and my drawer in that is already full of other stuff.

Anonymous said...

Although I LOVE some of the above counter solutions, the best bet is to keep them out of sight. This is considered good Fung Shui and it makes sense to me; if ever someone gets angry...and if the knives are clearly visible, with easy access....well, you get the idea... (I keep mine in a drawer)

Jeri Dansky said...

JustGail, thank you for taking the time to re-enter your comments!

Anonymous, I also use a drawer for my knives - and certainly, as you say, feng shui would advise against having knives out in the open. But I like to provide lots of options, because everyone makes different trade-offs between convenience, aesthetics, feng shui issues, etc. And kitchens vary so much in layout, and how the residents use the space.

I know one person who only has two drawers in her kitchen, and they aren't very big, so using one for knife storage isn't likely to be a good answer for her.