I recently acquired an authentic Chinese cleaver. I love how it gets big cutting jobs done quickly, especially when I’m working with bones. But it’s pure steel and rusts every time I wash it. Do you have any suggestions on how to prevent this? Also, where can I get my knives sharpened professionally?
A. Never wash kitchen knives the way you wash everything else! Never ever put knoives in the sink with all the dishes and tableware! And never, never, ever put knives into the dishwasher!
Professional cooks give their knives a quick cleaning immediately after they’ve finished using them. They run water over the blades, scrubbing them with a plastic-bristled brush if necessary. Then they wipe them dry with a towel, and put them away, preferably in a block. That routine is especially important for the kind of metal you seem to have in that cleaver. I must tell you not to get too attached to that cleaver, as any knife that rusts that easily is far from the best quality.
Good knives in normal use need to be sharpened only rarely–once or twice a year. I have knives that go unsharpened for many years while still cutting efficiently. What you must do before each use, however, is to use a steel to true the edge frequently. The one I have is coated with diamond dust. Only a negligible part of the blade comes off the blade when you do that.
Actual honing and sharpening does remove metal, and that takes years off the knife’s life. The best way to get the job done is, once again, to do what the chefs do: they have a professional knife sharpener do the job. A guy who sharpens knives shows up at the Farmer’s Markets most weeks. (Magazine at Girod Saturday mornings; Uptown Square Tuesday midday). Usually he will sharpen your knives then and there. Sometimes he’s so busy that he takes your knives back to the shop, sharpens them, then returns them to you the next week.
I’m not a fan of home sharpeners. The best I know is Chef’s Choice 2. The worst are those gizmos made from what looks like stacks of coins intermeshing with one another. Those can actually gouge out the knife metal. Might be good for a Boy Scout pocketknife, but that’s about it.
One more matter: avoid banging your knives around. Never store them in a drawer. Use either a wooden block or one of those magnetic racks you screw to a wall.