How To Care for a Carbon Steel Knife

updated May 30, 2019
How To Care for a Carbon Steel Knife
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Whether you’re an experienced chef or just learning your way around the kitchen, all cooks know good knives are essential for success in the kitchen. And while knife choice is an extremely personal decision, a carbon steel knife is a great choice.

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Why Should You Choose Carbon Steel?

Although stainless steel is the most common material for kitchen knives, carbon steel is often the preferred choice of culinary professionals. That’s because a carbon steel blade, when properly cared for, holds a sharp edge better than stainless steel. The flip side is that “proper care” of carbon steel involves a bit more day-to-day maintenance.

Clean While You Cook

One of the most important steps in taking care of your carbon steel is keeping the blade clean. That means wiping down your knife while you cook. It may seem tedious at first, but it will keep your blade from rusting. This is especially true when working with acidic foods, like lemons and tomatoes, which tend to be particularly tough on carbon steel.

Patina vs. Rust

Over time, your knife will develop a gray-blue patina. Don’t freak! There’s a difference between patina and rust. Patina = good; rust = bad. A healthy patina actually protects your knife from rust.

Keep Your Knife Honed

Regular honing helps keep your blade (carbon steel or other) balanced, which makes cutting easier. If you bought a set of knives, your set may have come with a honing rod. If not, it’s easy to find one, like this one, online.

Honing, which essentially just re-centers your knife, can be done daily; sharpening, which involves shaving off part of your knife to create a fresh edge, should be done considerably less frequently (maybe twice a year).

It’s also a good idea to cut on a wood or plastic surface. Hard surfaces, like glass, marble, and even harder woods like bamboo, can dull or chip your blade.

How To Care for a Carbon Steel Knife

Nutritional Info



  • 2 clean dishcloths
  • Warm , soapy water
  • Clean dishtowel
  • Mineral oil


  • Sharpening steel


  1. Hone your knife: The easiest way to keep your knife centered is to hone it before each use.

  2. Wipe your knife: Use a clean dishcloth to wipe down your knife while you're cooking — especially after cutting acidic foods.

  3. Wash your knife: Use a soft cloth to wash your knife in a sink of warm, soapy water. Never put your knife in a sink full of dishes or — gasp! — the dishwasher.

  4. Hand-dry your knife: This should be done immediately after washing with a clean dishtowel.

  5. Rub with mineral oil. If you notice any rust spots, rub a light layer of mineral oil and let dry.

  6. Store knife: A plastic sheath, magnetic knife strip, or drawer insert are all appropriate.