The Very First Thing You Should Do with a New Knife (Besides Wash It!)

updated Apr 22, 2020
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Taking a new knife out of it's packaging
Credit: Joe Lingeman

When it comes to buying a new knife, you might have heard the advice: Play with some in person, so that you can, for a lack of a better term, try some on before you commit. Experts say it’s important to pick up and hold a few knives when you’re in the market for a new one. This way, you can be sure you get one that feels good in your hand — one that’s easy to work with and maneuver. And I couldn’t agree more.

But what’s just as important, and what no one really seems to talk about, is what happens when you get home. I’m not talking about sharpening and caring for your knife or washing it (although these are important aspects of knife ownership!). I’m talking about your very first task with your new knife before you really get cooking.

Before you get going with your new knife, cut up a few lemons or limes. Why? This will allow you to get used to how the knife feels in your hand and will give you a good idea of just how sharp (or not) the blade really is.

I say lemons or limes here because most of us have a few on hand at all times and can make good use of them once they’re sliced. (Here’s one idea! And here’s another!) They’re also just the right size to use with any new knife — even a paring knife. And they have a firm outer skin with a soft flesh in the center, so you’ll really get to slice through varying textures as you get to know your knife.

You don’t have to cut up an entire bag of lemons — just do a few and really pay attention. Note how the knife feels as it cuts through the rind, how the pressure eases up when you’re in the flesh, and how it feels once it hits the cutting board. How easy is it to maneuver? Do you feel like you’re in total control? Once you know the answers to these questions, you’ll have a good understanding of your relationship with your new knife and you’ll be ready to go!

Do you already do this? Discuss in the comments below.