7 Knife Tips Everyone Needs to Hear, from the Guy Behind the Oh-So-Gorgeous Middleton Made Knives

updated Feb 1, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Andrew Cebulka

Growing up in the 1980s, Quintin Middleton was a big fan of movies like Conan the Barbarian and Star Wars. While other kids recreated the battles or costumes from these action flicks, Middleton made his own versions of the swords, axes, and daggers the characters wielded.

Of course, his parents were a little alarmed when their 8-year-old used part of his swing set to create a rustic sword. “A lot of times they told me to stop doing it, but that didn’t help,” Middleton says. “I went off and did it anyway, so that’s kind of where the passion started from.”

Today, his Middleton Made Knives, with custom Damascus-steel blades and colorful handles, are prized by home cooks and celebrity chefs alike. His fans include Sean Brock, Ashleigh Shanti, and his cousin and barbecue icon Rodney Scott. Middleton has changed the high-end knife game with his handcrafted knives that are as much art as they are functional objects that evoke the ancient ceremonial blades African blacksmiths have forged for generations. He also has an everyday Echo line, with less expensive knives starting at $100.

Middleton realizes that most of us don’t spend much time thinking about our kitchen knives. “Knives are something very simple and common that you take for granted,” he says, comparing them to car insurance. But if you’re going to invest up to $900 for a Middleton Made knife, you’ll want to pamper it. Not spending $900 on a knife? You should still take care of any knife you love … because you want it to last, whether it’s custom made or purchased from Amazon. And you can extend the life of your knives by treating — and using — them right.

Here are seven of Middleton’s best tips that’ll help you get the most out of your knives and keep them in tip-top shape.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

1. Cut on the right surface. 

Before you even think about using a knife, Middleton says it’s critical to do your chopping, slicing, and dicing on the right surfaces. “The cutting board needs to be made out of plastic, wood, or a composite mix,” he says. Cutting boards made from glass, granite, and marble look cool, but they’re all harder than your knife’s blade, which will cause it to dull quickly.

2. Use your knife for cutting only.   

Have you ever been tempted to grab your knife to stand in for another tool? Please don’t. “It’s made to cut, it’s not made to pry,” Middleton says. “It’s not a screwdriver,” He’s seen many people break the tips off their knives this way. And please don’t dull your good knives by using them to cut anything frozen.

3. Choose the right knife for the right job. 

You can buy a whole set of knives, but Middleton says you really only need two: an 8-inch chef’s knife and a paring knife. The chef’s knife is for slicing, dicing, mincing, and carving. The trusty paring knife is good for everything else, like coring tomatoes, hulling strawberries, or slicing a single shallot. If you want a third knife, he suggests a santoku knife or a cleaver (which is great for tough tasks, like hacking through bone).

4. Never put your knives in the dishwasher. 

Dishwashers are bad news for knives. The water can crack your wooden handles. And the intense heat of the dishwasher isn’t good for your blade either. “The heating element inside the dishwasher heats up the steel over time and will soften the steel,” Middleton says. “That’s what you call tempering.” When the knife was made, the steel was already tempered, so reheating it inside the dishwasher weakens the metal. Over time, this means your blade won’t keep its nice, sharp edge. 

5. Store your knives properly.

“It’s a good idea not to throw it in a drawer,” Middleton says. “It’s banging up against other spoons and knives in the drawer and that’s ruining the edge.” Instead, store your knives on a knife block or magnetic strip. If you must keep your knives in a drawer, use knife guards to protect the blades while not in use.

6. Sharpen the blade periodically.

That sliver rod that comes with your knife set is not sharpening your knife. It’s just honing it, or pushing the metal on the knife edge back into place, kind of like when you smooth down your hair. And while you can buy knife sharpeners, Middleton suggests home cooks have their knives professionally sharpened once a year. Knife shops and even some knife manufactures will be able to do this for you.

7. Condition your knife handle.

Just like you condition your wooden cutting boards, Middleton suggests treating your knife handles to a little moisture. Use either mineral oil, cutting board oil, or natural beeswax; let it sit overnight to soak in; and then wipe off any excess before using your knife.