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Keeping Knives Close at Hand

Fine Cooking Issue 47
Drawings: Heather Lambert
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Your knives are probably your most-reached-for cooking tool, so it follows that you should store them within arm’s length of where you do most of your cutting. In an ideal world, your knife storage system would also 1) be unobtrusive, 2) let you see which knife you’re grabbing without having to memorize its handle, 3) hold the blades in place so they don’t harm you or each other, and 4) be easy to clean, not only outside but also inside, where the blades are.

None of the most common ways to store knives does the job perfectly. Knife blocks hog counter space, hide the blades, and are impossible to clean. Magnetic strips can be unsafe if the knife is knocked (­restaurant-supply stores often carry stronger magnetic strips). Knife drawers are inconvenient when your hands are slick or covered with flour.

The ideas presented here aren’t without drawbacks either, but they open up more options and might spark an idea for your kitchen.

Dead space becomes useful in an extra-high, extra-wide wooden backsplash in the San Francisco kitchen of Fran Gage, a baker, teacher, and cookbook author. The slots in the backsplash hold Fran’s knives and also a few baking spatulas.
Counter slots can replace a traditional knife block. David Michael Cane of Solvang, California, got-rid of his three bulky knife blocks because they sometimes tipped over. His solution was to drop a custom-made knife block into his granite counter just behind a chopping board.
Plexiglas protects knives while keeping them visible in this knife holder made for Linda Misanchuk of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Grooves can be routed in the backboard, or thin wooden strips can be attached to the board to make custom knife slots. The plexiglas is attached with brass screws and can be removed for cleaning. The whole assembly is canted from the wall to make access easier.
A knife rack on the end of a chopping block puts knives right where you want them. This setup in the Bay Area kitchen of Bruce Aidells and Nancy Oakes is simply a wood strip attached to the block. Adding a plexiglas shield to the wood would make this safer for homes with young children.

Better knife storage systems you can buy

Plastic knife sheaths make knives safe for drawers or transport. Locking tabs keep the sheath closed. Made by Lamson Sharp, $2 to $5, and also available from Professional Cutlery Direct.
This knife carousel with a protective mesh cage lets you see your blades and grab the knife you want. Made by J.K. Adams, $77;
A wall-mounted knife holder holds nine knives securely and includes a slot for a steel. The cage swings up and out for cleaning. Made by J.K. Adams, $45; also available from Stacks and Stacks and Professional Cutlery Direct.


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