It’s always important to have a designated storage space for your knives, especially in a commercial kitchen. It reduces the risk of accidents, while increasing overall cleanliness and organization. When using a knife exchange service, having storage space specifically for keeping the knife service knives makes executing the knife exchange process extra easy. If you have a knife service, proper storage will also help keep those professionally sharpened knives sharper longer, by protecting the edges.
Choosing the right storage space boils down to balancing your personal preference with the needs of your kitchen. We’ll take a look at several storage types, their advantages and disadvantages, as well as their proper cleaning procedures. The main considerations for each storage type will be use of space, convenience, the effect on knife blades, safety, cleanliness, and last but not least cosmetics. Especially in a home kitchen, a beautiful set of knives can be a focal point, so it’s worth considering how it will look. In a commercial setting, safety, cleanliness and functionality are paramount.
First up is the knife block. A knife block is a block (typically made of wood) that has slots of various sizes to store your knives. While most knife blocks are made of wood, there are also universal knife blocks, clear knife blocks, under-cabinet knife blocks, and magnetic knife blocks.
Wooden knife blocks are a very safe option. The blades are covered at all times, reducing the risk for accidents. This coverage also saves the blades from dings or scratches, as long as care is taken not to scrape the cutting edge of the blade against the wood when inserting the knife into the block. Another way to protect the knife edge is to always insert the knife so its spine is resting down. This keeps weight off of the cutting edge.
One problem people encounter is that the slots in wooden knife blocks are typically sized to suit a specific knife set. If your knives do not correspond to those sizes, or if there is not enough space in the block to fit all of your knives, this can be an issue. This is why wooden knife blocks are typically found in home kitchens, as commercial kitchens typically require a larger knife set. Very few commercial kitchens will utilize a wooden knife block because among other things, commercial kitchen knives like those provided in the PostKnife subscriptions, tend to have wider blades than typical home kitchen knife styles.
Wooden knife blocks require no installation, and can be easily moved around the kitchen, making them one of the most convenient storage options. This does mean you’ll need to clear some extra surface space. The convenience in installation also points to another reason that most commercial kitchens will stray from a wooden knife block; they’re as easy to knock over accidentally as they are to set in place with intention. Not being fixed to the counter, filled with sharp commercial kitchen knives; needless to say, a wooden knife block isn’t always best paired with a commercial kitchen.
It is important to clean wooden knife blocks regularly, as bacteria can easily get trapped in the crevices of each slot. First shake out the block to remove trapped food debris from the slots. Then, scrub the outside of the block with soap and hot water. Make sure not to soak the block, otherwise the wood will be damaged from absorbing the water. Next, scrub each slot with a soapy brush, and then rinse. Once this is finished, sanitize both the block and slots with a bleach solution. Use one tablet of bleach per gallon of water, and allow the solution to soak for about one minute. After the cleaning is finished, allow the block to air dry for several hours, making sure it is completely dry before re-inserting knives. The knives should also be cleaned before re-inserting them into the block.
A universal knife block, rather than containing size restrictive slots, is made up of tightly packed plastic rods. The knife, when inserted, slides between the rods, allowing it to fit anywhere in the block regardless size or shape. One problem people encounter is that the knife edge can shave off tiny slivers of plastic, which stick to the knife and get into food. Also, depending on the brand, the more knives that are in the block, the tighter the rods are packed, making it more difficult to insert another knife. When cleaning, remove the rods and wash thoroughly. They are typically attached to a base, so the rods don’t scatter everywhere. It is recommended that you hand wash in order to reach the deeper crevices. If the rods are packed too tightly together, it can be tough to reach every nook and cranny, which means there are more places for bacteria to hide.
Clear knife blocks, usually made of plastic or acrylic, have universal slots at the top, with a hollow, clear body, so you can easily see your knives. Clear knife blocks typically only accommodate knives up to eight inches in length, which means if your kitchen knife set contains larger knives, this might not be the best option. However, the hollow body makes cleaning much easier. With no narrow crevices to scrub, you can either hand wash it or throw it in the dishwasher, and it will be ready to go.
Under-cabinet knife blocks are a good option if you prefer a knife block but do not have space to spare in your kitchen. These knife blocks can be installed on the underside of a cabinet, via a rotating attachment on the top of the block. The knife block sits underneath the cabinet so the knife handles are parallel to the floor. The rotating attachment allows you hide the knife handles under the cabinet, or have them protruding out for easy access. While this option saves space, it does require a more involved installation. The cleaning process for an under-cabinet knife block is the same as a regular wooden knife block, however many models have slots that run through both ends of the block, making them easier to clean and allowing you to insert the knives in either end.
Magnetic knife blocks are like traditional knife blocks, except instead of having slots they are magnetized. This is a good option if you like the look and convenience of a traditional knife block but don’t want the hassle of cleaning hard to reach spaces. Without slots covering the blades, the risk of accidents does increase. However, some people claim that by not sliding the knife in and out of a slot less damage is done to the blade. Magnetic knife blocks can be easily washed by hand or in the dishwasher (if your knife block is made out of wood, then you should hand wash).
Magnetic Knife Racks
Magnetic knife racks are one of the most space efficient knife storage options. They are simply a rack of magnetized steel or wood that you can affix to your wall or fridge. Magnetic knife racks tend to be the more aesthetically pleasing than other storage options, but location and the quantity of knives you need space for should be seriously considered. The knives hang from the rack, allowing for easy access and no clutter. Magnetic knife racks do require some installation, but this is often as simple as attaching the rack to a wall via an adhesive seal on the back. Other types do require you to drill the rack into a wall.
Like magnetic knife blocks, many people prefer knife racks because there is less potential for damage when removing and replacing the knives to the magnets. The main downside with magnetized racks is safety. The knife blades are always exposed, and improper use or installing in a less that ideal location can result in an accident. If the rack is overloaded, there is a greater risk of knives being bumped off. Even if there are the correct amount of knives, there is always the possibility of knocking knives to the floor. It is important to take this into account if you choose a magnetic knife rack. Don’t overload the rack, be mindful when removing and replacing knives, hang knives with the handle up to prevent sliding, and, if you can, layer two racks one above the other so the knife blade is held at two points rather than one.
Cleaning is an easy process. Wash and scrub with soap and hot water, or sanitize with a bleach solution, and always wash knives before returning them to the rack.
If you’re in the market for a basic magnetic rack, yours truly at PostKnife.com has a range of stainless magnetic options. However if you’re in the market for a one of a kind, handmade knife rack, Matchless Made has truly one of a kind pieces made from a wide variety of wood species, and they can customize dimensions to fit your specific needs.
If you want your kitchen knife set out of the way, and you need all the wall and counter space you can get, then storing them in a drawer is a good option. It is safe both for you and for your knives, as long as the knives are stored either in sheaths or a drawer dock.
Sheaths are a simple option, but you may not want to un-sheath and re-sheath your knives every time you use them. Also, the knives are loose in the drawer and it can be hard to organize them. Whether they are a fabric or leather wrap, you’ll want to wash the sheaths regularly.
Knife docks are more convenient for retrieval, but they require a more involved installation. You have to make sure the dimensions of the dock match the dimensions of your drawer (which are often too small to fit a large knife set), and you may wind up running into one of the problems described earlier with knife blocks: the slots are often matched to a specific knife set, or simply don’t accommodate larger knives. In this case you’ll want to find a dock that either fits your knife set, or has a more universal size. When using a knife dock, consider placing the knives on their spine to reduce wearing down the cutting edge. When cleaning a dock, you’ll need to find a way to get into the knife slots with a brush of some kind, and, if the dock is made out of wood, do not soak or dish-wash. Whether using a dock or sheaths, make sure to clean the drawer itself regularly, as it can be a great spot for bacteria to hide out.
Drop-in Knife Racks
Drop-in knife racks are a rack you can affix to a wall with screws or adhesive. They typically come either in stainless steel or plastic, and contain universal slots at the top to insert knives. While requiring some installation, this is a convenient option, because all of your knives are right there on the wall. It is also one of the safest options. Unlike a magnetic knife rack, the blades are not exposed, and there is no risk of overloading thanks to the individual slots (however I have been witness to a variety of other kitchen junk being stored intertwined with the knife handles…measuring spoons, thermometers, a double handled cheese knife!... just don’t do that). You’ll have the same level of access as a magnetic knife rack, and it frees up counter space. The main downside with a drop-in rack is that some people find them less cosmetically appealing than magnetic racks, especially since they take up more wall space.
It’s important to keep the rack clean by always re-inserting knives right after they have been washed. Because the interior is concealed, it can be easy to be storing dirty knives without realizing it. The drop-in rack can be both hand washed and machine washed. This style of knife rack is the most highly recommended by knife services, particularly for commercial kitchens. The benefits of the drop-in style that come in the form of increased safety, convenience of having the plenty of slots for a wide range of commercial knives, and ease of cleaning, make this style second to none.
Hopefully this has given you a bit more to work with when choosing a knife storage option for your commercial kitchen. If you’d like more information on knife storage, check out the links below.