The knife is the most important tool in the kitchen. It affects so many aspects of cooking from the preparation of the food to serving the food. The knife can even impact the quality of the dishes you’re producing.
I’ve never been hesitant to invest in a set of high quality knives because I know they will be worth it. I’m also no stranger to spending hours researching online to find videos and articles detailing a knife’s performance.
Over the years though, I’ve found that focusing on just the knife itself is not enough. You have to be mindful of proper knife care too.
With that in mind, I want to take this opportunity to talk to you about knife blocks. You’ve seen them around, right? They’re those big blocks with slots that can be used to store your knives.
I wanted to know more about how they were impacting the knives I used. What I’ve found is that they actually make a big difference. The bad knife blocks in particular can really shorten the lifespan of your kitchen tools.
In this article, I’ll shine the spotlight not on the best knife blocks, but on the worst ones I’ve had the displeasure of using instead. Use the info you pick up here to make a smarter purchase and take better care of your knives in the process.
Why You May Want to Reconsider before Using a Knife Block
Before we get into discussions regarding specific knife blocks, I want to discuss them in general first. You see, knife blocks have some serious drawbacks that you should know about. Let’s talk about those drawbacks here.
Knife Blocks Can Double as Breeding Grounds for Germs and Fungi
Back in 2013, the National Sanitation Foundation took a closer look at different kitchen items and identified the ones which harbored the most foodborne pathogens. They found that knife blocks were among the dirtiest items in the kitchen.
Mold, yeast, and different kinds of germs were found hanging out inside the knife block. That shouldn’t actually be much of a surprise given that fungi and germs thrive in the moist and enclosed environments that are typically found inside knife blocks.
You can clean the knife block regularly to get rid of those pathogens and prevent their growth. Even so, the risk of your knives being covered in germs is real when you use knife blocks and it should not be ignored.
Knife Blocks Can Affect the Sharpness of Your Knives
The knife block can also affect the performance of your knives. It can specifically change how sharp they are.
The people over at Cook’s Illustrated sought to determine what impact knife blocks have on knife sharpness. To do so, they performed a test which involved sliding a knife back and forth into a block with vertical slots repeatedly. After sliding the knife in and out of the block around 70 times, they found that its sharpness was suffered significantly.
Dull knives have no place in the kitchen. If you don’t want your knife’s sharpness level affected by how you store it, the knife block may not be for you.
The Brands to Avoid
Not all knife blocks are created equal. Some of them have even implemented features designed to address the issues we talked about already. Sadly, not all knife blocks are created that way.
In this section, I’ll highlight some of the worst knife blocks I’ve used and give you the reasons why you should think twice before getting them. Learn from my mistakes and keep your knives in better shape too.
The first brand we’re going to discuss is Cookit. They have a decently sized collection of knife blocks and they’ve focused on providing affordable products.
The specific Cookit product I have an issue with is their Universal Knife Block.
First off, you’ll see that it has a pretty unique compartment for the knives. It has wavy slots that hold the knives in place. The wavy slots are designed to keep the inserted knives in position while keeping them upright and preserving their edge.
I do want to say that this knife block does a good job of protecting the edges of your knives. That’s not the issue here.
The main issue is that the block can only hold a few knives reliably. If you’re going to use up all 12 slots available, the knives are prone to moving around. You can imagine how dangerous that is.
I would also avoid placing big knives inside this block. They may cause the whole thing to tip over.
Cookit’s Universal Knife Block should work fine if you’re only using it to store two or three knives. Then again, if your knife block can only hold two or three knives, you may be better off using something else.
Kapoosh goes about storing knives a bit differently than the more conventional blocks. Instead of giving users hollow spaces for their knives, Kapoosh offers a bundle of flex rods.
The flex rods are small plastic rods that move in all kinds of directions. Upon inserting your knife, you displace some of the flex rods and they, in turn, hold your knife. Since the edge of your knife is no longer rubbing against a solid material, the chances of it dulling decrease.
I was really intrigued by the way Kapoosh’s Dice Knife Block handled my kitchen tools. Unfortunately, it had issues of its own.
The most annoying one was that my knife was often covered with black specks after I pulled out of the block. I suspect that the flex rods had something to do with that. If you don’t notice the black specks right away, whatever you’re chopping or slicing is going to look weird.
You can obviously clean the knife after you pull it out, but that’s an extra step that takes time.
I was also unhappy with how long it took this knife block to dry. I was often forced to keep my knives exposed because the block wasn’t ready to use after cleaning.
Knife blocks are supposed to hold your knives. They’re not supposed to trap them. Therein lies the major problem I have with KITCHENDAO’s collection of knife holders.
Placing my chef’s knife inside one of the slots provided was no problem. The issue arose when I was trying to retrieve my knife from the block.
The knife wasn’t gliding out smoothly like I expected. A more forceful tug wasn’t enough to dislodge the knife either. I had to use my free hand to push the block away while pulling the knife out before I succeeded.
Blocks that trap knives aren’t very safe to use. You can easily injure yourself by pulling on the knife with your other hand on the block. You could also slip and injure yourself with the knife still in your hand.
The aforementioned issue can be mitigated by placing smaller knives into the block, but that kind of defeats the purpose of having it. If I cannot use the block to safely hold my all-purpose knife, I don’t want to use it at all.
It’s a shame too because the KITCHENDAO block I was using at the time was compact and easy to clean. I liked its other qualities. At the end of the day though, it’s impossible to overlook how dangerous this knife block can be especially if you’re asking someone who lacks experience in the kitchen to use it.
The folks over at WUSTHOF have decided to focus on creating a lineup of huge knife blocks. We’re talking about knife blocks that can hold up to 35 different knives.
Honestly, the capacity WUSTHOF knife blocks feature is quite impressive, although I’m not sure how helpful it really is. I don’t think there was ever a point when I owned 10 different knives, let alone 35. Inside a home kitchen, the capacity that WUSTHOF knife blocks provide is simply unnecessary.
You can even argue that the enormous size of the WUSTHOF knife blocks works against them. They take up so much counter space that you may be hesitant to purchase one if you have a small kitchen.
The wooden block is also not as sturdy as it looks. Cracks started showing up for me earlier than I expected. They weren’t affecting the performance of the block at that point, but I imagine that they could have been problematic sooner rather than later.
Zwilling J.A. Henckels
Last up, we have Zwilling J.A. Henckels and their knife blocks. The particular knife block I found troublesome is their Twin Signature Knife Block Set.
When you start using this block, you’ll quickly find that its slots are on the larger side. Slots that are too big for the knives they’re supposed to hold are not ideal.
The extra space they provide just allows the knives to move in place. The knives could even fall out of the block if you bump it accidentally.
A knife block that fails to keep its contents in place is definitely not worth your money. You’re just turning your kitchen into a more dangerous place if you use a knife block like that.