Of any tools in your kitchen, the ones that are worth putting real money and research into are your knives.
Not only will you be using them more than perhaps any other cooking accessory you own, but failing to care for them properly can lead to dull blades, weakened handles, and other dangers. All it takes is a slip, and you could end up with a severe injury.
Most people will wonder how to clean their knives properly. After all, once you find the perfect cutting companion, you don’t want to risk ruining it over something as silly as washing it wrong.
A common question: are paring knives dishwasher safe? The answer is: not if you plan on keeping them for very long.
In this article, we will look more into how to pick the right kind of paring knife (or overall knife sets), how to clean them, and why you want to avoid the dishwasher altogether.
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Are Paring Knives Dishwasher Safe? Not a Chance
Let’s look at this issue more broadly. Knives, in general, are often advertised as fine to put into the dishwasher. Chances are, you have done the same yourself without any major disasters.
If you choose to pop them in with the rest of your dishes, they won’t suddenly crumble into a soggy mess.
Even so, knives are not made for dishwashers. The long time spent in the water, uncontrolled heat, steam, the style of detergent, oils, grease, and debris from the other dishes are all bad for your knives. And that is just the beginning.
Certain materials are, likewise, more prone to damage. For example, ceramic knives can easily chip when you put them in the dishwasher.
Plastic handles can melt from the heating element on the bottom of the unit. Even steel knives can be weakened over time by the heat during the dry cycle.
Making the Dishwasher a Safer Option
There are some ways to reduce the risk of damage. Avoid sticking them up in the silverware tray. Instead, put knives flat on the top rack rather than anywhere on the bottom. Turn off the heating/drying feature before you run the cycle.
Take them out as soon as the cleaning process has been completed and dry them by hand. All of these tips will help keep your knives safer than if you were to treat them like other utensils.
Even if this is better than the usual treatment, it still won’t be enough. The more you run them through the dishwasher, the weaker your knives will become.
Eventually, even expensive sets will break. Following the safety suggestions above will only delay the inevitable.
Good news: keeping knives clean without damage is easy.
Step 1) Turn the water on hot but not hot enough to scald you.
Step 2) Get the dish soap.
Step 3) Wash with a soft sponge.
Step 4) Dry with a towel.
See? I told you it was easy. To care for your knives, wash them by hand. It will keep moisture from gathering in the handles, protecting them from rot, splintering, or warping.
Gentle handling minimizes dulling of the blade. If your knives are made of more delicate materials, like ceramic, it also avoids chipping.
Protect Your Knives, Protect Your Health
There is another reason you should be handwashing your slicing utensils: bacteria. Studies have shown that one of the most common reasons for food-borne illnesses like E. coli and salmonella is cross-contamination between knives.
You might think that just using a different cutter for each job (one for meat, one for vegetables, etc.) is enough to keep that from happening.
Unfortunately, you would be wrong.
Everyone knows sponges have to be cleaned, wrung out, and dried between uses. They also have to be regularly replaced with a new sponge. Some avid kitchen enthusiasts won’t even use sponges for that reason.
So why do so many people give dishwashers a pass? Dishwashers are moist and warm. This makes them a prime breeding ground for bacteria. Dangerous diseases could be lurking where you wash your dishes.
Sanitizing your dishwasher at least once a week (such as running it through a cycle empty, with vinegar and citrus) is a great way to maintain it.
But when it comes to knives, that probably won’t be as helpful as you hope. Most dishes are one continuous piece of material, such as a plate.
But knives have a separate handle, with the blade pressed into a gap. That little space might be thin, but it is plenty wide enough for nasty passengers to slip inside and breed.
There have been numerous stories of people who have had a knife they wash in the dishwasher break off at the handle, or split down the middle.
When they looked inside, they were horrified at what they found: growth and rot infecting the entire inside. That was spreading on their food every time they used it!
Proper Knife Maintenance
All of this might seem like you are being scared straight. Don’t worry; caring for your paring knives is simple. It starts by picking a good set that meets your individual needs.
An initial investment avoids cheaper materials that are more likely to break. Proper maintenance, including cleaning, will keep them at their best and extend their life.
Here are some tips for taking care of your cutting utensils, whether from day one or day one hundred:
- Hand washes your knives using a sponge or cloth on the backside of the blade. Slide it along with soap and water, then gently rinse. This will avoid any accidental slips and cuts.
- Dry them right away with a cloth, don’t leave them to dry on a rack. Like in a dishwasher, moisture will weaken the handle’s material and possibly warp the metal over time.
- Maintain your cutting boards as carefully as your knives. A bad cutting board can damage the blade or spread bacteria.
- Sharpen your blade regularly. Have a good sharpener on hand to manually sharpen your knives between uses: the less pressure you have to use to cut, the better. Once a year, go to a professional and have them sharpen it for you, then maintain it for the next twelve months.
- Choose a material that is right for you. Whether you prefer steel or ceramic, not every knife set will be suitable for every cook. Choose something you are comfortable with, and look up proper care for that set, as recommended by the manufacturer.
Are paring knives dishwasher safe? No, but washing them by hand is a small price to pay for keeping them in tip-top condition.
Olivia, a freelance writer living with her husband and two teenage kids in Salt Lake City, Utah. An avid fan of cooking, she enjoys writing about her experiences. She also loves sharing recommendations for luxury accessories and appliances. When not writing or whipping up mouth-watering recipes, she likes to read, visit galleries and museums, swim, and spend time with her dogs.
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