Have you ever looked at your knife and wondered when you would have to change it?
An important consideration in the knife buying decision should be how long you can expect to use that knife. Given that you follow the proper knife care and storage tips, you should expect your knives to last longer than average.
But, how long is long enough for a knife to last?
A well-made home kitchen knife will last a lifetime if properly used and maintained. Professional knives have a shorter lifespan and might only last a decade or two before they need to be replaced. Improper usage of the knife, buying poor knife sets/ units, or storing the knives wrongly can cause them to last less long than normal.
How Often Should You Replace Your Knives?
Like most things, this depends.
Some of the things that you will have to consider include:
Type of Usage
Professionals use their knives way more times than the average home cook.
While the home cook is making meals for themselves, the members of a family, or a small group of people, professional cooks are preparing meals for a larger set of people. Thus, they will engage their knives more often.
In that case, it is only logical that the professional chef changes their knives more often than the average home cook, all other things being equal.
There is only so much sharpening, honing, and stropping that a single knife can take before it becomes less efficient. Seeing as different cooks require different things from their knives, it doesn’t make sense for a professional cook to go on using a knife that just doesn’t deliver anymore.
Quality of knife
You cannot take the knife’s overall quality out of the mix here.
If you want your knives to last long, you should be ready to invest some good money into them upfront.
Whether you are looking for good kitchen knives, going for swiss army knives, prefer pocket knives, or other kinds of knives, be ready to drop a reasonable amount to ensure quality.
After all, wouldn’t you prefer a single $100 knife that stays reliable for a lifetime over cheap $20 knives that give up after every 2 years?
The decision is yours, ultimately, but I would always go for the former over the latter any day.
Quality of Care
You can have a good knife and it won’t last anywhere as long as the ranges on this piece.
A knife is like anything else that you have to take care of so that it keeps taking care of you.
If you don’t treat your knife well, you won’t have it around for that long.
Depending on the kind of knife you have (kitchen knife, outdoor knife, etc), here are some helpful guides to ensure they last longer:
- The ultimate guide to knife care and storage;
- How to remove rust from your knife at home;
- How to clean a pocket knife effectively by yourself;
- The best way to sharpen your knives on a whetstone – Video guide;
- How to strop your knives after sharpening;
- Why you need to hone your knives more than you sharpen them.
Well, I just had to put this in here for good measure.
Sometimes, a good knife gets stolen or lost. In that case, you would have to replace it.
Since you already know what a well-made knife does for you, I don’t think I have to hammer on why you’d need to replace the stolen/ lost one(s) with other quality knives.
How Can You Make Your Knife Last Longer?
To start with, make sure the knife doesn’t get lost or stolen.
Just about everything you need to make your knife last longer can be found in this care and storage guide.
Once you have that down, and for emphasis, you can move on to the others below:
Use your knives appropriately
For those who have multiple knives/ a knife set, make sure you use every knife in there accordingly.
For example, your tomato knife is not the best thing to cut meat with. The fact that it will deliver a cut of that piece of meat does not mean you should keep using it for that.
This is the same way a cheese knife should not be used like a paring knife, neither should you take a serrated bread knife to anything else than bread and desserts.
If you don’t want to get a knife set but you still have a range of knife duties, buy the magic 3 combinations:
- A chef knife – check out the chef knife buying guide here
- A paring knife – see my suggested paring knife here and
- A serrated knife – choose the right serrated knife here
These three knives above will handle multiple purposes right in the kitchen.
Don’t cut strange objects
Your kitchen knives are not designed to cut ropes, paper, threads, and other things that you might decide to cut besides food.
Of course, these knives will cut those items for you but that is not what they are for. You are better off having an EDC knife that you can use for such handy cutting operations outside the kitchen.
Otherwise, you would be dulling the knife too fast such that it needs a lot of honing and sharpening. In return, that means you are ruining your knives increasingly too.
Get a cutting board
As a rule, never cut with a knife on top of a hard surface.
The surface chips the edge of the knife and causes it to bend out of shape too.
While that ruins the blade, it also pushes the edge out of alignment such that you need honing or sharpening again.
Get a good cutting board (bamboo and plastic picks are just great) and save yourself that mess.
When Should You Replace Your Kitchen Knives?
There are some instances where the knife is due for a replacement, not another professional or home tune-up.
If your knife falls into any of the categories below, it is time to invest in new knives.
Once there are large chips in your knife blade, it is time to replace the knife.
If you used the knife right in the first place, the chances of this happening are very low. However, I don’t know what might have prompted the use that caused that on your knife, so we won’t cry over spilled milk here.
During proper knife usage, there are small chips (that look like serration) that will appear along the edge of the blade. These would require a deep look to see, though. Once the chipping becomes very obvious, you have to replace the knife.
Damaged knife tip
Once the tip becomes bent or broken, it is time to order a new knife.
Most people don’t have an issue fixing a small part of the tip being broken or bent. When a larger portion of the tip gets bent off or broken, though, you have to replace the knife.
Of course, some parts of the edge are still there and the knife still cuts. But then, the knife is now a safety concern, and it wouldn’t even work as well as you intended anymore.
Once the knife handles fall off, you have one of two options:
- Get another knife outright; or
- Replace the handle/ scales by yourself.
If your knife came with scales instead of handles, you can work a new one onto the knife and it’s good to go again. Oakwood is the best bet but look here for other worthy knife handle materials to consider.
Your knife should feel like an extension of your arm when cutting. This is why professional chefs prefer to carry their knives around with them rather than use someone else’s.
Whether those knives got gifted to you, or you bought one that is too heavy/ light for you, it should be changed.
As much as using a dull knife is unsafe, a knife that you’re not comfortable with is also a safety risk.
Now that you know what you don’t like on the knife, shop around for a new, better knife that fits right at home with you.
Good knives can last a lifetime if taken proper care of. Used professionally, knives can last a few decades before they have to be replaced by new knives.
With a combination of knife best practices, proper care, and storage techniques, your knives can stay around for longer than you could have imagined.