Ew! There may be yeast or mold growing in your knife block.

By Kristy Alpert
December 18, 2020
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Kitchen knives are some of the most important—and dangerous—tools in the kitchen, and it’s time you treated them that way, which may mean ditching the knife block. Wooden knife blocks may be a more common storage option, but they’re far from the best way to store knives. Storing knives in wood blocks is more likely to dull your knives, and those knife blocks could also be a hot bed for yeast, mold and other germs.

In a household germ study from NSF International, an independent testing group, the knife block ranked No. 7 on the list of germiest items in the kitchen, just after the refrigerator meat compartment. “Naturally, if you put a wet or dirty knife into a storage block, microbes may grow,” explains Lisa Yakas, a microbiologist and consumer product safety expert at NSF International. “Dark, moist environments breed germs. The key is washing and thoroughly drying your knife before you store it.”

Regularly cleaning your knife block is another option, but for knife storage that protects both the blade and the person using it, try one of these alternative knife storage solutions

In-Drawer Knife Block

In-drawer knife storage doesn’t mean tossing your knives in with your other kitchen utensils, or even fitting them in to a drawer-sized version of a knife block. Instead, this chef-approved storage technique involves nothing more than a drawer and a towel. “I use a knife roll when I travel for events, but I lay down my knives horizontal in drawers at home,” says chef Ming Tsai, James Beard Award winner, restauranteur, and founder of MingsBings.com. “I lay them down on a towel without touching each other so they don’t get dulled by being pulled in and out of a traditional knife block. I put my small knives in front horizontally, and my longer knives perpendicular to draw.”  

Pros of in-drawer knife storage: This option is easy to maintain by simply washing the towel and making sure knives are put away dry, but it also keeps knives off the counter and out of reach of children and pets. It is also the best solution for protecting your knives as the blades never come in contact with any hard surfaces like wood or metal.

Cons of in-drawer knife storage: Some drawers aren’t large enough to handle upwards of 15 knives or so, so you may need to store your steak knives elsewhere and keep the drawer for your most important knives (i.e., chef's knife ($150, Amazon) paring knife, serrated knife, etc.)

Magnetic Knife Holder Strip

Magnetic strips are easily installed on a kitchen wall and, aside from saving valuable counter space, they offer a sanitized way to store your knives. A little DIY is all it takes to have these metal or wood magnetic strips installed and ready to use.

Pros of magnetic knife storage: Many restaurants use this method, and for good reason; it’s very easy to keep knives sanitized when they’re stored in open air. Magnetic strips also make it easy to access your knives for some quick chopping or slicing.

Cons of magnetic knife storage: For anyone living with pets or children in the home, this enticing display of ridiculously sharp objects could be a potential hazard. Depending on the strength of the magnets, too, these strips could stress the blade of your knives over time.

Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Leather Knife Roll

Many chefs opt for a leather knife roll ($100, Amazon) to carry their tools to and from work—and some luxury knife makers even choose to ship their knives to customers in these naturally protected rolls—but this option is becoming increasingly popular for home use as well.

Pros of knife rolls: Leather rolls can be stored out of reach of children and pets, and each roll contains a custom slot for each knife to be placed horizontally to protect the blade. These rolls are rugged and portable for travel or picnics. Also, they look really cool.

Cons of knife rolls: Leather knife rolls aren’t very convenient in the kitchen, as it takes a few extra steps to access a single knife. They also don’t offer storage for a large set of knives, so it’s best to store your steak knives elsewhere and keep the leather roll for the bigger knives.  

No-Slot Knife Block

Not all knife blocks have slots, and slotless styles—like this Kapoosh knife block ($35, Bed Bath & Beyond)—are easier to maintain and keep clean. Plastic or rubber rods move and give to allow for most standard-sized kitchen knives to be placed within.

Pros of slotless knife blocks: You can remove the entire rubber or plastic rod base and place it in the dishwasher for easy sanitization. Knives are easy to access and most of these models are incredibly affordable.

Cons of slotless knife blocks: Although they’re convenient, slotless knife blocks do take up counter space and keep knives within grabbing distance for curious hands or paws. Also, the rods aren’t always strong enough to withstand super sharp knives and can flake off fairly easily when knives aren’t put in properly.

Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Magnetic Knife Block

The magnetic knife block ($39, Amazon) is the perfect hybrid for home cooks who like the convenience of a knife block, but want the ease of maintenance of a magnetic strip. Often these blocks will have a more modern aesthetic, like the Kultro rack from William Henry made from hidden rare earth magnets embedded into American walnut. “The magnets hold the blades securely in place, without ever coming into contact with the blades,” explains Matt Conable, founder and creative director for William Henry. “This means elegant and simple aesthetics, zero interference between the magnets and knives, and quite honestly a better way to display and access your kitchen knives.”

Pros of magnetic knife blocks: Knives are stored in a moisture free environment with access to airflow, so cleaning these blocks is fairly straightforward. They are convenient to use and they look attractive on the counter and can act as an art piece for the kitchen.

Cons of magnetic knife blocks: Knives are on display and easily accessible for kids and pets. Improper use could potentially dull the blades of your knives, but thankfully most models are pretty user friendly.

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