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How to Clean a Knife After Cutting Raw Meat

Food safety is crucial, and it starts with your knife. Here are the best ways to clean and sanitize your knife after cutting raw meat.

A sharp knife is a carnivore’s best friend in the kitchen. It makes cutting, disjointing, deboning, trimming, and carving a breeze. But after you’ve used your knife to cut raw meat, it’s crucial to give it a good clean so that the blade stays sharp and your kitchen safe.

In this post, we’re going to check out the easiest and most effective ways to clean your knife after cutting raw meat. From simple, everyday methods to some pro-tips and tricks, we’ve got you covered. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or total newbie, read on below to learn how to keep your knife clean and sanitized.

Why Cleaning Your Knife After Cutting Meat Is Non-Negotiable

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains on its website, raw meat contains bacteria that can make you sick, such as E. coli, Salmonella, Yersinia, and others. If you don’t clean your knife after cutting raw meat, these bacteria can transfer to other foods and surfaces in your kitchen and cause food poisoning.

When it comes to food safety, the stakes are high. And when you look at the numbers related to food poisoning, you realize that you can’t afford to take any chances. For example, did you know that every year, 1 in 6 Americans fall ill from foodborne illnesses? That’s a staggering number!

And it gets worse—these illnesses lead to 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. By keeping your knife clean after cutting raw meat, you can protect yourself and those you cook for from becoming a statistic. And that’s plenty.

The health hazards aside, it turns out that leaving your knife dirty can also dull the blade. A dirty knife can become corroded over time if not cleaned properly, and this can lead to rust and other types of damage, which makes your knife less effective and potentially dangerous to use.

Cleaning Your Knife After Cutting Raw Meat

When it comes to keeping your knife in tip-top shape, there’s no room for confusion. Cleaning and sanitizing, though similar, are two distinct processes that are both critical for maintaining a safe and healthy kitchen. You may hear them used interchangeably—but trust us, they are not the same thing.

  • Cleaning means rinsing away any food debris, such as bits and pieces of raw meat, from the blade of the knife. This is important because food debris can dry on the blade and become difficult to remove later.
  • Sanitizing is the process of killing any disease-causing bacteria that may be present on the blade and the handle. Cleaning is only the first step, but it’s not enough. Sanitizing is the next step that guarantees your knife is free of any pathogens.

Most home cooks only clean their knives after cutting meat. But if you want your knife to be truly bacteria free, consider cleaning and sanitizing it thoroughly. Below, we’ve summarized the steps for doing this.

How to clean your knife after cutting raw meat:

Clean your knife as soon as you’re done using it, as well as between uses, with hot soapy water. Don’t let food residue dry on the blade; it will be harder to remove and it may dull the blade. Remember that it’s not just the knife that you need to clean. It’s also the cutting board and any surfaces that came into contact with the raw meat, its juices, or your hands.

In fact, it’s generally recommended to use separate cutting boards for different types of food—one for raw meat, one for fruits and vegetables, and one for bread—to avoid cross-contamination, which is basically preventing the spread of harmful bacteria from one food to another.

How to sanitize your knife after cutting raw meat:

There are two ways to sanitize a knife. One is through moist heat, and the other through chemical agents.

Heat sanitization can be done by running the knife through a dishwasher. That said, quality knives should never go in the dishwasher—the high heat and harsh detergent can damage the blade as well as the handle. An alternative method is to immerse it in boiling water for 10 minutes, killing the bacteria on the knife, but it should only be done on single-piece stainless steel knives with steel handles.

Chemical sanitization is the preferred option. Use a solution of 1 tablespoon unscented bleach for every 1 gallon of lukewarm, but not hot, water (hot water weakens bleach). Wearing gloves to protect your hands, submerge the knife into the solution and leave it there for 60 seconds. Finally, rinse the knife off under running water. Note that the bleach solution may darken some metals.

Caring for Your Knife Properly

Proper storage of the knife is also crucial. Once the knife is clean and dry, it’s important to store it in a way that prevents rust or other damage. This can include stashing it away in a dry place, or storing it in a protective sheath or sleeve.

Some knives may require special care to prevent rusting. For example, a carbon steel knife may need to be dried and oiled after cleaning to prevent rusting, while a ceramic knife may be more fragile and require special handling. It’s always a good idea to consult the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure that you’re taking the appropriate care of your knife.

Bottom Line

Cleaning and sanitizing your knife after cutting raw meat is a crucial step in maintaining a safe, healthy kitchen. By removing food debris and killing harmful bacteria on the knife, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from foodborne illnesses—and ensure that your knife stays sharp and performs at its best.

Proper storage, special care for different types of knives, and the use of cutting boards are also crucial steps in maintaining a safe and healthy kitchen. Remember, a little bit of extra care and attention can go a long way.

Know your author

Written by

Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.