A friend once got so sick after eating out at a local restaurant, she had to be hospitalized. The doctor told her it was salmonella—a type of bacteria that’s commonly found in food like poultry, eggs, and others. Turned out the kitchen staff hadn’t followed basic hygiene practices and had cut raw meat with the same knife and on the same board as they sliced her salad.
Then, cross-contamination happened. Cross-contamination is when bacteria and other microorganisms get accidentally transferred from one food to another. And it’s not just specific to restaurants; your home kitchen and home cooked meals are just as vulnerable. This is why kitchen hygiene is important for every home cook.
We use cooking knives to cut raw meat, slice and dice fruits and vegetables, and chop spices. I don’t know about you, but my chef’s knife is my most used cooking tool in the kitchen. This is why it’s so critical to sanitize your knife after every use to avoid cross-contamination.
In this post, we’re going to look at what kitchen hygiene rules you should follow to keep your knife clean and safe after cutting raw meat.
How to clean your knife after cutting raw meat? Wash your knife with dish soap and hot water after every use. Chefs in professional kitchens also use a diluted bleach solution. Dilute 1 part bleach in 9 parts water to make a cleaning solution of your own.
Knives and Graters Can Spread Bacteria
A study at the University at Georgia tested how kitchen tools spread bacteria such as salmonella or E. coli from one produce item to another. The team contaminated fruits and vegetables with pathogens, then cut and grated them to observe how the harmful bacteria spread.
Here’s what they found: cooking knives and kitchen graters can quickly spread bacteria and microorganisms from one food item to another unless washed between uses.
“When shredding inoculated carrots,” the abstract said, “all graters became contaminated and the number of E. coli present on the utensil was significantly greater than Salmonella. (…) After slicing tomatoes, honeydew melons, strawberries, cucumbers, and cantaloupes, the average prevalence of knife contamination by the two pathogens was 43%, 17%, 15%, 7%, and 3%, respectively.”
“These results highlight the necessity of proper sanitization of these utensils when used in preparation of raw produce,” the researchers concluded.
How to Clean Your Knife, Grater, or Peeler
Here are our kitchen hygiene rules for using knives to help you cook meals safely at home.
If you use the same knife to cut produce and meat, cut the produce first. Though produce can also contain harmful bacteria (you probably remember a time when tomatoes, cucumbers, or other vegetable was recalled in your country), cross-contamination from raw meat or eggs is much more likely.
Wash your knife, grater, and peeler after every use. I apply dish soap or diluted bleach using my hands, without a sponge. Cover the surface of the knife with a cleaning solution well and leave it for a minute or two. Then rinse thoroughly under hot water.
If you use diluted bleach, keep the cleaning solution handy. This is a trick I learned from professional chefs. They keep a cleaning solution nearby, so that they can soak their knives and rinse them well after every use without affecting their speed.
Don’t let food dry up on your knife’s surface. The best and easiest way to clean a kitchen utensil is before any food residue dries up on its surface (if you didn’t do this and food is stuck on your knife, soak it in hot water for a minute or two). Create the habit to clean your knives as soon as you’re done using them.
Dry the knife after rinsing. Always dry your knife with a dry kitchen towel (with the blade facing away from you) immediately after cleaning. Leaving a knife to air dry can cause it to rust.
For even more specific techniques, check out this really good instructional video on YouTube from America’s Test Kitchen:
Can I Clean My Knives in the Dishwasher?
Never put knives in the dishwasher because you risk to damage them.
The dishwasher may seem like a faster and easier way to wash your knives. However, dishwasher detergent is much more abrasive and harsh on your knives than regular dish soap.
Your knives can start banging against other utensils and cookware during the dishwasher cycle, which will cause them to dull. You could even lose the tips off of some of your knives.
Hygiene rules are essential to keeping a clean and safe kitchen at home. Especially when it comes to knives, graters, and peelers which you use to prep raw food every time you cook.
- Wash your knife in dish soap or 1:9 diluted bleach after every use;
- If you use the same knife on produce and meat, prep the produce first;
- Don’t let food residue dry up on the knife’s surface. If you do, soak it in hot water for a minute or two;
- Dry your knife immediately with a kitchen towel.
If you want to learn more, read “Should You Use Different Cutting Boards for Meat and Produce?”