Not only is the knife block a solution for storing knives securely, it also reduces the risk of damage to blades (and fingers!) which can occur when you store your knives in a drawer. Using a knife block also ensures that all of your knives are in easy reach while you are preparing food, yet not quite so easy to reach by smaller family members.
Knife blocks are available as traditional countertop designs, in-drawer and as magnetic blocks. In this article, we take an in-depth look at these main types of knife block and consider both their advantages and their disadvantages, especially in the context of child safety. We also take a look at a range of knife blocks on the market to assist you in choosing the best knife block for your kitchen.
Things to Consider Before Buying A Knife Block
Keeping knives in the drawer with other silverware not only increases the risk of blunting or even damaging the blades, but of also catching your fingers when you are taking things out of the drawer. Using a knife block keeps your knives all together and is a key way to help keep knives away from small and inquisitive fingers.
Safety of The In-Drawer Knife Block
In-drawer knife blocks are usually designed to fit into a standard kitchen drawer. An in-drawer knife block contains individual and different sized slots for knives. Most of these store the knives cutting edge down for extra safety, although some designs will store them blade edge up to minimize damage to the blade edge.
If you do have younger kids at home, then a blade edge down in-drawer block can be safer when used in combination with a suitable drawer child lock, locking hasp or padlock.
Advantages and Disadvantages of The Countertop Knife Block
Often made from natural or synthetic woods, the countertop knife block contains measured slots to take particular sized knives. You may want to take some time and measurements before buying a new block to make sure that as many of your knives – if not all of them – will fit in the new block.
Some countertop blocks will also have slots for additional tools such as poultry shears and sharpening steel, which means you can keep them all together.
If a countertop block is wood, then it can be difficult to select the right knife when you are using it; especially if your knives have the same handles because they are made by the same manufacturer and have similar sized handles.
Traditional wooden countertop blocks are also difficult to clean and there can be the chance of moisture building up inside the block which can then cause mold to grow in the slots. Storing a wooden block away from direct heat and moisture sources such as the stovetop and sink can help reduce moisture build up, as can making sure your knives are always thoroughly dry before returning them to the block.
A wooden countertop block, or any other type of wooden knife block can cause some blunting of knives over time. Each time you take a knife out and return it to the block, the cutting edge runs over the wooden surface. To try to avoid this, when you take and replace a knife in the block, keep the backside or spine of the knife pressed against the wood rather than the cutting edge of the blade.
Some countertop blocks are made from clear plastic or acrylic, and these types of block make it easy for you to select the correct knife, as well as suiting more contemporary kitchens.
If you own a knife set from a particular manufacturer then it is worth checking if that manufacturer also makes knife blocks and as these are often sized to take the knives manufactured by that company.
Other types of universal countertop knife blocks are those which contain flex rods or thin polypropylene strands. These blocks can store any type or size of knife – up to the manufacturer’s recommended length – and unlike other types of knife block, you can also use these to store ceramic knives. When you insert a knife into one of these types of block, the flex rods part and bend to hold the blade in place.
These blocks are often made from wood or synthetic materials and can be taken apart so you can clean the flex rods, although over time, the rods will bend and can break which means it becomes harder to insert knives.
Countertop blocks can be on the larger side and as they are often diagonally spaced to allow you to remove knives easily, they can take up a lot of countertop space, although the design of angled blocks means you can place the block in a locked high wall cabinet away from kids - while still allowing you to take knives out and replace them safely.
Those blocks with top slots do not take up as much room as angled blocks and also keep the handles higher and away from younger family members, although there can still be the risk of them reaching for the block and managing to tip it over. These top slot styles are more difficult to store in a high cupboard as you will need to take the block out to remove and replace the knives.
The Magnetic Knife Block
Often made from wood or synthetic materials a magnetic knife block is ideal for storing knives as well as other metal kitchen utensils. Magnetic blocks are available as countertop blocks and as wall mounted blocks or strips. For a wall mounted magnetic block, you will need suitable wall space available for this type of block.
Magnetic blocks contain strong magnets or magnetic strips which allow the steel blade to firmly attach to the block. One advantage of magnetic blocks is that you can always see every part of the knife, so you always get the one you want. This is also a problem though with kids around, as if they reach to touch a knife on a magnetic block there is a much greater risk that they will cut themselves, or even, that they can fully dislodge the knife from the block.
Because blocks are often fully magnetized, there is some freedom as to exactly where on the block you place your knives and when selecting a magnetic block, it should be strong enough to hold the knives to the block but should not ‘snap’ the knife to it when you place it on the block. If the magnets are too strong, there is more risk of chipping the blade. When you place a knife on a magnetic strip, you should also ensure the spine of the blade hits the magnetic block first rather than the cutting edge.
When you want to remove a knife from a magnetic block, just hold the handle, twist and pull it away from the block, taking care not to dislodge any knives next to it. Magnetic blocks may put pressure on the tang of a knife when you remove it from the block, so if your knife does not have a tang the magnets can cause some extra stress to the stability of the knife over time.
Magnetic blocks are sometimes made of metal, but a metal block could cause scratches to the side of the blade compared to wood, which will not damage a blade.
Magnetic blocks are usually easy to maintain. They do not collect grime or food debris in the way that a traditional block can, and they just need wiping over with a damp cloth. If a magnetic block is natural wood, an occasional oiling with a food safe oil (such as olive oil) will revive the wood.
Magnetic blocks cannot be used for ceramic knives - even the handles have been metalized for safety - as the magnetic attraction is not strong enough to hold a ceramic knife.
Magnetic blocks are never the best solution when there are kids in the house, unless placed in a suitable cupboard which is mounted high and/or has a suitable lock on it.
A magnetic block or rack may be handy on the countertop when preparing food though. Placed at the back of the countertop or on the wall, a magnetic block can be used as a temporary hold for a knife for the few seconds that you need to put it down for while adding food to the pan. This may be safer than leaving it on the cutting board and in reach of small fingers.
Some magnetic knife blocks and wooden blocks are also under-cabinet blocks. These attach as a cubby underneath an upper kitchen cabinet. Like any under-cabinet fittings, you do need the clearance under the cupboard to be able to take the knives out and replace them safely. These types of block do not usually come with child-proof fittings, but you may be able to attach one to it.
This article has reviewed the different types of knife block available as well as considering which are the safer options when there are children in the home. Unfortunately, no knife block is ever fully child-proof, but a combination of the right block along with child locks and storage height, can help keep knives out of reach of curious fingers.
We hope that you have enjoyed this article and that you can now choose the safest and the best knife block for your home – whether you prefer an in-drawer design, the strength of a magnetic block, or the traditional wooden block.