Why are Sharp Knives Safer than Dull Blades?

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Dear Home Ec 101,

I have heard dull knives are more dangerous than sharp knives. I can’t wrap my brain around this idea. Doesn’t a sharp knife do more damage?


Perpetua the Perplexed

retro girl iconHeather says:

With knives it’s all about control.

Think about cutting a firm, slippery object such as an apple. When the smooth edge of a knife is applied to the slick surface of the apple one of two things will happen: either the blade of the knife will skid along the surface of the fruit or it will cut into the flesh. A dull knife is more likely to slip rather than cut. Once the knife has slipped it is a matter of luck and reflexes where the business end goes.

When cutting items a sharp knife requires much less pressure to cut into an item. When combines with a reduced tendency to slip, this gives a cook greater control over the blade.

So yes, a sharp knife applied directly to your skin will cause more damage than a dull one; however as cooks rather than cannibals, fingers are not a primary target. Keep your knives sharp, practice safe cutting techniques, and your chances of injury in the kitchen will drop significantly.

Send your domestic queries to helpme@home-ec101.com.

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15 thoughts on “Why are Sharp Knives Safer than Dull Blades?”

  1. Ok I have to share a story. Several years ago, my brothers then gf decided to make chicken for dinner. Since she was the only one home, she didn't want to defrost all the chicken. I think she'd put several breasts in a bag and they were frozen together. So she took a carving knife and tried to 'cut' off one piece. Needless to say the knife slipped and cut her badly enough taht she ended up in the ER for several hours getting stitches. She wasn't the brightest bulb, after cutting her hand she called my brother at work to ask him what she should becasue she was bleeding all over the chicken.

  2. I think it's also true that a sharp knife will make a cleaner cut if it does slice you, so it's more likely to heal nicely or seal itself over. Often (depending on how deep the cut is) little more than a bandage is needed. With a dull knife, when it cuts you it will gouge or cut jagged, thus more likely to need stitches or have a harder time stopping the bleeding.

  3. Thanks for posting this Heather – this is so important to understand! When I was a brand-new wife, I nearly always had a bandaid somewhere on my hands from knives slipping because they were too dull to cut, so I applied too much pressure. Once I got a decent sharpening steel and learned to use it, things got a lot less bloody in my kitchen 😉

  4. If you guys are looking for a quick and easy way to have your knives sharpened, KnifeSpa (www.knifespa.com) is a great service. I sent my knives in last month and they came back sharper than when I bought them!

  5. We all of had accidents while using knives. It is better to have a sharp knife. It will make using the knife so much easier, and will also be less likely to cause any accidents. A dull knife is very dangerous to use, and will make the job a lot harder to do. So make sure your knives are always sharp.

  6. One little extra (useless) information on this. If you do get a cut from a sharp blade… you get a CUT, and it will (depending on how bad, deep etc) heal generally easily and cleanly. If you get cut with a dull blade… rather than "slicing" you are essentially TEARING your flesh which will lead to more scarring and other potential damage than a sharp blade… so even when (accidentally) cutting yourself, you are still (usually) better off with the sharp blade.

  7. I really don't have a good quality kitchen knife set, only a hodge-podge of assorted knives in my drawer. However, I do have one knife I use for cutting things that the others simply can't handle. It was a knife we purchased from a TV ad many years ago, and it still performs quite well and has remained relatively sharp to this day. I certainly have cut myself a few times but nothing that a band-aid couldn't handle (insert vision of me knocking on wood here), and I always try to keep my finger tips back away from the cutting action, just like you see these chefs do on those cooking shows. But, sometimes you get in a hurry and forget. OUCH!
    My recent post Butterfly Knives

  8. Heather did you ever post the knife sharpening tutorial? I was noticing the other day that mine are getting a bit dull.

  9. It’s safer if it’s sharp because if it’s dull you have to force the knife against the “object” harder, but if you have a sharp knife, it’s a much smoother sharper cut and less of a chance to slip.  Also you have to be careful with any knife whether it’s dull or sharp.  With either it’s a deadly weapon, so use it responsibly.

  10. This may sound dumb; but my wife cuts items a lot on a paper plate. I have heard that repeated cutting on a paper plate will dull the blade. I can not find a reliable source to state WHY? If paper plate does dull a knife blade; or to state that it is an old wive’s tale. Can anyone give an authoritative answer?


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