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May 22, 2012 05:48 AM

steel knives - can i season them like a wok?

Ok, so this question may fall into the "are you kidding me?" category, but I've got to throw it out there anyway. I recently acquired some beautiful handmade steel knives (Uyghur knives, from northwestern China, a town called Yegesar - many spellings - for anyone familiar with China/Xinjiang). They are not stainless, and rust very easily. For the time being, I've wiped them dry and then with vegetable oil to avoid rusting. My question...well....let's call it a proposal: can I coat them with vegetable oil and then brown the oil over a flame - much in the way one would season a wok? Seems to me this might be a good way to keep them from rusting. Thoughts? Is this a terrible idea? Any other suggestions for dealing with this type of knife? I love the look and feel of the knives but don't relish the idea of having to make sure they are completely dry from minute to minute and coated with oil while not in use......Thanks in advance for any help! This is my second Chowhound post - I'm an American who's been living in China for about 8 years and I am happy to help with any China/Chinese cooking questions, especially when it comes to Chongqing/Sichuan food.

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  1. Google up "forcing a patina" and see what folks do to expedite the darkening of a carbon steel knife.

    I find cutting up a cooked chicken causes a darn near immediate darkening.

    Once it develops a patina it if much more rust resistant.


    1 Reply
    1. re: knifesavers

      Thanks, I've got them wrapped in some vinegar soaked cloths as I write this. It's hard to get complete coverage, but looks like it's working so far.

    2. Adding to what Jim said about forcing a paina if you have the patience you may be able to polish them to a mirror finish but no I wouldn't try to season them with heat as they would likely warp.

      1. Hi. I’ve never tried it, but I’d be leery about the possibility of screwing up the knife’ tempering. As mentioned, a patina formed naturally overtime or forced with mustard, household vinegar, etc. will help inhibit the rust and reactiveness to acid foods.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JavaBean

          Thanks JavaBean & Trader JIm. It hadn't occurred to me that the knives might warp. I still am curious....but I don't want to risk messing up these knives. Maybe I'll try the experiment with something less special sometime....

        2. I'd love to see photos of these knives if you're able to post any.

          10 Replies
          1. re: bkling

            Hi - Here you go. I used paper towel and vinegar to force the patina yesterday. I think they're very good-looking knives. The wood is apricot (or almond? the word is actually the same in Chinese). The steel is from truck/train springs - not sure which, not being a mechanic, but I saw the round springs that are used as raw material.

              1. re: huoguofengzi

                Thanks for posting the pics. Is there a functional reason for the part on top of the forward portion of the cleaver, and the " }" shaped cut out. I've never seen anything like it.

                1. re: JavaBean

                  <Is there a functional reason for the part on top of the forward portion of the cleaver>

                  I can see it for softening meat, like a meat hammer. In other words, you can flip the knife and use the other end to hammer meat. This end won't be really sharp.

                  1. re: JavaBean

                    Actually, it's a sort of mini blade that seems like it could be used for fine-tuned work - peeling, perhaps, ir shaving thin layer off of a vegetable. Haven't used it much yet, but I think it's pretty cool.

                    1. re: huoguofengzi

                      As for the shape of the top end of the cleaver, I think it's just decorative, although it's possible there's some function I'm not aware of. I'll have to ask when I visit again this summer. They eat a lot of goat/mutton out there, so it wouldn't surprise me if the cleaver is especially useful for dealing with this type of meat, fat and bone.

                      1. re: huoguofengzi

                        It could be used to reinforce the proper use of curly brackets ;)

                  2. re: huoguofengzi

                    Fascinating pics. I'm no expert but their shapes seem to show a middle eastern/persian influence, as you'd expect from a Uigur region.

                    1. re: bkling

                      Yup, Xinjiang Province, especially the areas in the far west, bordering the -stans are currently part of China, but have been split up as parts of many empires over time and share at least as much with Central Asia, ethnically, culturally, linguistically, and in all things culinary too. The town of Yegesar (Yingisar, Yengesar, in Chinese Shache - so many different versions/spellings of the place name) has been famous for it's knives for hundreds of years. The town was once the capital of a Uyghur kingdom (these ethnic labels get messy here, but that's a story for another forum) and an important Silk Road trading post, so goods (and aesthetic influences, not to mention religion, food, art, etc.) from far and wide passed through.

                      1. re: bkling

                        One more thing---just because I'm kind of happy people are interested ;-) The inscription is Uyghur, and reads "Yengisar", the name of the town.

                  3. Like everyone said, you can form a patina (forced or not), and that patina surface will protect much of the knife from futher rusting. However, you cannot/should not seasong the knife like a cookware.