Cook Food Good

American Cooking and Technique for Beginners and Intermediates

Patina or Baking Soda?

Posted on | September 6, 2010 | No Comments Print This Post Print This Post

Some people seem to think it’s necessary to force a patina on carbon knifes.  As always, “it depends.”  A few carbon alloys are very reactive.  But most can be scoured and stabilized with baking soda.

In the old days we used to rub it on with a wine cork or a potato.  Now, a Scotch-Brite cloth seems like the best way to go.

Here’s a “before” picture of my go-to gyuto taken a couple of days ago:


When this picture as taken it had been about three months since the knife was scrubbed down with soda.  I let it go an extra month so a polished edge would contrast against the dark of the patinated blade.

You can see that the staining is about three-quarters of the way there to a really nice patina.  (More on that later.)

Here’s the “after” picture, taken tonight:

IMG00081 “After” means  less than five minutes with a new Scotch-Brite and some baking soda.  Note that the Scotch Brite must be new, or the treatment won’t work as well.

The knife doesn’t look exactly new.  It has the glow of a well maintained and well beloved tool.  Very attractive and appropriate, no?

Some people prefer a more antique looking patinas.  If you’re starting with a new knife and want the sort in the “before” picture, stabilize the knife by treating it with baking soda every day or every other day for a few weeks.  The baking soda will help prevent rust while your knife passivates.

After a while, switch to normal cleaning with soap, water, and a worn-down Scotch Brite – but no more baking soda.  In a few months, you’re knife will develop the same dark patina as my knife has in the “before picture.”

The kind of guy who is starting out in carbon knives, is frequently the kind of guy who has discovered Bar Keeper’s Friend and it’s myriad uses.  Word to the wise:  Baking soda is not Bar Keeper’s Friend.  Bar Keeper’s Friend is a good polisher, better than baking soda in many ways.  But it will leave an oxalic acid residue on the knife – which can accelerate a patina, but might also allow the knife to rust.  Better to keep the BKF away from your carbons.

As a rule, it’s better to either force a patina quickly, as with a soak in acidulated water, or diluted vinegar; or to use the slower, baking soda method, than choose a technique that’s neither here nor there.


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