What Property of a Knife Determines Its Ease of Cleaning?

If I use a tableware knife to divide a cookie with a sticky chocolate frosting, the knife can easily be cleaned off with a paper towel.

OTOH, if I use a steak knife, the frosting cannot be removed without the application of hot water.

Considering all possible knives, is this difference one of composition, chemistry, surface mechanics, special coating, or a combination of these and possibly something else?

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Slow news day?

Slow news day?

Nothing to do with blog

Nothing to do with blog entry. I saw this, it mentions Milton and Rose Friedman.


which quotes from


Milton and Rose are a kind of intellectual Grandpa and Grandma to some (and actual grandma and grandpa to Patri, of course).

Sharpen a butter knife the

Sharpen a butter knife the way steak knives are sharpened and I'll bet the butter knife will quickly lose its smooth, polished, easy-to-clean finish.

Using a steak knife to cut a

Using a steak knife to cut a cookie is like my wife using a boning knife to chop vegetables. In her case she can't work out why my chopper/cleaver does not leave broken pieces of carrot (particularly carrot) like she gets.

When you work it out, love, I will explain why...

In my experience, the

In my experience, the surfaces of butter knives tend to be much smoother than those of steak knives, which may be a factor. James may have a point, too---people are generally more careful with steak knives than with butter knives, which may contribute to not pressing as hard when wiping a steak knife clean.

It's a matter of how tightly

It's a matter of how tightly you squeeze the napkin around the blade.

I suspect that the driving

I suspect that the driving factor is the surface topography of the blade, given that at a small enough scale these features are prominent. OTOH, I am a better cook than I am a physicist.

This is the third time I've

This is the third time I've read this post, and I've still got no answer for you. But why does your cookie have frosting on it?

Baylen, ...But why does your


...But why does your cookie have frosting on it?

A half-moon cookie without frosting would have an identity problem.

Of course, real half-moon cookies from 50 years ago had crystallized frostings that weren't sticky at all.

Regards, Don

Don, Gotcha -- that's one of


Gotcha -- that's one of those yin/yang choco-vanilla cookies, right? Mmm. And hmm: Are there other frosted cookies?

The question you pose is damn perplexing. Could it be the serrated edges of a steak knife (surface mechanics, as you note) cause the sticking, since they also increase the surface area of the edge of the knife? (Though a steak knife has less total surface area than a butter knife.)

Another thing that's bothering me: A butter knife should theoretically hold the frosting better, since it's designed to have a pat of butter stick to it well enough to carry it to a slice of toast for application, say, whereas a steak knife is designed to cut through meat and not have anything stick to it. Except potatoes. Potatoes always stick to a steak knife.