Maintaining good, sharp knives in your kitchen is a vital part of creating delicious food. A sharp knife will enable you to move quicker and make more efficient cuts.
Why keep sharp knives?
Good question. I have heard lots of people say they actually prefer their knives to be more dull than sharp, thinking they are less likely to “hurt” themselves if using a dull knife. This is actually a faulty thought and here’s why. When using a dull knife, you are more likely to slip off your food and cut yourself. Sharp knifes provide much better efficiency and precise cuts, whereas dull knifes are more erratic and lead to sliced fingers. Yes, it is true that, if you do cut yourself with a sharp knife, it has the potential to be more of a severe cut. However, believe it or not, a cut from a sharp knife will actually heal faster and hurt less than if from a dull knife.
What’s the difference between honing and sharpening my knife?
Many people get confused about how to care for their knives and can, consequently, do more harm than good.
Let me first start by explaining the difference between honing and sharpening a knife. Do you own one of those long-metal-sword-looking-things most people call a “knife sharpener” (see photos below)? Well, that’s actually not a knife sharpener. It’s called a knife steel and it’s used to hone your knife. While a well-honed knife keeps your knife blade sharp, it does not actually sharpen your knife. What it does is, if used properly, recalibrates your knife’s blade back to the way it was originally molded (at about a 20-degree angle). Plus, it removes metal spurs and bits of food from the knife to maintain a nice, sharp edge.
How do I hone my knife?
So glad you asked! To maintain a well-honed and sharp knife, it is recommended to use a knife steel after each use of your knife. Yes, each use. If you happen to be cooking a lot during a single time frame, like — say, on Thanksgiving — you could also go ahead and hone your knife part way through the day as well.
Honing your knife is super easy and just takes a second. Just follow these easy steps:
- Hold the steel rod in one hand so that it is pointing away from you (this may also be done by resting the steel on a nonskid surface)
- Place the heel of the knife, which is the end that is closest to the handle, flush against the steel rod. The tip should point out at a 20-degree angle. To find a 20-degree angle, think about a 90-degree angle and then halve that, then halve that again.
- Slowly glide the knife down, taking care to maintain that 20-degree angle and for the blade of the knife to slide from the heel to the tip. When you are finished with this motion, all parts of the knife blade (on that one side) should have touched the steel. Note: this should be an easy gliding motion and should not sound or feel like you’re damaging the knife’s blade.
- Repeat Steps 2 and 3 about 8-10 times for each side of the knife’s edge.
- After both sides of the knife have been run on the steel, it is necessary to clean off the microscopic remnants left behind. Just wipe each side of the knife’s blade on a clean towel and the put your knife away.
- All done!
How do I sharpen my knife?
Sharpening your knife comes around only about two times per year — and that’s if you cook regularly. Not sure if you need to sharpen your knives? Just try slicing through a single sheet of paper. If it cuts through easily, there’s still time. If not, it’s time to sharpen. There are two ways to sharpen your knife: at home or professionally. Sharpening your knife professionally usually costs about $8-$20/knife, depending on where you go while purchasing a sharpening stone you can reuse at home costs about $40-$70. I choose to sharpen mine at home simply because I figured I can get more mileage out of that money from home than by having someone else do the same thing in the store for me.
As a general rule, if your knife can slice through a single sheet of paper, it doesn’t need to be sharpened.
Got any more tips on how to take care of my knives?
- Never leave your sharp knives in the sink waiting to be washed. This not only causes a potential safety hazard, as some unsuspecting person (or even yourself at a later time) might slice your fingers if you forget it’s in there. Instead, wash your knife in warm, soapy water, dry with a clean towel and put away right after use.
- Never put your good knives through the dishwasher.
- Use your chef’s knife (6-8 inch blade, pictured above) for any food item larger than a tomato and your pairing knife for anything smaller than a tomato.
- Use only wood, bamboo, epicurean or plastic cutting boards for your knives, as they don’t damage the blade like glass, granite or porcelain can.
- If using your knife to transfer cut food from a cutting board to a skillet or bowl, use the back of the knife, not the sharpened edge. This will help maintain a sharp edge. Or, try using a handy dandy food scraper — made for just that purpose (pictured above).