Sharpening a knife is a basic skill that takes practice and perseverance. We often due to our laziness, tend to use a dull knife to slice fruits and vegetables without knowing the fact that a dull knife happens to be more dangerous than a sharpened one. Keeping your knife sharpened ensures that you cut even slices and become safer, faster, and far more efficient when it comes to cooking.
Additionally, sharpened knives are not only meant for professionals to use in the kitchen but anyone who likes to experiment with recipes. With that said, here are a few tips and tricks along with the tools you are going to need to sharpen your knife. Let’s begin.
What’s so Important About a Sharp Knife?
Whether you intend to use a chef’s knife or a paring knife, you should know that a sharp knife is also a safe knife. As a general rule of thumb, you would want your knife to slice through food effortlessly and clearly. Meanwhile, a dull knife requires more effort to cut through, which increases the chances of losing grip.
Therefore, if you find yourself sawing a beef tenderloin, never opt for a dull knife. First, sharpen the knife and then use it. In addition to that, a sharp knife is also more efficient when it comes to slicing vegetables for preparing salads. With precise cuts, the food is prepared evenly and at the same rate. This leads to better cooking and tasting food.
Types of Knife Sharpeners
There are different tools for knife sharpening available out there. Each type differs in the way it sharpens the knife. Not all are interchangeable. Irrespective of what method or tool you use, you should make sure to sharpen both sides of the knife.
Furthermore, you should also know that the knife should be held at the optimal angle, which is 10 degrees for blades that are upto 6 inches long and 15 to 20 degrees for longer blades, against the surface. As a result, you will achieve a perfectly honed blade.
Sharpening steel is one of the best tools for sharpening knives. It is basically a long, skinny road that is used to sharpen a knife that is fairly sharp to start with. Using sharpening steel for everyday knife maintenance is going to be a suitable option. However, if your knife happens to be dull, then there is no use in having one.
To use a sharpening steel, you should hold it in one hand while the knife in the other. Applying pressure, sweep the blade across the steel, ensuring that the entire blade is honed from the base to the tip.
If you have ever come across a sharpening stone, you should know that it is one of the most effective tools to sharpen knives. It is a tried and tested technique, which is used by professionals as well. The reason the sharpening stone method is used to sharpen knives is that it is durable, reliable, and produces a flawlessly sharp blade.
Although using a stone isn’t the fastest sharpening method out there but it surely gives you an even blade that will cut through just about anything. However, a sharpening stone is not meant for everyday maintenance. It is only used when the knife has become dull. Depending on how often you use your knife, you might need to use the stone every week or month.
Moreover, there are three types of sharpening stones you can opt from, oilstones, diamond stones, and whetstones. Oilstones need to be greased with oil before using, which can make things a bit messy. Whetstones on the other hand need to soak in water before use. However, they deliver an extremely sharp and pristine blade. At the same time, whetstones are relatively less fragile and durable.
Finally, diamond stones are extremely durable, can be used dry, and tend to be more expensive.
To use a whetstone for sharpening a knife requires soaking the stone for atleast 10 minutes in cold water. Next, hold the knife at about 20 degrees from the flat side against the stone. Gently sweep it across the stone starting from the base to the tip. Flip your knife and repeat the step for the other side.
Continue flipping sides until the blade starts to feel sharp and then finish using the smooth side of the stone.
If you own neither a sharpening tool nor steel, then this clever hack will do the trick for you. Many people are not aware of the fact that a ceramic plate is one of the most effective tools to sharpen a knife. The rough area on the back of a ceramic plate is a perfect surface for sharpening your knives.
You might be afraid of smashing your plate but you shouldn’t be. Secure the plate first, and then simply use the back and forth motion similar to using a stone. Even if a ceramic plate is not an option, use the rough bottom of a coffee mug.
Electric or Handheld Knife Sharpeners
There is a huge variety of electric or handheld knife sharpeners out there. As tempting as it might sound, you do not need to buy any of them. Electric knife sharpeners are advertised as the most effective and efficient tools for sharpening knives within seconds. However, you will be comprising your knife’s health in the long run.
The reason is that electric knife sharpeners use motorized abrasives that might chip away on the blade during the process. If you have an expensive knife, using a stone will be a wise decision. However, if you have a cheap knife, then go ahead, use the electric knife sharpener.
How to Tell If Your Knife is Sharp?
Once you are done honing the blade, you need to ensure that it is perfectly sharp to begin slicing. Although professionals fleck the blade against their thumb but that is not advised for everyone. You can easily cut your thumb.
There are two ways of testing your sharpened knife. The first is the tomato test. Use a chef’s or paring knife and use a tomato to slice through. If it does, this means that the knife is plenty sharp. However, if it doesn’t, use steel to hone the knife. And if that doesn’t work, use a sharpening stone.
Then, there is the paper test. Take a computer or piece of construction paper and slice from the top going towards the bottom. If the paper cuts easily, it means your knife is sharp enough.
When it comes to sharpening knives, it has more to do with the skill than sharpening tools. Do not expect to learn the skill overnight. Practice makes perfect. The key lies in honing both sides of a knife perfectly. Plus, depending on how expensive and often you use the knife, you should use a sharpening stone or steel. Expensive knives need to be dealt with carefully to ensure smooth slicing and prolonged life. Therefore, if you are a novice, begin with relatively cheaper knives to develop a grip around the basics.