Knife Sharpening and Maintenance Best Practices
If you are not a chef, you may not see the need to learn how to sharpen a kitchen knife. But a dull knife can slow you down and likely injure you. Whether you’re a chef or not, you need a sharp knife for fast cutting and slicing.
How can you sharpen your dull knife? For a start, it helps to follow a good routine. Caring for your knife also helps keep knives sharp. This guide will highlight the steps to care for and sharpen your knife so it can last longer.
What’s the Difference Between Honing and Sharpening Knives?
Blade damage over time is normal with knives, and honing and sharpening come in handy to increase the lifespan of the knife. Sharpening and honing are similar but mean different things.
Sharpening involves polishing the edge of a knife to make it sharper. The sharpening process cuts away some parts of the steel, so it should not be done frequently. There are tools for sharpening knives, such as an electric sharpener, sharpening stones, and a knife block. Chefs often sharpen their knives once or twice a year.
With daily use, knives may bend slightly, and honing helps straighten the blade’s cutting edge. Honing is done with a honing steel or rod and by scraping the blade’s edge on the rod. The rod often comes with a coarse surface, and scraping the blade at a 15 to 20-degree angle returns the knife to its original shape. Honing should be done occasionally, but some chefs may use the honing steel every day. A few strokes will do the trick.
How to Properly Sharpen and Hone Your Knife?
Both sharpening and honing a knife require some skill. Excessive force or improper handling can destroy your knives.
1. Using a Whetstone
Before knife sharpeners became popular, people used tough tools like the whetstone. The whetstone is cheaper than most knife sharpeners. To use a whetstone, place a damp paper towel on a table or a flat surface and put the whetstone on it. This paper towel keeps the whetstone from moving around when you’re sharpening a knife.
Next, sprinkle some water on the knife edge to reduce friction while you stone. Place the knife at a 15-degree angle, pointing the top edge of the knife away from you. Hold the knife handle firmly and drag the knife in a circular motion. For each side, three times, then flip to the second side. Maintain the same angle while doing the second side to transform your dull blade.
2. Using an Electric Sharpener
An electric sharpener is an excellent tool to use to keep your sharp knife in perfect working condition. These electric knife sharpeners work similarly to the whetstone, but the difference is the method.
A sharpener comes with grinding wheels to make it easier to give the sharp edge of the knife life again. While using electric sharpeners, you must avoid pressing downward or twisting the knife while it is trimmed. This can make the knife sharp but uneven and may cause the metal to fall off.
3. Using a Ceramic Mug
If you don’t have a manual or electric sharpener, you can use the next best thing in your kitchen: a ceramic mug. The bottom part of the mug can be useful for sharpening steel.
To use this tool, flip the mug over on a flat surface and use the same degree angle as a whetstone. As always, make sure you use the correct angle to avoid damaging the steel.
4. Using a Leather Strop
You can also strop a knife blade after using the sharpening stone or any other tool. It is a form of polishing the knife blade. Stropping helps remove the imperfections after using the knife sharpener.
It is normal to have some uneven edges after sharpening the knife on an abrasive material. Besides polishing the knife’s edge, stropping helps keep kitchen knives sharp. To use this, place the knife on the strop with the back facing you. Pull the knife backward and repeat until it is perfect. It works like a honing steel but renews the appearance of the blade instead of sharpening it.
5. Properly Storing Your Knives
Storing your kitchen knives wrongly can affect their life span and effectiveness. Besides, it can also scratch if not stored correctly. Here are some ways to store kitchen knives.
6. Using a Knife Block
A knife block is a common way to store your knives. It is a wooden block with small spaces to fit the sharp edge of the knife. This block is often designed for various types of knives.
It fits the chef’s knife, steak knife, bread knife, and even a cleaver. Also, the block is stored on the kitchen counter.
7. Using a Magnetic Strip
This is another way to store your knives while also saving space on the counter. The strips can be attached to the wall in the kitchen, and you only need to place them to store the knives. You can install magnetic strips above the kitchen space. Depending on your height, you can choose the same level as the shelves.
8. Using an In-Drawer Storage
The most popular way to store your knife is to use a kitchen drawer. It is an excellent way to keep your knives organized. While using this method, it helps to let the knife dry before placing it in the drawer. Water can make the knife rust, and this also dulls the blade. If you don’t want a dull knife, you must store it properly.
Properly Cleaning Your Knives
You may not need to sharpen kitchen knives often if you clean the knife properly. Here are some cleaning tips that will come in handy.
- Don’t Place Knives in the Dishwasher: this can damage the blade and crack the handle.
- Clean Knives After Every Use: don’t let dirt stick on the knife for long. Clean after each use.
- Use a Sponge: steel wool is a bad choice for cleaning a knife. Opt for a regular sponge instead.
- Use Baking Soda for Rust: if your dull knives have rust on them, make a paste with baking soda and water and use it to clean the rust.
- Store Knives Properly: choose a suitable storage method and keep water away from the knife.
Over time, the edge of your knife will become duller from constant use. A dull blade requires sharpening once in a while, but you can also consider using a honing tool. You can sharpen your knives with a pull-through sharpener or use a whetstone. Honing helps reshape a knife after sharpening a blade. Also, it is important to clean and store your knives properly. It will prolong the life of your knives, and you won’t have to deal with dull knives.
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