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How to Sharpen Kitchen Knives

You can learn how to sharpen kitchen knives with a little patience and practice, and it’s a skill worthy of any cook’s time.

Imagine -You’re preparing for a wonderful meal only to discover your knives are blunt. It happens – and can be a tad frustrating.

Avoiding the use of stone, ceramic or marble cutting surfaces will preserve your knife’s blade longer, but not indefinitely.

And really, who wants to have to take our knives in for professional sharpening regularly?

Is Your Kitchen Knife Sharp?

There are two tests you can use to determine if your kitchen knife needs sharpening.

First is a pen test. If you put your knife on the plastic barrel of a pen at a thirty degree angle and it doesn’t bite in, the blade has dulled.

Alternatively, take a sheet of paper and hold the end of it in your hand. Try slicing ribbons off the paper. Knives that snag or don’t cut at all need some TLC.

Knife Sharpening Tools

To properly sharpen kitchen knives you will need a whetstone and honing steel.

Whetstones are made with carborundum and can come in three different abrasive surfaces – fine , medium and coarse.

If you want one that’s all-purpose consider a coarse whetstone . Save fine stones for boning or slicing kitchen knives.

Beyond the abrasive levels, whetstones also come in two types, one that uses water and the other oil. The water whetstone sits in water for 15 minutes before using it, while the oil whetstone receives a treatment of oil on the surface before use.

After properly preparing your stone, put it down on a flat pot holder.

A honing steel , sometimes called a sharpening steel or butcher steel is comprised of ridges. The purpose of the steel is for realigning the knife's edge or resetting it.

The steel does not actually sharpen a knife. The only steel that does is a diamond steel. Honing removes any small fragments left from the sharpening process.

Using the Whetstone

Hold your knife at a 20 degree angle to the stone, placing the blade heel thereon. Draw the blade toward yourself, moving in an arc motion over the surface. Flip the blade over and repeat on the other sides.

Make sure to always go in the same direction. Repeat about 20 times and then test for sharpness again. If it’s sharp enough, move on to the honing steel.

Note that you should only have to use a whetstone about once every three months to sharpen kitchen knives.

Using the Honing Steel

Even though your knife is sharp, whetstones can leave behind small fragments of metal. The honing steel removes those lingering nicks, making a smooth surface.

As with the whetstone, hold your knife at a 20 degree angle moving it across the steel in the same manner you did the whetstone. Repeat on the other side. About 5 draws should do the trick, moving in only ONE direction.

Unlike the whetstone, you want to use the honing steel to sharpen kitchen knives before every use. This acts as on-going maintenance.

Knife Storage

Once you finish sharpening the knives, its important to put them away somewhere that protects the blades.

Options include knife cases or sleeves, magnetic bars and knife blocks.
The knife block sits on your countertop for ready access during cooking. The only real problem with a knife block is keeping it clean. Since the slots are small, make sure your knives are fully washed and dried before storing.

A magnetic bar mounts to the wall and holds the blade of the knife in place. The magnets are very strong, so the likelihood of accidentally dislodging knife is relatively small.

Finally, knife cases and sleeves are exactly how they sound. The case acts a as portable tool kit for professional cooks. The knife sleeve is an individually tailored cover made to fit in place before putting it away.

You may have never tried to sharpen kitchen knives before, but it’s not as difficult a task as you thought. You’ll find having well-sharpened tools at the ready makes undertaking prep work for meals much faster and often more successful.

Use the right implements, and remember to always work in one direction and you’ll soon have knives that feel like new.

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