Knowing how to properly store and maintain your cutlery is almost as important as having the right cutlery. If you want to know more about how to choose a knife set, you can get more info here. Whether you have a standard or a high-end knife set, you should sharpen your kitchen knives regularly in order to preserve their qualities for as long as possible.
Kitchen knives are one of the most interesting pieces of cutlery, with a long history, and they are essential in almost every part of the world. There are several ways to sharpen kitchen knives, with the use of various tools. Read further to learn more about the easiest and most effective ways to sharpen kitchen knives.
What you should know about kitchen knives
The evolution of kitchen knives is linked to the history of metallurgy and to the development of human society itself. Knives are fascinating because they represent one of the first tools ever created, that man used for survival, hunting, and self-defense. The first rudimentary knives were basically stones with a sharp edge.
Sharpening was, in fact, the first method used to create knives out of stones. In the Iron Age, stone was replaced by metal. Later on, the discovery of cast iron was a pivotal moment in the evolution of human society. The possibility of melting iron and then molding it into various shapes also led to the creation of various types of knives.
Kitchen knives, specifically, seem to have been developed at the beginning of the 17th century. The downside of iron knives was that they would rust and that they weren’t particularly hard and would break easily. That is why the creation of stainless steel, an alloy, marked another important turn in the history of cutlery. Kitchen knives became more long-lasting and resistant.
Kitchen knives were made in Japan, in Germany, and in the UK. Later on, blunt table knives would be widely used in France, during the time of King Louis XIV. With time, the shape, sharpness, and durability of kitchen knives were improved. Modern kitchen knives can be made from a variety of materials, but stainless steel is still the most common one.
There are two main schools of knife design, the German one based in Solingen and the Japanese one, based in Seki. German-style knives are heavier and more adequate for chopping, while Japanese-style knives are very sharp and used mainly for slicing.
There are several types of kitchen knives, designed for specific purposes. Bread knives have a serrated edge so that bread can be cut without breaking while carving knives are used for cutting thin slices of meat. A butcher knife and a boning knife or cleaver can be used for butchering carcasses and removing the bones from the meat.
Why it’s important to sharpen kitchen knives
Everybody knows that kitchen knives have a blade and a handle, but there are, in fact, specific names for each segment of the knife. The point is the sharp end of a knife, the edge is the sharp part of the blade, and the spine is the back of the blade. The segment between the tip and the edge is called the tip, while the other segment of the blade is known as the heel.
The edge becomes dull over time, and this means not only that it will be harder to get even slices or to carve meat properly, but also that you might end up hurting yourself. A kitchen knife needs to be sharp in order to be efficient, with not too much effort from your part. When you are using a dull knife, you need more force, you waste time, and the end result won’t look good.
Some might think that sharpening is only important for professional chefs, who use high-end kitchen knives. However, everyone who uses knives should keep them sharp, first of all, for safety reasons and secondly, for improved speed and efficiency.
A simple test you can try in order to check if your knife needs sharpening is to use a regular piece of paper or a folded newspaper sheet. Hold the piece of paper and place the blade on top of it at an angle. If you can’t make a clean cut, your knife probably needs to be sharpened.
How to sharpen knives with a sharpening steel
A sharpening steel is a long, metal rod that is commonly used in households for sharpening kitchen knives. It’s easy to use because it doesn’t require a special technique, and it’s great for basic maintenance, but it actually hones the edge, and it’s not effective for knives that are already dull.
First of all, you need to hold the sharpening steel vertically, with a firm grip and making sure that the tip is planted on the counter. With your other hand, you will slide the blade of the knife in a downward motion. The blade should be held at a 15-degree angle. By creating a sweeping motion, you are honing the edge of the knife. Four strokes for each side of the blade should suffice.
How to sharpen knives with a knife sharpener
If your knives have already become dull, using a sharpening steel won’t solve the problem. The easiest way to sharpen the edge again is to use a knife sharpener, which can be manual or electric. This is the easiest method because it’s fast, practical, and doesn’t require effort or skill.
Electric knife sharpeners are easy to use because all you have to do is turn them on and pass the blade through the slot, in slow motion. Don’t forget to sharpen both sides of the blade. The main advantage is that even the most damaged knives can be restored with the help of an electric sharpener. The downside is that the quality of the knife can be diminished over time.
Manual sharpeners are a less costly alternative and can be used for most types of kitchen knives. They typically have a V-shaped compartment, and you need to manually pull the blade of the knife through that compartment in order to sharpen it. This is a useful tool for a quick fix, but it’s ineffective for seriously damaged blades.
How to sharpen knives with a sharpening stone
Sharpening stones are considered the best sharpening tools because the result is flawless, without damaging the blade at all. However, this is not the best tool for beginners because it requires a special technique, and it is definitely not fast or easy. Sharpening stones require practice, focus, and perfect mastery.
On the other hand, they are not expensive and can practically last for a lifetime. Plus, they are versatile and adequate for almost any type of knife. Sharpening stones are not intended for basic maintenance, but for knives that are already dull. Whetstones are most commonly used. They need to be soaked in water before using, and they can be quite fragile.
Diamond stones are the most durable ones and can be used dry, but they are also the most expensive. Oil stones are a type of stone that needs to be greased, which makes them less practical. Most whetstones have a coarse side for the actual sharpening and a fine side for the finishing touches.
They are available in a range of prices, and it’s best to start with a less expensive one, for practice. Mastering the technique is very important; otherwise, you won’t get a perfectly sharp blade. Don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first few times, this is perfectly normal. Just keep practicing, make sure your technique is correct, and you will soon become an expert.
The stone needs to be soaked in cold water for a couple of minutes before you begin. Place it on a non-slip mat; it needs to be stable. Keep some water nearby so that you can splash some over the stone while you are sharpening the knife to keep the stone lubricated. The edge should be placed away from you and kept at a 15-degree angle.
Then, sweep the blade across the stone with a slow and steady motion. Repeat for the other side and the blade and alternate the sides until they are sharp. With practice, you’ll know how many times you should repeat for each type of knife. For fine-tuning, repeat the motions on the fine side of the whetstone.