Without any more procrastination or delay here is the Home-Ec101.com Knife Sharpening Tutorial. I talk about knife skills and the importance and safety of having sharp knives, but how do you get and keep your knives sharp?
First, let’s start off with a little anatomy of a knife.
This is my favorite knife, it’s a 6″ chef knife, it’s not very expensive, I just like the feel of it, which is the second most important aspect when buying a knife? Why? Because if you don’t like the way a knife feels you won’t use it.
What’s the most important feature when choosing a knife? The tang of the blade should run through the handle. Do not buy a knife without a full tang.
The third most important factor when choosing the knife is the type of metal. Look for stainless steel or high-carbon stainless steel. Avoid carbon steel, yes they can be honed to an edge easily, but they lose that edge easily AND can discolor some foods and may impart a metallic taste. Got it?
Finally, don’t waste your time with serrated chef knives. They usually aren’t sharp to start with and shred or mash some foods rather than cutting, once they lose what little edge they had.
So, now you have a knife, how do you sharpen it?
Get yourself a sharpening stone and a ceramic rod which can be found at box stores like the great, dreaded (heh) Walmart or cooking specialty stores. You don’t have to get fancy or spend a lot of money. You’ll also need a steel.
Remember you knife sharpening pros, this tutorial is for the beginner, with beginner equipment. If they want to get fancy there will eventually be Home-Ec101 Extra Credit or 201.
Lubricate the stone with water, dish soap, or food grade oil. Just make sure to wash the stone thoroughly if you use vegetable oil to prevent it from going rancid.
The most important aspect of sharpening a knife is ensuring that the angle at which the knife comes in contact with the sharpening stone or ceramic rod stays consistent. This means if there is a 20-degree angle, it stays a 20-degree angle the length of the blade.
You can move the blade in a circular pattern from the tip the handle or it can be drug straight from the tip to the handle. The blade must stay at the same angle to the stone.
What ever you do to one side it must be repeated on the other side or the edge won’t be sharp. The angle of honing should be the same for both sides of the knife.
Keep the blade between a 15 and 30-degree angle. Remember the angle is less important the consistent application of said angle. It’s better to have a consistent 30-degree angle than an inconsistent 15 – 25. Got it?
After using the stone evenly on both sides, it is time to look carefully at the edge, lengthwise. Look on each side for dips, chips, and flat spots. If there are still imperfections work the knife on the stone a little longer. If you don’t see any and the angle of the edge looks consistent, it is time to step up to the ceramic rod.This is a lot like doing wood work and stepping to higher grade sandpaper for finer details.
There are a couple of options for holding the ceramic rod, it can be held firmly on a surface.
Or the ceramic rod can be held like a steel.
This step removes the scratches that may have been introduced by the stone. Check the blade. Does it look even, free of scratches? Great!
The last step is to use the steel. This steel rod is included with many knife blocks or can be purchased separately. It does not remove metal like the previous two steps, it simply reshapes the edge, removing the burr from the edge of the blade.
The burr is a tiny, thin curve to the edge of the blade. This curve presents a dull edge to the cutting surface and needs to be removed.
Hold the knife in your dominant hand and the steel in your off hand. Run the edge of the knife at the same angle as the previous two steps along the steel. Always move from the heel of the blade to the tip or in the reverse direction in one smooth motion. Don’t stop and start. Finally, always work both sides of the blade evenly.
This step should also be done between sharpening sessions to restore the edge of your knife after use.
*Edit* Don’t forget to wash the knife after sharpening to remove any metal bits. -Thanks @imabug for the reminder. I do that; I just forgot to note it.
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