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Working with dull kitchen knives can demotivate any cook. Knives don't have to be Iron Chef-ready to make cooking easier, but knives do need some resemblance of a cutting edge. The cutting edge is microscopic though, and can be hard to see with the naked eye. An experienced cook can run their thumb across the blade, feeling the edge as it crosses their thumb prints.
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An easier way to test for sharpness is to cut a tomato. Tomatoes skins are really tough and will separate knives that need work from the knives that pass the test.
The Test: Rest the edge of the blade closest to your knuckles on a tomato and slowly draw the knife away from the tomato. A knife with a descent cutting edge will cut through the skin without additional downward pressure. A dull knife will leave a small indention in the tomato skin. A very sharp knife will cut quickly through the skin. Test all your kitchen knives to get a feel for what needs sharpening. For lightweight knives, apply a little pressure to compensate for their lack of heft.
If your knives need to be sharpened, mail-in knife sharpening services are available. A better option is to ask around; most cities have local people who will sharpen the knives of restaurant cooks and hunters for about $4-8 dollars per knife. Having a knife sharpened is something that can be done as little as once every couple years. A tri-stone (pictured below on the right)is used by many professional kitchens to sharpen a dull knife and can cost between $100-300.
Between sharpening, the knife edge can be maintained very easily. A softer cutting board will make the knife edge last longer. Wood is the softest, but cannot be sanitized in the dishwasher. Plastic is a great alternative as it can be put in the dishwasher. Marble, glass, and ceramic are hard on a knife edge are not recommended.
Most importantly, use a steel (pictured above on the left) to maintain a sharp knife. If you want your knife edge to last any amount of time.Using a knife once, will change the microscopic edge from being a V shape to a C shape. C shapes don't cut well. Running the knife two or three time on each knife edge is all that is needed. Doing this will change the C edge back to a V edge. Use a knife steel as often as you think about it. If you don't use it often, the C shape will turn into a O shape. Once you get an O shape, a knife steel wont help you.
How Do I Keep My Kitchen Knives Sharp for Longer?
When you invest in a high-quality kitchen knife, you want it to last for a long time. Most of the brands we carry at MetroKitchen.com come with lifetime warranties, but every kitchen knife still requires a little regular maintenance to keep its blade sharp and useful. After all, you can’t slice vegetables with a butter knife. In this blog I’ll lay out a few of the easy and simple ways that you can ensure that your cutlery stays sharp for longer.
Wooden Cutting Boards
John Boos Wooden Cutting Boards
The most important part of keeping your knives sharp is your cutting board. Many people still cut on hard surfaces, like glass cutting boards. This is a big no-no if you want to preserve the edge life of your kitchen cutlery. Getting a quality wooden cutting board is essential because the wood’s fibrous surface provides a cushion for the knife edge and helps reduce wear. Also, studies have shown that wooden cutting boards from brands such as John Boos, Shun, and Wusthof are highly antibacterial compared to other materials. That’s why John Boos cutting boards are certified by the National Sanitation Foundation for commercial and home safety.
Avoiding Hard Foods
Chicken bones, egg shells, and fruit pits can all be devastating to the edge of your knife, especially if it’s made from harder steel or a ceramic material. These types of foods can actually bend, or even worse, chip the edge of your knife when you try to cut them. In my opinion, it’s best to keep around a cheap knife for these tasks so that you don’t risk damaging your $100 Wusthof knife while doing a task that you could easily complete with one that cost only $5.
Henckels International Classic Series Meat Cleaver
The only exception to this rule is meat cleavers, which have a much different blade angle and were specifically designed for chopping bone. The edge of a meat cleaver is usually sharpened to an angle of about 50 degrees, or 25 degrees per side, which is very blunt compared to other kitchen knives. If you’ve got a meat cleaver, go for it. Just make sure that you don’t try this with a “Chinese cleaver” or a “vegetable cleaver,” because those knives are designed for chopping vegetables, not bone.
In my Knife Sharpening and Honing Guide, I outlined the difference between honing and sharpening. Without going into too much detail, honing is basically straightening out the edge of the knife. This is different from sharpening, where you’re actually removing metal from the edge of the blade. Every steel knife needs regular honing, especially if you cut a lot of dense foods like potatoes and boneless meats. The edge gets bent into one direction or another, and you need to straighten it out with a honing steel. If you do this regularly, you will rarely need to actually sharpen your knives. For more information about sharpening, honing, and how to keep your knives sharp, take a look at the “Knife Sharpening and Honing Guide” linked above. Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment below!
Keeping Your Knives Sharp - Recipes
One of the first things they teach in culinary school is how to look after your knives. There’s good reason for that as well, without a nice edge on your knife, how can you julienne carrots, dice onions, shave garlic, slice mushrooms and all the other great things they teach you in those early years.
As discussed in “Knives Getting Them Sharp” running them along a stone is the best way to put an edge on your blades. From there and virtually every time you use your knives you’ll want to steel them as outlined below.
- If your knives are currently very dull, you’ll need to first check “Knives Getting Them Sharp” , as running a knife along a steel will not put a sharp edge on it.
- Running a knife along the steel only refreshes the edge already on there.
- Running a dull knife on a steel will not give it an edge.
- If your knives are sharp please follow steps outlined below.
- A steel can be used in a couple of different ways and before we proceed, it does not matter how fast you do this as the result is the same, so start slow and be careful!
- If you are not too comfortable with the idea of waving a knife around a steel rod in mid air then you may wish to place the tip of the steel on a cutting board and hold it vertical with one hand and the knife with the other.
- With the blade pointing down place the base of the left side of the blade against the right side of the steel.
- Maintaining a 17-22 degree slide the blade downwards along the steel, as you bring the blade to the tip of the steel, pull the blade towards you so that by the time the blade reaches the tip of the steel the whole blade has slid across the steel.
- Now place the right side of the blade at the top of the left side of the steel and repeat the process.
- For sharpening in mid air, hold the steel in your left hand hold it in the position of pointing at 2 o’clock.
- With the knife in your right hand and with the blade pointing to your left hold the knife in the position of pointing at 12 o’clock.
- Place the base of the blade on the front of the steel at the tip of the steel.
- Sweep the blade along the length of the steel.
- As you sweep, pretend the knife is a hand of a clock turning backwards.
- As the tip of the knife comes off the steel near the handle it should be pointing between 9-10 o’clock.
- Repeat the process on the back of the steel and then again on the front.
- Do this 3-4 times per side.
- Regardless of which of the above process’ you choose to steel your knives, if you do it every time you start preparing your meal you will maintain the life of your nice sharp blades.
Paul is a personal Chef to exclusive Sydney clients and is also our most frequently contributing writer. Paul was born in The Netherlands and moved to Canada at a very young age.
Experience with traditional European meals at home and the diverse multicultural influence of foods in Canada gave Paul a great appreciation for different culinary styles. Over the years Paul traveled extensively and worked at every level of professional kitchens, from the deep fryer in the local burger joint, to the Head Chef in Five Star Hotels.
He now resides full time in Sydney, Australia with his wife and their children. You will find his recipes emphasize natural, uncomplicated flavours and fresh ingredients such as those found in Mediterranean and South East Asian cuisines.
The Best Tools for Keeping Your Knives in Tip-Top Shape featuring Nick DiGiovanni | Gear Heads
We have a very special guest, Nick DiGiovanni, on Gear Heads, to chat with Lisa and Hannah about how to keep a chef’s best friend (aka a good knife) sharp and in great shape.
Check out Nick’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMyOj6fhvKFMjxUCp3b_3gA
Check out Nick’s TikTok: https://email@example.com
Get the recipe for Pan-Seared Sesame Crusted Tuna Steaks: https://cooks.io/3dn6qX6
Buy our winning chef’s knife: https://cooks.io/2YAbxeC
Buy our winning electric knife sharpener: https://amzn.to/3ec8roe
Buy our winning manual knife sharpener: https://cooks.io/3wSRpE5
Buy our winning honing rod: https://cooks.io/3tpd2cK
Follow Lisa on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lisam_atk
Follow Hannah on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hannah_crowley8/
ABOUT US: Located in Boston’s Seaport District in the historic Innovation and Design Building, America’s Test Kitchen features 15,000 square feet of kitchen space including multiple photography and video studios. It is the home of Cook’s Illustrated magazine and Cook’s Country magazine and is the workday destination for more than 60 test cooks, editors, and cookware specialists. Our mission is to test recipes over and over again until we understand how and why they work and until we arrive at the best version.
The Single Best Way to Keep Your Knives Sharp
This is by far the best way to keep your knives sharp. Learn what dulls your knives and how you can prevent making this mistakes.
You know how important it is to have sharp knives in the kitchen. It can make cooking so much easier than if you’re trying to do it with dull knives.
People don’t think of how important it is to keep their knives sharp. They grab it every day and when they cook, if they have issues cutting, they just press harder. It’s much easier to properly maintain your knives so they are sharp and ready for you. That way they work exactly how they’re supposed to.
Check out these tips that’ll help you learn how to properly maintain your knives and keep them sharp.
You Don’t Always Need to Use Your Chef’s Knife
Look, the chef’s knife is one of the best and most versatile knives that are in existence. Every kitchen has one, or should have one in their knife arsenal. So telling you not to use your chef’s knife is going to sound weird, but hear us out.
You’ll typically use your chef’s knife for many things. It may be cutting fresh vegetables you just got from the market. Perhaps it’s slicing some meat you just got from the butcher or grocery store. Or it could be even simpler…mincing and dicing up herbs for a dish you’re making for dinner.
With all that said, here are some ways we recommend you NOT use your chef’s knife.
- Don’t cut or chop on a cutting board made of glass or marble. They may seem great because of how easy it is to clean up after, but don’t cut or chop on them. Use a different cutting board like wood to do that. The glass or marble boards will dull your knife quickly.
- Don’t slice bread with it. Use a proper bread knife that has a serrated edge that you can cut and saw through bread with. These knives are made specifically for this task. Use the right knife for the right job, and everything works out better.
- Don’t slice frozen food. Just be calm and let the frozen food thaw. Prep some other part of your meal while they are thawing to room temperature. This patience will be rewarding when you have a chef’s knife that isn’t dull.
Now that you know what not to do, you are on your way to keeping your knife as sharp as possible. Just make sure that you don’t put it in the dishwasher or throw it in a drawer when you’re done (because both of these will dull it too!).
The final tips we have for you is to not put the knife in the dishwasher. Also, don’t just throw it in a drawer when you’re done. Doing both of these things will also lead to dulling it as well!
Sharp knives are safer knives
If this is your first time coming across this fact, it may seem counter-intuitive. After all, if sharp knives are better for cutting, doesn’t that also mean they’re better at cutting us? While this may be true, sharp knives are actually safer because you’re less likely to cut yourself at all. Why is this?
For one, a sharp knife offers its handler more control than a dull one. While a sharp knife will quickly sink into whatever ingredient it’s cutting, a dull knife is more likely to slip off the surface, possibly towards one of your vulnerable fingers. Also, consider the fact that you naturally have to apply more pressure to a dull knife than a sharp knife to create the same cut. When we combine these two facts, we get a recipe for disaster. Not only are you more likely to lose control of a dull knife while cutting but you’ll also have more pressure behind the stroke, making it faster and more forceful. This means you’re more likely to inflict a serious injury on yourself with a dull knife, whereas a sharp knife can help prevent such a situation from forming in the first place.
Keeping your knives sharp
When working at a Japanese restaurant, the end of mise en place would always be followed by the sharpening of knives. Every single day, without fail. The thing about high-end Japanese cuisine is that less is more, and the utter simplicity of every dish and ingredient makes attention to detail for even the smallest tasks extremely important. When a dish solely consists of a thinly sliced vegetable in a clear soup, there’s nowhere for a chef to hide. Even when cutting spring onions, my Oyakata used to always complain about how my spring onion slices were always ‘D’ shaped instead of ‘O’ shaped because my knife was not sharp enough and that I had to pay more attention to the minute detail of the dish, even if it was just the simple tasks of slicing spring onions. The spring onions had to be sliced on a soft sheet of magu roll to ensure they were not pressed down on, preserving their ‘O’ shape because otherwise a hard chopping board will press them into ‘D’ shapes.
Right now, I feel the same mindset is applicable to life. Working through the ups and downs of everyday life, I feel the strain of day to day living wearing me down. The willpower to get up in the morning and get things done starts to wane, just like my knives slowly losing their edge. Once in a while, maybe it’s time to take a step back and sharpen my knives again.
Unlike the honing steel used in western kitchens that only take a couple of strokes to realign the blade of a knife, sharpening a knife using a whetstone takes time, with each firm yet gentle stroke shaving off a bit of metal to reveal a new layer. And with each finer whetstone, the edge is slowly polished until it is able to seamlessly cut through any task it is put though. Working to increase your willpower everyday isn’t easy, especially fighting against the constant grind of life, slowly wearing you away. But ultimately just like sharpening a knife on a whetstone, a gentle yet firm effort everyday shouldn’t be taken for granted.
How to Sharpen a Chef Knife
Now that you’ve figured out that your chef knife needs some TLC, it’s time to get to work. Let’s look at our tried-and-true knife sharpening techniques. All you need is your knife and a small sharpening tool .
Use a Manual Knife Sharpener
First up, we have the manual knife sharpener. Many people call these rods “honing steel” because they don’t technically sharpen knives. Rather, they’re honing the cutting edge (in other words, realigning it). However, they are exactly what most home cooks need when their knives aren’t cutting through ingredients like they used to.
These ceramic steel or diamond steel rods are pretty easy to use. Hold them vertically with the handle side up. The bottom of the rod should sit firmly on your cutting board. Putting a wet cloth towel under the cutting board will prevent it from slipping. Then, hold your dull chef knife with the other hand. Slide it downward, against the rod, always on 20- or 15-degree blade angles. Make sure to repeat this knife sharpening motion evenly for the two sides of the blade.
Use an Electric Knife Sharpener
If you want to try a more rigorous method, it’s a good idea to get yourself a high-quality electric knife sharpener . While a little pricey, these kitchen appliances will certainly come in handy a few times a year—and it pays off to use them.
Each manufacturer devises its own instructions for home chefs to follow. It’s important you read the user’s manual. Otherwise, your chef knife could end up damaged instead of sharp.
Generally speaking, though, electric sharpeners are easy to use. You start by plugging in the appliance and turning it on. Then, you’ll hold your kitchen knife and insert the blade (bolster-side first) in the slot. Slide the rest of the knife blade through the slot. Repeat this process for the other side of the blade, until you have a sharp cutting edge.
See how easy that was? The best thing about an electric sharpener is that it works on other types of knives. For instance, you could sharpen your carbon steel serrated knife and your favorite kitchen knives using this technique. Unfortunately, this type of sharpener may not work as well on full-bolster knives.
Use a Whetstone
Pros will tell you to only sharpen knives is using a whetstone. And they’re right: whetstones do wonders for all sorts of kitchen knives, including both Western- and Japanese-style. Whetstones are gentler on the steel and even let you perfectly sharpen full-bolster knives. However, they’re much harder to get used to and are not as beginner-friendly.
Start by placing a whetstone on your counter, rough side up. If you’re worried about it slipping, place a damp dishcloth underneath. This will help fix it in place and reduce the risk of accidents. Then, holding the knife by the handle with the cutting side away from you place the fingers of your other hand on the blade. Carefully slide the blade across the whetstone at a 20-degree angle (or 15-degree angle, for Japanese knives). Keep making this knife sharpening motion until each side of the blade has been sharpened completely, from the bolster to the tip.
Once you’re happy with how sharp the blade is, turn over the whetstone. You’ll be working on the smooth side now. Make the exact same notions a few times on each side of the blade.
When you get the hang of it, your dull knives won’t stand a chance. We love whetstones because they’re so useful, easy to store, and effective. If you’re willing to learn an impressive skill to revitalize all your kitchen knives, give whetstones a try.
Keep 'em sharp: 6 ways to care for your knives
We've said it before, and we'll say it again: a sharp knife is a safe knife. Dull knives require more pressure to use, which means they have a greater tendency to slip out of control and cut your fingers and hands. Sharp knives, on the other hand, will slice easily through any type of food, giving you greater control, and (bonus!) saving time and energy while you prepare your meals.
Purchasing high-quality cutlery that holds a good edge is a great first step to keeping your kitchen stocked with sharp knives, but even the most expensive knives still require care to function at their best. Here are our six tips to care for your knives:
Hone before each use
You know that long metal rod that come in most knife kits? That's not a sharpener — it's called a honing steel and it is your knife's best friend. A honing steel won't sharpen a dull knife, but it will keep a sharpened knife sharp by evening out any small nicks that form in the blade during everyday use. Each time you pull out your knife to use it, give it several strokes on the honing steel. Learn how to use your honing steel, step by step, in the video above.
Choose the right cutting board
Another way to ensure that your knife stays ultra sharp is to use it on the right cutting board. Hard glass cutting boards, such as those sold for cheese platters, can easily chip your knife. Instead, use either wood or plastic cutting boards. These boards will get nicks and scratches from your knives, but that's the point — and wouldn't you rather get a scratch in a $30 cutting board than a $200 knife? Us too.
Wash by hand, every time
No matter what the packaging says, keep your knives far, far away from your dishwasher. Not only can the heat from the dishwasher destroy any glue used to bond the handle to the knife blade, fast moving water can jostle around your knives and cause the edge to dull. Instead, wash your knives in warm, soapy water, taking care not to cut yourself, and then wipe completely dry before storing.
Magnetic knife strips are your friend
Speaking of storing, our favorite way to store knives is on a magnetic knife strip, which can be hung on the wall in your kitchen. Not only does it serve as a functional piece of decor (with bragging rights), it also keeps your knives dry and prevents the blade from getting knicked. If you must store your knives in a drawer, protect the blade by covering the knife with a blade guard or other plastic sheath. You can also simply store your knives in their original packaging, but do make sure to dry them thoroughly first.
Sharpen your knives when they get dull
This should go without saying, but the best way to keep your knives working their best is to keep them sharp. Depending on how often you use them, you will likely need to sharpen your knives about every month or so. You can go out and purchase a sharpening stone and do it yourself (see directions in the video above) or you can take your knives in to a professional knife sharpener to do it for you. Many high-end cooking stores and farmers markets offer knife sharpening services — just ask.
Don't use your knife as a can opener
Kitchen knives are made for cooking, not for use as all-purpose kitchen tools. While you may see a chef on a reality cooking show use their knife to open a can of tomatoes, don't follow his or her example. These actions can easily lead to accidents and they'll damage your knives. And it doesn't look as cool as you think.
Kate Williams is the former editor-in-chief of Southern Kitchen. She was also the on-air personality on our podcast, Sunday Supper. She's worked in food since 2009, including a two-year stint at America&rsquos Test Kitchen. Kate has been a personal chef, recipe developer, the food editor at a hyperlocal news site in Berkeley and a freelance writer for publications such as Serious Eats, Anova Culinary, The Cook&rsquos Cook and Berkeleyside. Kate is also an avid rock climber and occasionally dabbles in long-distance running. She makes a mean peach pie and likes her bourbon neat.
Keep your kitchen knives clean and sharp
How well do you care for your knives? Do you use them, wash them, and throw them in a drawer? If so, there are a few things you might want to know about caring for your kitchen knives.
How well do you care for your knives? Do you use them, wash them, and throw them in a drawer? If so, there are a few things you might want to know about caring for your kitchen knives.
- When you clean your knife, do so by wiping it with a non-abrasive sponge. Give it a wipe immediately after using, dry with a clean dish towel and put away. A butcher block storage unit is ideal.
- Never put your knives into the dishwasher or submerge into water. This will cause wooden handles to loosen, rendering the knife useless. They can also bump against other items in the dishwasher, dulling the blade.
- Keep your knife nice and sharp. Sharpen on a weekly basis using a wet stone or sharpener. Sharpening before each use is ideal. Certain cutting boards — such as those made of ceramic or glass — cause your knife to dull easily. Try to avoid the use of these “hard” cutting boards if you want your knife to stay sharp.
It doesn’t take much to keep your kitchen knives clean and sharp. By using some preventative maintenance, your knives will last for a very long time, and make your time in the kitchen more productive!