Knives don’t just lose sharpness after extended use; they also get bent out of shape due to microscopic dents. This will make even a freshly sharpened knife feel dull. Those new to honing can hold the handle of the honing steel with the tip planted onto the cutting board. Place the knife heel at the top of the steel at a 15 to 20 degree angle and draw the knife down the steel, pulling across its full length at a constant angle. Repeat this about eight times on either side of the blade.
Stones are the preferred method for sharpening knives as they won’t grind away too much of the blade. Whetstones come in a range of coarseness so start with a rougher one with a lower grit count before moving onto higher counts. Stones with a grit count of 3,000 or above are finishing stones used to refine and polish. Japanese water stones (pictured) are known for superior sharpening performance but the key to using any type is simply practice. Pro tip: Don’t count the strokes and let the feeling guide you.
WASH AND DRY
If using a carbon steel knife, rinse your knife after cutting or chopping anything and wipe it immediately. Keeping it dry prevents rust from forming, which is why you should never leave it in the dishwasher – washing it by hand with a sponge and soap will suffice. If rust does form, simply scrub it off with the rough side of the sponge.
Cutting with dull knives is dangerous because the extra force needed to cut through food can cause your hold to slip, and you may slice through something unintended. To test a knife’s sharpness, take a sheet of paper and hold the knife perpendicular to its edge. If it can easily slice through the paper, it’s sharp enough. Store knives by keeping them away from things that can knick the blade, so use a wall strip or knife block.
Japanese and German knives are now considered the gold standard, but what are the differences between the two styles?