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Sharpening Your Kitchen Knife Collection - A How To Guide

20 Dec 2022, 12:11 PM

Sharpening Your Kitchen Knife Collection
A How To Guide

Kitchen knives are one of the most important investments a commercial kitchen makes because good quality knives ensure food is prepared safely, efficiently and to a high standard. Keeping knives sharp is essential for maintaining their function and prolonging their lifespan, and knife sharpening is a vital skill for chefs and kitchen staff to learn. Our restaurant guides are designed to help business owners and restaurant staff learn about key pieces of catering equipment and in this guide, we'll show you how to sharpen kitchen knives using a variety of knife sharpening tools, including whetstones, steels and sharpeners.

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Why Is It Important To Keep Knives Sharp?

Sharp knives are more efficient than blunt knives and can therefore help to make the food preparation process faster and more productive. A sharp knife also makes it significantly easier to produce finely chopped, diced and sliced food which not only tends to look more professional and appetising but in some instances improves the flavour of the dish.

Sharp knives are significantly safer than blunt knives and less likely to cause serious injury. This is because you need to apply more force to get a blunt knife to cut through food, and if the knife slips - as it is more likely to do when blunt - it could lead to serious injury. When accidents occur with sharp knives, injuries are often less severe since less force is used.

How Do You Tell When A Knife Needs To Be Sharpened?

The 'paper test' is a popular way to identify whether a knife is ready to be sharpened. If the knife cannot slice cleanly through a sheet of printer paper (or two sheets of newspaper), it is too dull. Another method is to try slicing a tomato without putting pressure on the blade. If the knife bites into the skin of the tomato easily and cuts the flesh cleanly, the knife is adequately sharp.

Aside from these tests, you can usually tell when a knife is ready for sharpening simply because it is less efficient. If you're having to use lots of force, are struggling to make clean cuts or the blade slides over the surface of food instead of biting into it, it's ready for sharpening.

What Is The Difference Between Sharpening And Honing Kitchen Knives?

Sharpening is the process of grinding away at the blade of a knife in order to sharpen it. Honing is the process of realigning the sharp edge of the knife in order to bring it back to the centre and make it straight.

Honing doesn't actually remove any of the blade or sharpen it, but honed knives often seem sharper because the realigned edge cuts more efficiently. Honing should be done far more often than sharpening and if it is done regularly it reduces the frequency at which knives need to be sharpened. Some chefs choose to hone their knives after every use.

How To Sharpen Kitchen Knives With A Steel

Steels are long metal rods with a hilt at one end. They're used for honing rather than sharpening and will not make an already blunt knife sharp. Instead, they help to maintain the edge of a blade.

To use a steel, hold the honing steel vertically in one hand with your knife in the other hand. Hold one side of the knife's edge against the steel at a 20-degree angle and swipe it across the steel, heel to tip. Repeat this motion a few times before switching to the other side of the blade.

How To Sharpen Kitchen Knives With A Knife Sharpener

Knife sharpeners are arguably the easiest method for sharpening knives. They have a V-shaped slot lined with an abrasive surface - often steel or ceramic - that you pull the knife through to sharpen the edge of the blade. It's important to maintain an even angle and pressure as you pull the blade through the sharpener.

Some knife sharpeners have two slots - one coarse and one fine. The coarse slot sharpens the blade and the fine slot hones it. It's important to note that not all knife sharpeners are suitable for every knife and you may need multiple different sharpeners to accommodate a varied knife collection. For example, single-bevelled knives usually aren't suitable for knife sharpeners which tend to sharpen both sides of the blade.

How To Sharpen Kitchen Knives With A Whetstone

Whetstones, also often known as sharpening stones, offer greater levels of precision and sharpness than knife sharpeners, and they're suitable for sharpening any type of knife. However, they're more difficult to use and there's a learning curve involved. They're available in different grains, with lower grains designed for sharpening and higher grains for honing and perfecting the blade's edge. Some whetstones have two sides, a course side and a fine side, which allows them to sharpen and hone in one.

First, soak the whetstone in water for 10 to 20 minutes. The water serves as a lubricant to prevent the stone from getting clogged with the waste material that comes off the blade. Place the soaked whetstone on top of a towel to stop it from moving around. Hold the knife at a 15 to 20-degree angle and drag it towards you across the surface of the stone. Repeat around 10 times and then turn the blade over and repeat.

Always Clean Blades After Knife Sharpening

Sharpening grinds away at the blade's surface and tiny particles of metal can remain on the knife afterwards. If you run a white cloth or towel across the blade after sharpening, you'll likely notice a grey residue which is these fine metal shavings. No matter which method of knife sharpening you use, be sure to rinse the knives afterwards and dry them off before use.

View Our Full Range Of Knife Sharpening Tools

Check out are collection of knife sharpeners, steels and whetstones now to find the right tools for sharpening your kitchen knife collection.

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