Wednesday, July 24, 2013

If You Love Your Kitchen Knife You Must Learn about Sharpening Knives Properly

If you're an amateur cook you probably love using high quality kitchen tools. Because there's nothing worse than using cheap poor quality tools when you spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

There are some wonderful kitchen tools on the market, and some of my favourites are high quality kitchen knives. It's a delight preparing food with a quality knife with a razor sharp edge that simply needs to look at a tomato to cut it.

And it's intensely frustrating having a quality kitchen knife which can't cut that tomato no matter how hard you push, until the tomato ends up as mush on the chopping board.

Because a blunt kitchen knife, no matter how high the quality, is intensely frustrating to use. If you've invested the money in a quality kitchen knife, (and they certainly aren't cheap) then it's equally as important to learn how to sharpen your kitchen knife regularly.

The first thing you need to learn is the difference between sharpening and honing a knife. Sharpening a knife refers to a procedure where metal is shaved off the blade to restore the blade and in particular the bevel, which is generally around 20 degrees. Where a knife has been dulled sufficiently the only way to restore it to sharpness is to actually shave metal off the blade to restore the edge.

However that doesn't mean you should be regularly sharpening your knife every time it gets dull. In fact you shouldn't sharpen your knife more than once or twice a year. What you should be doing is honing your knife.

There is a significant difference between sharpening and honing. Whilst sharpening removes metal from the blade honing does not.

When you use your knife, particularly on hard surfaces such as bone or hard chopping boards made of such materials as glass or marble, the very fine edge of the knife starts to bend over. This is microscopic, you won't see it, but you will feel it.

In fact you might think that you have an eye straight edge on your knife, but if you look at it under a microscope you will find that it is in fact comprised of thousands of tiny teeth, and it is these teeth which bend over.

Honing a knife is the process by which you bend these teeth back to straight, which restores the sharpness of the knife. This is usually done with a honing steel, though there are also other honing and sharpening tools on the market which provide you with a method of honing your knife.

The more regularly you hone your knife the less often you will need to sharpen it. Watch a butcher or a commercial chef at work and you would usually see that they have a steel to hand, and use it regularly, often every few minutes. They are not sharpening their knife, they are simply honing it, and they probably send their knife to a commercial knife sharpener once or twice a year once it goes past the point where honing will restore the edge.

So if you spent the money on a quality kitchen knife don't assume you have it covered. Start learning all about sharpening knives and start learning about honing as well as sharpening.

There are some good commercial knife sharpening tools on the market, and whilst none of them will do a job quite as effectively as a commercial knife sharpening service most of them will do a serviceable job that will keep you happy. But it certainly helps to know a bit more about sharpening knives.

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