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How to Properly Sharpen a Kitchen Knife

March 23, 2012 Le Cordon Bleu Boston 0 Comments

How to Properly Sharpen a Kitchen Knife

Massachusetts culinary professionals know that a sharp knife is a safe knife. That’s because a sharp knife requires significantly less pressure to be applied for it to do its job. Dull knives require more,making them more likely to slip and cause injury. Your dull knife might not being doing such a good job on those tomatoes, but you’d be surprised how easy it can slip and slice your finger.

Massachusetts culinary professionals also know that a sharp knife is also an efficient knife that will help you improve your cooking and make your job in the kitchen a lot easier. Cutting jobs simply go much faster with sharper knives. A sharp knife will also enable you to create more uniform cuts, which will aid in more even cooking and improve the taste of your dishes.

Quality vs. Sharpness

It isn’t necessary to have a culinary arts career to have access to sharp knives. Even cheaper and lower quality knives can be very beneficial if kept as sharp as possible. The biggest benefit to buying high-quality knives is that they will hold a sharp edge much longer than cheaper ones. They, too, will eventually need to be sharpened, however.

Honing vs. Sharpening

If you have a higher quality set of knives, you may also have a honing steel. That’s the long, abrasive steel rod with a handle that you see TV chefs running their knives across. The honing steel is a tool made to maintain the edge of blade, to keep it smooth and straight. It isn’t for sharpening and shouldn’t be used as a substitute for sharpening. Use it once every few cutting jobs to maintain the quality of the cutting edge.

Sharpening is the process of actually reshaping the cutting edge of knife to make it sharper. A small amount of steel is ground away to create a sharper edge. The honing steel is then used to smooth out the rough edges created by sharpening.

Sharpening Your Kitchen Knives

If used with regularity, you should sharpen your blades about every 60 days, especially the most used ones like your chef’s knife. The best way to sharpen your knives is with a whetstone. There are other methods, especially sharpening machines, but they tend to grind away too much of the blades surface, which will greatly reduce the knives useful lifespan.

Quality whetstones can be purchased at kitchen supply stores, hardware stores, and sporting goods stores. There are also many places available online so you have no excuse not to own one.

Five Steps to a Sharp Knife

A good set of well-maintained knives should last you an entire culinary arts career. Here are the five steps to caring for your blades.

  1. Lay the whetstone on a cutting board or non-slip counter top with the coarse side facing up
  2. Grasp the handle in one hand and hold the edge of the blade to the surface of the stone with the other at about a 22 ½ degree angle
  3. With medium pressure slide the blade forward and across the stone. Left to right or right to left will depend on whether you are right- or left-handed. Maintain both pressure and angle as you run the entire length of the blade across the stone. Do this 10 times on each side of the blade
  4. Flip the stone over so that the fine side is facing up and apply 10 similar strokes to each side of the blade
  5. Finally, apply five to eight strokes per side with a honing steel. Be sure to maintain the same 22 ½ degree angle used for sharpening

Rinse the blade under water and carefully (it’s sharp) dry with a soft cloth or towel. Your knives are now as sharp, or sharper, than when you first brought them home.

This article is presented by Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Boston. Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Boston offers culinary arts and pâtisserie and baking training programs in the Boston, Massachusetts area. To learn more about the class offerings, please visit Chefs.edu/Boston for more information. 

Find disclosures on graduation rates, student financial obligations and more at www.chefs.edu/disclosures. Le Cordon Bleu® and the Le Cordon Bleu logo are registered trademarks of Career Education Corporation. Le Cordon Bleu cannot guarantee employment or salary. Credits earned are unlikely to transfer.

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