As a home cook, I feel it is necessary to take care of my tools. By this I try to ensure that the dishes are cleaned in a timely fashion, all of my tools are put back in their designated place, and that all of my tools are in proper working condition. This last item generally only applies to my knives.
My knives take the most abuse, since almost every recipe I cook requires something to be sliced, julienned, chopped, or halved. Granted, other items like spatulas and spoons might take a beating, but not much can be done maintenance-wise for them and they end up just getting replaced. The knives though, need to be sharpened properly so that they will cut right every time.
Knife sharpening can be done a few ways. I’m going to discuss three: Using the sharpening stick that came with a set of knives, using a multi-grained sharpening stone, and using a stoneware bowl. A fourth that I’ll mention, but not discuss is: finding a professional service. I opted to not discuss this option, because frankly I don’t want to pay what some of the places locally want to charge.
1. Using a sharpening stick.
When using a sharpening stick, be sure that the end of the stick is placed firmly on a solid surface, like a table or a counter top. Next, angle the blade of the knife to about 45 degrees and position it so that the handle of the knife is close to the stick.
Applying some pressure so as to create friction, press the blade down on the stick and draw the knife towards you while keeping the 45 degree angle of the blade.
Repeat this process a few times on one side of the blade, then the same amount on the other. Test blade for sharpness and repeat as necessary.
2. Using a multi-grained sharpening stone.
When using a sharpening stone place the stone on a solid surface, like a table or a counter top. My father always used to hold the stone in one hand and move both hands (stone hand and knife hand). He had numerous nicks on his palms.
With a multi-grained sharpening stone, you’ll want to figure out which side is the finer grain and which is the coarser grain. The coarser grain will be used to sharpen more drastically while the finer grain will finish the edge more smoothly.
No matter what side of the stone you are using, be sure to apply enough honing oil. This will allow the blade to travel more smoothly along the stone and will help push the metal shavings away from the path of the blade so as not to clog the stone’s surface.
Again, you’ll want to angle the blade of the knife at approximately 45 degrees starting from the handle end of the blade apply some pressure to create friction and draw the blade towards you across the stone.
I like to use the coarse side for 3 or 4 pulls on each side of the blade to get my desired sharpness. Then I flip the stone over to the fine grained side and finish off the sharpening process for a perfect blade edge.
To store my stone, I like to wrap it in a patch of old denim that I cut away from a torn up pair of jeans. My father kept his in an old shop rag. When you store it you just want something that will soak up the excess oil so it doesn’t make a mess, but also something that is durable enough to protect the stone from getting knocked around too much.
3. Using a stoneware bowl.
This method I stumbled upon completely by mistake. I had misplaced my sharpening stone and wanted a better edge on my santoku knife. I decided to do some dishes from lunch and found this little stoneware sauce bowl (approx. 3″ in diameter). I washed the salsa remnants out of it and flipped it over to dry in the strainer. As I flipped it over I felt the coarseness of the unglazed bottom and had a thought.
When I use the bowl I dampen the bottom a bit and apply all the same mechanics as the other 2 tools: 45 degree angle for the blade, apply some pressure for friction, draw from handle end of the blade towards me.
The coarseness of the bowl is more like the fine grained side of the sharpening stone. After a few draws I have to rinse the shavings from the bottom, but all in all it gets the job done in a pinch.
As you can see, there are various methods of getting a nice sharp edge on your favorite kitchen knives. So, don’t let them get too dull. Sharp knives make the job easier and safer when you need to use them.