It’s time for Tuesday’s Tip with The Kitchen Whisperer and today we’re going to talk about how to sharpen your kitchen knives. Even a good knife will lose some of its sharpness with time. However, sharpening a knife is easy if you have the right tool and know how to use it. First, let’s test your knives.
Can you take a paper towel or single piece of paper, hold it in one hand and in a single motion (you don’t have to go quick) slice the paper with your knife? If your knife is truly sharp, you should be able to literally slice the paper straight across. If you can’t do this, it’s time to sharpen those knives. It wasn’t until a dear friend of the family came over and he heard me ask Mr. Fantabulous to sharpen my knives as I honestly didn’t know how. I had the honing rod and the knife sharpener but I honestly had zero clue how to do it. Fortunately our friend had expert skills on this and he took the time to show me how to do it properly. Now I’m going to be honest I still go super slow at it and kind of get skittish at doing it on my own but anything worth doing is worth working for. But I do it anyway – it’s how I’m going to learn. Sure they have master knife sharpeners but one – I live in country bumpkinville and don’t feel like packing lunch just to drive to get them professionally sharpened and two, I want to learn.
To sharpen your knife use a whetstone:
- Place the whetstone on a cutting board with the coarse grit face up. A wet paper towel underneath the stone can help keep it from sliding.
- With one hand, grasp the knife by the handle and hold the edge against the stone, point-first, with the cutting edge meeting the stone at a 20-degree angle. You can stabilize the blade with your other hand.
- With moderate pressure, slide the blade forward and across the the whetstone, covering the entire length of the blade and keeping the blade flush against the stone at a constant 22 1/2-degree angle.
- Do this 10 times, then flip the knife over and give the other side of the blade 10 strokes on the whetstone.
- Now flip the whetstone over to the fine grit side and give each side of the blade 10 strokes.
- Finish by using a sharpening steel to hone the blade, then rinse and wipe the blade dry to remove any metal particles.
- After using the sharpening steel, rinse and carefully wipe the blade dry with a towel so that any tiny metal filings on the knife’s edge don’t end up in the food you’re about to work with.
- Keep your knife steel handy while you’re working in the kitchen. Just a few minutes of ordinary slicing on a wooden or plastic cutting board can knock your knife’s delicate edge out of alignment. Once you’re accustomed to the feel of a sharp knife, you’ll feel the difference right away. When you do, just a few quick strokes on the steel will straighten it right out again, without having to grind away any more blade on a whetstone.
To hone your knife with a sharpening steel:
- With your left hand (or your right hand if you’re left-handed), hold the sharpening steel point-down, with its tip resting firmly on a dry cutting board — as if it were a large nail you were about to hammer into the board.
- With your other hand, hold the knife crossways against the steel with the back of the blade (the part nearest the handle) touching the steel. You’re going to be pulling the knife backward, toward you, so you want to start with most of the blade in front of the steel.
- Tilt the knife so that its cutting edge meets the shaft of the sharpening steel at a 22 1/2-degree angle. Don’t have a protractor handy? That’s OK! Remember that 90 degrees is a right angle, and 45 degrees is half of that. So 20 degrees is just half of that. You can pretty much eyeball it.
- Now, maintaining this 22 1/2-degree angle, gently pull the blade toward you while simultaneously gliding it downward along the shaft of the steel. You want to cover the entire length of the blade, keeping the blade at that 22 1/20-degree angle the whole time. Imagine you’re trying to slice off a very thin piece of the knife steel. Do this step 10 times.
- Switch to the other side of the blade, give it ten more strokes on the steel and you’re done!
More information about these two actions can be found here.