Once you’ve got the right knife, you’ve got to know a little bit about how to keep it in top working condition. Also, some of this information will help you restore an old kitchen knife to former glory. (Don’t be afraid to look at the back of a kitchen drawer to see what you already own – you may have exactly what you’re looking for already there, and it might just need some TLC to make it a kitchen star!)
Basically, the key thing to a good knife is the cutting edge… a sharp cutting edge. And I know some people can be nervous around very sharp knives. As long as you treat them with care, you should be fine. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that a slightly duller blade would be safer for you. The opposite is true. A blunt blade puts you at greater risk of accidents and injury. Just practise with sharp knives and build up your confidence and you will be fine.
There are really only two additional implements you may consider. One is a ‘Steel’ and the other is a ‘knife sharpener’.
A Steel is something that will allow you to prolong the working life of an already sharp knife.
A knife sharpener is something you may have to resort to if a blade has been allowed to get too dull or blunted to the point that it doesn’t do the job it’s intended for.
The ‘Steel’ allows you to hone the cutting edge of your knife. When you get a new knife you will have a factory ground cutting edge that will be wonderfully sharp. And, if it’s a good knife, it will hold that edge for quite some time. But, every time you use it, it will get duller. So you need to consider using the steel each time you are going to use the knife. If you keep the steel handy to where you are working, it is literally going to take 5 or 10 seconds of your time to keep the knife blade in great shape.
If a blade has gone to the point whereby the steel just isn’t doing the trick, you will have to use a knife sharpener to get your blade back to premium condition. There are hundreds of different options to choose from, and we will make some recommendations later. Unless you are very experienced, I would steer clear of the whetstones and oilstones that are available. They will do an excellent job, but they do require a level of skill and technique that most of us haven’t learnt, and, as with anything – if you do the job badly, you are more likely to damage the knife than improve it.
Also, the very cheap options are, again, likely to damage the cutting edge of your knife.
So, a sharpener that, in a short space of time, will put the edge back on your blade. You will find that there are many choices, but they mostly all consist of a gadget that you draw the blade of your knife through (a number of times), with each pass of the blade, the cutting edge will be brought closer to it’s original sharpness.
Then, once your knife is sharp, you revert to your routine with the steel.
A good quality kitchen knife will stay with you for years. Store them correctly, either in a block or on a magnetic strip, so that their cutting edges aren’t being damaged. And use your steel and sharpener appropriately for a long and rewarding relationship with your kitchen best friend!