How To Sharpen A Kitchen Knife?
In most cases, new knives come sharp right out of the packaging and require hand washing only before use. Sharp knives are easy to use since they require minimal effort and make clean precise cuts on materials. Continued use of the knives in the kitchen when cutting different food items reduces the sharpness of the cutting edge on the knives.
The blunt knives are cumbersome and uncomfortable to use since the cook has to exert more pressure on the knife in order to make precise cuts on food items. Due to the continued forward and backward motion of the knife on the food items, the resulting cuts are not precise. Soft food items might even be crushed in the process. Moreover, blunt knives are potentially hazardous because the need to exert more pressure when cutting items could easily cause accidental slips.
Having sharp knives in your kitchen saves you time because you can quickly prepare ingredients that you need to cut into convenient shapes and smaller sizes for cooking. When knives become blunt, restoring the sharpness of the knives is often easy and requires inexpensive tools that are readily available for purchase. Continued use of knives also distorts the shape of the blades edge. This means that although the knife has a sharp edge, the cuts that it makes are distorted because its blade is inconsistent. As such, you will need to have its shape restored. The process of restoring the straightness of a knife's edge is known as honing.
The difference between honing and sharpening
Most people use the terms "Honing" and "Sharpening" interchangeably to mean the same thing. This, however, is wrong because the two actions differ slightly.
Honing refers to straightening of the edge on a knife when it has become distorted due to regular use. Cutting through tough materials or banging the knife when cleaning or when the knife is placed in storage can cause the edge to curve or bend. Using the knife to cut hot and cold items also contributes to the curving of the blade due to the contraction and expansion of the metal materials used to make the blade.
Sharpening refers to aggressively rubbing the sharp cutting edge against a course surface or hard material to restore the sharpness of the edge. During the sharpening process, small bits of material are shaved off the surface of the blades.
When should you hone or sharpen knives?
Since sharpening knives shaves material off the blade, you want to keep sharpening the knife to a minimal and only sharpen the knife's blade only when it is absolutely necessary. Sharpening knives should only be done on knives that are blunt. Sharpening tools range from sharpening stones, electric sharpeners, files, and other DIY processes that utilize common ceramic surfaces on common utensils.
Honing, on other hand, can be done regularly since the process does not cause the blade to deteriorate. The honing tool that most cooks use is the steel honing tool that is commonly sold with most knife sets. The honing steel tool can also be purchased individually for use with individual knives. Its price ranges from $10 to $30.
The honing tool has a course edge and scarping the knife's edge across the surface at an optimum angle nudges edges that are out of alignment back in their original place. Proper honing should be done on both sides of the knife's edge to ensure uniformity on the blade.
How to hone your kitchen knife?
Honing a knife involves simple steps that most cooks can do by themselves without much training. You can use the honing steel tool that is usually a straight shaped rod with a thick handle on one end.
How do you sharpen a kitchen knife?
Restoring the sharpness of a kitchen knife's blades requires tougher tools that will be able to remove some material from the surface of the blade. The most commonly used tools are sharpening Whetstones and electric metal sharpeners.
Sharpening a knife using whetstone
Whetstones are the materials used by most cooks to restore the sharpness of knives with flat edged cutting surface. The whetstones are available for purchase and come in different grit levels that have varying smoothness or coarseness of the surface used to sharpen the knife. Whetstones with lower grit numbers have a rough edge when compared to whetstones that have higher grit numbers.
According to a professional knife sharpener from New York City "Whetstones that are of grit levels lower that 1000 should be reserved for repairs and sharpening very blunt objects." Knives require sharpening with whetstones that have grit levels of above 1000. There exist even smoother whetstones that have grit levels upwards of 4000 and up to levels of 8000 grit. These whetstones work well when fine-tuning the knives after they have been sharpened using the 1000 grit whetstones. Some whetstones have a smooth high grit level surface on one side and a rougher lower grit level surface on the opposite side.
Once you are done, repeat the process with a smoother whetstone to finesse the edge sharpness. If your stone has a smother surface on the opposite side that you used to sharpen, simply flip it over, wet the surface and repeat the process.
Once done with these steps, the knife should now have a sharp edge.
Sharpening a knife using an electric sharpener
Electric knife sharpeners have the advantage of speed when you are sharpening a knife. They also require minimal effort from the person who is sharpening the knife. Even of more benefit is the availability of different ports for sharpening and honing knives on some electric sharpeners. This means that the cook can achieve both knife maintenance procedures with a single tool.
Electric sharpeners have spinning wheels inside the slots that rotate when the sharpener is powered on. The wheels are operated by springs that allow them be calibrated to an angle that is optimal for sharpening and polishing the edge on the knife.
The sharpening process only requires the user to power on the sharpener and place the knife in the correct port. Once the wheels are spinning, the knife should be pulled across the sharpening slot beginning with the edge closest to the handle and ending with the tip of the knife.
Take care when sharpening your knives using the electric sharpeners since incorrect use of the device could damage the blade.
For instance, be sure not to twist or turn the knife after placing it inside the sharpening slot. Another common mistake is pausing when pulling the knife through the sharpening slot. This will result in the sharpener's wheels eating away too much material from the blade and result in an uneven edge on the knife.
Safety measures to observe when sharpening knives
When sharpening knives at home, ensure that you observe these safety measures to prevent accidents: