Twice a year, when Daylight Savings rolls around, in addition to changing the batteries on our smoke detector, we check our knives to see if they need sharpening. If you missed your opportunity this time around, Thanksgiving Planning is the perfect time to ensure your knives are ready for meal preparation and carving duties in the coming weeks. As part of our Thanksgiving Planning week, here are a few things you should know about knife sharpening.
When a knife blade becomes dull, the blade does not wear away, instead the edge of the blade folds over. What sharpening does is restore that edge without removing excessive amounts of the blade.
Knife sharpening need not be one of those tasks that you come to dread. There are a variety of knife sharpening options that enable anyone, regardless of sharpening skills, to keep their kitchen cutlery in top shape.
Knife sharpeners come in either hand-held or electric versions. The most basic knife sharpener is the stone. It can be round or angular in shape and made of various materials including: Carburundum, Arkansas stones, Diamond stones, Japanese Water Stones, and Ceramic Wet Stones. The stones come in varying grit size, with a high number grit referring to smaller particles, which produce a finer finish.
Using a sharpening stone requires skill, as the edge of the blade must be perfectly symmetrical. When using a sharpening stone, lay one edge on the stone and slowly move it in a circular motion without applying too much pressure. If you can master the skill, the result will be a very sharp edge.
Sharpening steels include the traditional metal steel, which is designed to align the edge of a knife. The sharpening steel is most effective when it is used frequently – and if the edge isn’t too dull. It won’t, however, put an edge back on the knife if it is blunt. Therefore, the steel is most effective when it is used with regularity.
The diamond steel, which utilizes diamond abrasives to give your knife a new edge, is more effective for knives that are dull and aren’t sharpened frequently. A drawback is that if they are misused – or overused, the knife’s edge can change shape.
Another style of the sharpening steel is the ceramic sharpener. They require little maintenance and are offered in either a white ceramic for smoothing or polishing the blade, and the blue ceramic for general sharpening.
Other handheld models can be more intuitive to use. They come with a preset angle in which the blade can be placed. The set of you place the blade, and can be made of ceramic, steel or diamond abrasives.
When using a manual sharpener, whether it is a sharpening stone, steel, or handheld, there is no need to apply much pressure – as more pressure doesn’t equate to sharper. Allow the abrasives to do the job.
Electric knife sharpeners are easy – and quick – to use. They come with multi stages that offer rough and polishing grade grits to perform a more thorough job. However, it is often easy to over grind the edge, especially if you aren’t paying much attention. Helpful are built in precision angle guides are essential to help maintain the perfect shape of the blade’s edge.
Keep in mind that each category of knife sharpener comes in a multitude of designs. Before you purchase, visit your local kitchenware store to learn a bit more about how to sharpen with each different type and find one which suits your needs.
This holiday season, incorporate your knife sharpening into the Planning stage of your event — that way you won’t be left struggling through meal prep and carving with an unsafe, dull knife.