Knife Skills 101: Keeping It Sharp
Not only do sharp knives make food prep a joy, but they also make it safer, which can sound counterintuitive. Dull knives are more likely to slip during slicing, which could lead to an injury. A sharp blade will glide through an onion with super-smooth precision.
You’ve likely seen T.V. chefs gliding their knives along a metal rod with dramatic fanfare. It may look like they’re sharpening the blade, but they are actually just maintaining the edge, using the steel to polish away any microscopic rough patches caused by the natural wear and tear. Honing definitely enhances the cut, but it’s different from sharpening.
Sharpening a knife entails actually removing material from the blade’s edge. There are myriad ways to do this, including all kinds of sharpening gadgets. Most professional chefs reach for a sharpening stone, also called a whetstone. By sliding the knife along the stone in a particular way, the stone grinds away a little of the blade to give it a fresh, sharp edge. Whetstones come in a variety of grit levels, which refers to the grit size of the abrasive particles in the stone, with a lower number having a rougher surface. If you’re looking to repair a chipped edge, you’ll want a stone with a grit level lower than 1000. If your goal is a super sharp edge, you can find a finishing stone of 4000 grit and up. If you simply want to maintain a sharp edge on your blades, a stone with a grit level between 1000 and 3000 is a superb choice. These whetstones usually run around $20, which is a small price to pay for a knife to last a lifetime!