While we think everyone could use a new knife from time-to-time, we often talk to customers who think their knives aren’t very good and may need to be replaced. After some discussion, we learn that their knives are perfectly fine, and could just use a little extra care to feel good as new. (Also...remember that our Annual Knife Month Sale is on cutlery and accessories, so if you need some tools to keep your knives in shape be sure to use promo code Sharp20 at checkout to save 20%!)
The first thing we always talk to folks about is making sure they have a honing steel. This begins an important point of clarification, which is that honing and sharpening are different things. Using a honing steel is probably the most important way to make sure you're taking the best care of your knives. This is true for a couple reasons. First, honing re-aligns the microscopic burrs along the edge of the blade. This ensures your knife is in full alignment with the angle of the blades edge, allowing it to perform at its best. The second reason is that regular honing will prevent “over sharpening” your knives. Honing doesn’t remove steel to create a new edge the way “sharpening” does. Over-sharpening your knife over time will change the intended shape of the blade. Honing can be done frequently, while sharpening should only be done when needed. Manufacturers often recommend honing your knife before, or after, each use. Our recommendation is if your knife feels dull, hone it. If it still feels dull, it's probably time for a sharpening. The question of how often to sharpen depends on how much use your knife gets, but typically for a home cook 1-2 times a year should do the trick.
How to Hone. When it comes to honing your knife we want you to first, forget about the chef at the fancy carving station at your cousin’s wedding. You know, the one who had the long knife and the long steel and basically had a sword fight with himself before carving into whatever they were serving up. This technique is not what we’d recommend. We suggest putting the tip of the steel down on a cutting board, so it intersects the cutting board at a 90 degree angle, and holding the handle up with your non-dominant hand. With your other hand, place the edge of the blade against the steel starting with the end closest to the handle. If you know the angle of your knife, try and have it meet the steel at that angle. If you don’t know the angle, lean the spine of the knife against the edge of the handle and that should get you pretty close! (see picture) Then slowly pull the blade toward you while gliding it downward, ending with the tip of the knife at the bottom of the steel, while trying to maintain your angle. A sharp knife may only need 2-3 repetitions, while a dull knife will need more. Then repeat this process on the other side of the knife and steel.
Next up comes sharpening. Our first recommendation is to get your knives professionally sharpened by someone like us! We have the equipment, the experience and know the correct angles from the various manufacturers. That said, if you can’t get them professionally sharpened, we recommend learning to use a whetstone (a blog post for another day!) as this will be the best way to get the right edge on your knife. However, if you’d like something simpler, there are electric, and small handheld options that get the job done. Ideally, get one made by the company that made your knives, so that you know the sharpening element is set to the right angle.