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How To Sharpen A Knife

Having the right equipment is essential to any professional chef, with a perfectly sharpened chefs knife being their number one priority.  A sharp knife enables them to glide through food, chopping and dicing with ease.  It also ensures a certain level of speed which is crucial to the daily demands of busy kitchens, so what do you do if your knife isn’t, well . . . cutting it.  It’s time to check if the knives are sharp enough.

How to tell when it's time to sharpen your knife

  • It takes more effort to cut through food
  • Food looks uneven when cut
  • When cut, the food doesn’t have a crisp, sharp edge to it

If these traits ring true to your knife collection, then it’s time to bring them back to their former glory.  With so many benefits of keeping your knives super sharp, it will soon become part of the kitchen duties, plus it doesn’t have to take long, with a few simple strokes, your knives can be back to their best in no time.  At Fishers Catering Supplies, we stock a range of sharpening steels that are a fantastic tool for quick and easy results.  So let's look into this a little further.

How to use a sharpening steel

  • Hold the handle at the top with a full grip, pushing the tip of the steel gently into the surface.  Some chefs like to use a damp tea towel beneath to avoid any slips.
  • Then, take the knife at a 15 - 20-degree angle and run it down the steel in a quick but controlled motion, maintaining some pressure in the process.
  • The aim is to ensure the whole blade runs across the steel starting with the heel pointing upwards, running all the way down to the tip.
  • This should be a relatively quick process, therefore, up to 5 strokes on each side should suffice.

Some argue that sharpening steel doesn’t fully sharpen the blade, it just realigns (or hones as it’s also referred to) the edge, so with this in mind we have listed some additional tips to extend the life of the blade.

How to maintain a sharp edge

  • Store in a designated knife block or a magnetic knife block.  That way the knives won’t rub against each other in a drawer, causing them to dull quicker.  
  • Wash them by hand.  By doing this, it keeps your knives away from the extremely high temperatures of a dishwasher.  It also stops them coming into contact with other objects that could cause damage to the blades.
  • Choose a knife for its intended purpose.  While it might be tempting to use the same knife for a number of tasks, this results in overuse, again causing the knife to become dull much quicker than expected.  
  • The right chopping board can make all the difference.  Choosing a wooden chopping board gives the knife a softer landing, therefore increasing the durability of the blade.

Japanese vs Western knives

While there are many differences between Japanese and western knives in terms of design, it’s also worth mentioning the differences when it comes to sharpening too.  Japanese knives are traditionally used for a lighter, more delicate cuisine, therefore, the blades can be sharpened to a much finer blade thanks to the harder steel, whereas a western knife is more likely to be made from softer steel.  While makes western knives a great choice for endurance it quite often means that the edges become dull quicker, therefore, would require more regular sharpening. A Japanese knife is sharpened between 15 and 17 degrees, meanwhile, a western knife can be sharpened anywhere between 15 and 25 degrees but more commonly around 20 degrees.

The paper blade test

A simple way to put your honing skills to the test or indeed to determine whether your knife requires sharpening is to use the paper blade test.  This tried and tested method is used by many professionals for a quick and easy remedy to rectify dull blades.

Step 1 - Take hold of a piece of plain paper or newspaper, about A4 size.

Step 2 - Hold the piece of paper out in front of you at arm's length.

Step 3 - Using your other hand, take your knife and attempt to cut through the paper from top to bottom.  If the knife glides through with ease, your knife is perfectly sharp. However, if it snags then it’s a good indication that your knife may require further alignment.

How To Sharpen A Knife