It has been said that a well-sharpened kitchen knife is truly a chef’s best friend. Whether you are a trained professional or a rank amateur who gets squeamish at the thought of boiling water, it is essential that you take care of your kitchen knives and ensure that they are well-honed. Believe it or not, it is actually safer to use a very sharp knife than a dull one, which is much more likely to slip and possibly hurt you in the process. Well-maintained cutting tools also lead to beautifully cut and prepared foods.

Getting your knives professionally sharpened can be both expensive and inconvenient. While it is always an option, don’t fall into the trap of believing that you have no other choices. In fact, with a little care and attention, you can become adept at sharpening your own cutlery.

You will need two tools in order to smoothly sharpen your knives: a whetstone and a honing steel. Regardless of which tool you are using, one rule of thumb always applies. Hold your knife at a twenty degree angle to the perpendicular. The first instrument, your whetstone, will be made of an abrasive material and is available in three densities (coarse, medium or all-purpose, and fine). Depending on the type, stones are either prepared with the use of oil or water. After you have lubricated your whetstone or soaked it in water, place it on a clean towel. Now position the knife at a twenty-degree angle and lay the heel of the blade against the stone. Steady the knife tip to guide it and sweep it toward you across the stone in an arc. Turn the blade over and repeat, being careful never to use a sawing motion. When you have finished with the whetstone, it is time for the honing steel, whose purpose is to smooth any rough spots. Using the same sweeping arc motion, move your knife across the grooves of the honing steel five or six times, being sure to perform this action on both sides of the blade. Each time you use your knives, spend some time applying the honing steel. This removes any jagged pieces and prolongs the length of time between sharpening with the whetstone. Usually, you only will need to sharpen with the whetstone every two or three months.

An alternative to manual sharpening is to purchase a commercial mechanism to do the job. Keep in mind, however, that these are not recommended for light grade or fine knives. In addition, it may not give you the same feeling of satisfaction that you will get when you sharpen your knives just as the pros do. No matter how you slice it, however, keeping your knives smoothly sharp is one of the best ways to make food preparation safe and easy. It is also the optimal way to treat your knives, your best friends in the kitchen.

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