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Best ways to sharpen your knives

Knife Sharpening

Of all the things that make cooking less laborious, a sharp knife has to be up there. However, we’re no longer surprised when someone brings a knife in for sharpening (all of our stores offer this service) they haven’t sharpened a year or more ago since they bought it. Like many things, this is a matter of establishing a habit!

Although obscure methods may exist, for most, there are three ways to sharpen a knife…
Pull Through Sharpener
Pull-through

This is the way forward if you’re happy getting your knife almost as sharp as it can possibly be and want something quick, easy and foolproof.

Advantages

• You are guaranteed to sharpen the edge of your knife at the perfect angle with no effort.
• Quick and easy – possible to sharpen mid-way through cooking, takes a minute.

Disadvantages

• If you want absolutely ultimate sharpness, this isn’t for you – you’ll need to invest the time and effort into using a whetstone. It’s the difference between a knife that’s lovely & sharp & great to cook with and ‘Woah… that’s… sharp!’

Notes on pull-throughs.

You do not need to apply downward force – just drag the knife through and let the pull-through gently sharpen.
For Minosharp sharpeners, fill the water reservoir first.
You will need the right pull-through for European (20° edge) and Japanese (15°) knives.
Whetstone
Whetstone

A whetstone is the way to go if you’re prepared to take the time and effort to get your knife as sharp as it can possibly be.

Advantages

• Will get the knife to the finest edge possible.
• Will correct any minor imperfections along the knife edge, rather than just following the shape like a pull-through or steel.

Disadvantages

Whetstones must be soaked to absorb water before sharpening; not a great solution if you’re mid-way through cooking and realise your knives need a sharpen.

Notes on whetstones

• Hold the blade against the stone at the appropriate angle and push backwards and forwards.

• The knife should make the same sound with each stroke. If it doesn’t, you’re not keeping the angle consistent.

• Powder will appear as you sharpen. The powder is a good thing – it helps sharpen the knife.

Sharpening Steel
Sharpening steel

Advantages

• Technically not a sharpener as such, a steel is a great way of honing a knife. The edge of a knife can become blunt simply because tiny particles on the edge becomes bent – honing straightens these microscopic bends. This is something a chef would usually do before each service, and the steel is designed to be used frequently to keep the edge in line.

Disadvantages

• If the edge of the knife has actually become blunt, a standard sharpening steel will not sharpen the edge. For that, you will need a diamond steel, designed for sharpening rather than honing.

Notes on Steels

The easiest way to get the correct angle is to place the Steel tip-down on a work surface so it’s vertical. Then hold the knife tip against it so the knife’s at a horizontal (90°) angle. Halve the angle (90°) halve again (22°) and take a tiny bit off and you should be at the correct angle for European knives (20°). For Japanese knives, (10-15°), take a tiny bit more off.

Sharpen using a downward motion, alternating each side. Just the weight of the knife should be sufficient pressure.

As Japanese knives are sharpened to 10-15°, metal would be too coarse and would damage such a fine edge, so ceramic is usually used for honing Japanese knives.

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