When we were first dating, my husband (obviously the husband bit came later) arrived at my house to cook a meal. He fancied himself as a bit of a chef, took one look in my kitchen drawers and promptly went over to my neighbors to borrow a decent knife!
I was mortified.
But you don’t have to experience such embarrassment because Chef Rachel has written up all you need to know about knives. She’s gone over and above the call of duty here but that’s Rachel for you – she always stays sharp and she never undercuts you! (Sorry couldn’t resist!)
Here’s a complete guide to knife sharpening tools. There’s even a tool for sharpening that machete you’ve got in the garden shed.
Over to Rachel…
Quality cutlery allows you to cut food faster, more easily, efficiently, attractively, and safely. But you must keep them sharp. Unfortunately, many people neglect sharpening even first-rate knives, making kitchen prep more difficult, tiresome, and potentially dangerous.
But before you rush out to buy a knife sharpener, you need to understand the difference between sharpening and honing. Although you need to do both regularly, these two tasks require different tools.
This involves regrinding the edge of a dull knife once it has “brittled off.” A knife sharpening expert can do this for you, using machinery too large and costly to keep in your home.
Check in your area for a shop that sells knives and offers this service or call gourmet kitchen and cutlery shops in your area; if they don’t sharpen knives they can refer you to a skilled machinist who does. Fees for sharpening run often run $5 per knife.
For best results, have your knives professionally sharpened once every six months. Think of it like visiting the dentist. It’s about maintenance.
In between, you’ll need to hone your knives at least once a week. Some chefs do it every day, just like brushing your teeth. The more chopping and cooking you do, the more often you’ll need to hone the blades of knives you use everyday.
This process maintains the edge of a sharpened knife once it has “turned,” due to daily use. Most professional chefs use sharpening steels to maintain their knife-edges.
The steel should be at least 2-inches longer than your longest knife blade and you must hold the knife at a constant 15 to 25 degree angle, depending on the type of knife, as you move it from one side to the other across the steel in an arching motion.
This requires skill and many home cooks have difficulty getting the angle right. As a result, they may dull or damage their knives, or fail to create a consistently sharp edge.
For ease and simplicity, you can buy a simple device that holds your knife at the precise angle, honing the blade in half the time required by conventional steeling. These easy to use tools require no special skills.
They eliminate the uncertainty and inconsistency of using an unguided steel. They take up very little space on your counter or in a drawer or cupboard and allow you to fine-tune knife blades within minutes. A good one will set you back about $40 to $50.
How do honing devices work?
Styles and designs vary between manufacturers, but most tools contain precision guides that hold your knife at the perfect angle while you stroke the knife across tension-mounted miniature steel rods mounted in the device’s frame.
Tools of the Trade
This is not a knife sharpener; it’s a knife maintenance tool. Like a conventional steel, it maintains a razor-sharp edge.
Fully-hardened, non-abrasive high carbon steeling rods mounted in a 2¾ by 3-inch wide, 3-inch high case with a 4¾-inch long handle control and align the face of the knife as you run the blade through two slots, aligning the left side and then the right side of your knife.
This easy to operate device is designed to last a lifetime with normal household use. You can run your knife through it thousands of times before the wear requires you to adjust one of the device’s 55 pairs of “steeling” surfaces.
The base has small rubber feet to securely hold it to any dry, flat surface. A hook on the end of the handle allows you to conveniently hang this honing tool on a hook mounted on the wall.
It works on all fine edge knives, regardless of brand and comes with a detailed instruction manual. It may not be the most beautiful kitchen gadget you own, but it works. The Steel Pro sharpens straight edged knives.
Although the label calls this a “knife sharpener”, the Chantry does not actually sharpen; it maintains the edge produced by your knife’s manufacturer and regular professional sharpening.
Like the Steel Pro it reproduces the action of a butcher’s steel, but with a higher degree of accuracy because it automatically holds the knife at the correct angle.
Unlike the Steel Pro, the Chantry hones both sides of the blade at the same time. In contrast to electric knife sharpeners, the Chantry does not wear away the blade. To use it, you draw your knife between the steels as if slicing bread, using only enough pressure to engage the steels.
You may need to apply more pressure for extremely dull knives. For best results, the manufacturer recommends you run your knife through the device each time you use the knife. This prevents premature dulling.
The Chantry quickly and easily sharpens both straight and serrated edges. It boasts a sturdy metal construction, measures 5-inches across, 4 1/2-inch high, and 1 1/2-inches wide, and comes in 8 classy colors and two designs. It looks pretty enough to sit out on your kitchen counter.
The smallest and least expensive of the lot, this compact plastic “sharpener,” measures 5½-inches long, 2½-inches high, and ⅔-inch wide and fits in the palm of your hand.