Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How to keep your knives sharp (video)

If you buy a high quality knife (like a $100 Wüsthof), it will stay sharp for a long time.  Right?  Wrong.  All European style knives need daily maintenance.  There are many ways to maintain your knives.  Here is one that doesn't take any practice to master.

The tool I am using in this video to sharpen is Accusharp.

Here are some FAQ from my Knife Skills class.

Q: Is it ok to cut on my counter? 
A: Only if it’s a butcher block.  You should only use your knife on wood and plastic.  No glass cutting boards, please!  Here are some common surfaces people abuse their knives on: granite countertops (or any other hard countertops), pyrex dishes, skillets, and plates. 

Q: How should you store knives? 
A: Butcher blocks, magnetic strips, or knife trays that go into your drawers.

Q: Taking my knife to a professional sharpener is a pain.  He asks me to drop the knife off and then pick it back up.  Is there any other way?
A: Yes!  I got this wonderful tip from Matthew Amster-Burton in Seattle.
Buy yourself a Victorinox Forschner Fibrox chef’s knife once a year.  That's the knife I am using in all my videos.  Use Accusharp or steel on it daily.  In the end of the year, buy a new one (Amazon sells them for about $28) and give your old one to a friend or sell it on Craig’s List. 

Q: What do you think about electric sharpeners by Chef’s Choice?
A: They are great, but expensive.  But if you get on one, you won’t have to see a professional sharpener ever again.  If you are going this route, I’d splurge on the model that has adjustable angle in case you ever get Japanese hybrid knives.  It sells for about $170.

Q: What should I do to maintain my serrated bread knife?
A: Nothing.  It doesn’t require daily maintenance.  Every couple of years, take it to a professional for a new edge. 

Q: Can I put my knives in a dishwasher?
A: I suggest that you don’t since it’s hard to secure them and make sure they don’t bump into anything.  I also suggest you don’t put knives into the sink under a pile of dishes or in dish rack (unless it’s empty and the knife won’t touch anything).


Liz (Simple Italian Cooking) said...

It's like they say - the most dangerous knife is a dull knife. I know that unfortunately too well!

Anonymous said...

I found a wonderful woman who is doing the rounds of farmers markets this summer in greater Boston area. Check out her site I took my Wustoff knives to her and she did an outstanding job.

Helen said...

Oh yes, I know the wonderful woman from "On the Edge." If she is not too busy, she'll do your knives at the market while you wait (or shop). Keep in mind that her job is to give you a new edge once a year or so. But you still need to maintain this edge the rest of the year. Another alternative is to see if she'll move in with you and do knife maintenance year round. If you feed her really well, maybe she'll say yes :)

Anonymous said...

What can I use on my knives daily other than Accusharp so that almost none of the steel is removed from the edge?

Helen said...

If you want none of the metal to be removed, you need to use a steel. A diamond steel removes tiny amounts of metal, so it's a very gentle sharpening tool and honing all in one. There are a ton of tools like AccuSharp (Chef's choice makes one for about $20). But they all do remove a very small amount of metal.

I am just curious, why do you worry about it so much? It's small potatoes compared to what any professional will do when they give you a new edge. Unless they use a stone. But I know of only one professional sharpener in the entire metro boston area that does that.

What knife brand are you using?

Julia said...

Hi Helen, I can't help but wonder what you do with you own knife (that you don't use for your classes). I don't really like the idea of replacing my knife once a year.

Helen said...

I believe in the idea of "eating your own dog food" :) That's what software developers call using your own software. My knife is no different from the knives my students use in class. After the class is over, I pick one of the chef's knives (they all look identical to me) and stick it in my butcher block. I put away the rest of them until the next class.

I have an electric chef's choice machine, so I can get a new edge any time, but I do that extremely rarely. Most of the time, I use accusharp or a steel.

The knife lady from On the Edge (that another reader already mentioned) does an excellent job. Take your knife to her and she'll put a new edge on it. Check her website for the schedule of farmer's markets she goes to. The rest of the year she does pick up / drop off service at Formaggio's.

I was only suggesting giving away your knife to a friend once a year because my knives are cheap. This doesn't mean they aren't great knives, but they cost less than $30. Obviously, you wouldn't give your Shun away every year :)

Rick said...

After a bad experience with an inept 'professional' I determined to sharpen my own knives. The Great American Tool Company has a jig and stone set that allows even the once a year sharpener to do a good job. My Wusthof and other lesser knives now stay at home and are kept tuned up with a steel and a leather strop (an old belt from the second hand store).