One of the first steps in any cooking process is the prep work for our meal. "Mise en place" is getting everything ready to cook. It means "to put in place" and we want all of our ingredients ready and in place before we start actually cooking. The most important tool for our prep work in undoubtedly our chefs knife and that is why it is so important to take care of our knife and make sure it is performing at its peak. We can straighten our blade (honing) or we can sharpen our blade (sharpening) and these require two different tools to complete either job.
STRAIGHTENING or HONING THE BLADE
As we use our knife to cut ,some surfaces we cut on are actually harmful to the knife edge and will make the knife dull. Glass, granite or even bamboo are hard surfaces that will dull the knife edge if you are cutting on them. The edge of your knife will actually get little folds in it and honing helps to straighten that back up.
Here is my favorite steel to hone the knife on and get those edges straightened up.
SHARPENING THE BLADE
Sharpening is something that should be done once a month if you use your knives a lot. If you don't use the knives that often then maybe every two months. To sharpen your knife I prefer a whetstone in various grits to get the edge really smooth. I know a lot of people like the electric sharpeners or the ones that you drag the knife through because they think they are "easier". The electric or V shaped sharpeners can actually do more damage to your knife if the angle is off. The act of sharpening your knife on a whetstone is not difficult as long as you get the angle correct. Usually the sharpening angle should be around fifteen degrees.
In our knife skills class we use a simple straight forward whetstone.
But my favorite sharpening kit is the one I use
This one also comes with a video to teach you how to use it :
Having a sharp knife is one of the most important things in prepping because a sharp knife is safer than a dull one. With a dull knife you will be pushing harder on the knife because it is not working due to the dullness. If you are pushing too hard on the dull knife it could slip and you could injure yourself. If your knife is sharp it will take a lot less effort to cut through anything.
CAN YOU SHARPEN A KNIFE TOO MUCH?
YES YOU CAN!! If you over sharpen your knife and you are not regularly using the knife you will just be getting rid of the edge you just created. Your knife gets dull through use and a knife just sitting in the drawer or the knife block is not getting dull. So if you don't use your knife much then you won't have to sharpen as much.
FIVE WAYS TO TELL IF YOUR KNIFE NEEDS SHARPENING
1. The blade feels dull.
2. It's not sharp enough to cut paper.
3. It smashes tomatoes.
4. It slips off an onion.
5. It doesn't pass the arm hair test.
PS: Here is also a link to my favorite knives