Stay Sharp: How to Be a Knife Master

Stay Sharp: How to Be a Knife Master

Stay Sharp: How to Be a Knife Master 2000 1334 Alison Ashton

You’ll be chopping, slicing and dicing up a storm between now and the new year, and a sharp knife will make the job so much easier and safer. (Dull knives are a real safety risk, and you don’t want to spend the holiday in the emergency room.) Some tips:

  • Don’t try to use the honing steel lurking in your drawer for this job. That’s fine to keep sharp blades keen, but it can’t revive truly dull knife.
  • You can sharpen knives yourself with a wet stone or an electric knife sharpener like Chef’s Choice (Ina Garten uses that, so you’d be in good company).
  • Many kitchenware stores, like Williams-Sonoma, and restaurant-supply stores will sharpen your knives for a small fee (sometimes with the first one free). Call ahead to see if/when their knife guru is available.
  • Heading to the farmers’ market? Knife masters often set up shop at local markets so you can drop your blades off to be sharpened while you shop.
  • Local knife gurus may also make house calls. You can arrange a time and outdoor space for them to set up, and invite friends and neighbors to partake.
  • Since folks may be helping you in the kitchen next week, get ALL your blades sharpened, not just your personal faves.

BONUS tips to keep those blades sharp:

  • Always wash kitchen knives by hand. Putting them in the dishwasher will warp handles and dull blades in a hurry. I know, I know, Ina Garten recently shared an Instagram post in which she noted that she always puts her knives in the dishwasher. But, as I noted above, she’s also sharpening them regularly — likely much more regularly than most home cooks. And she’s probably also takes care that knives in the dishwasher aren’t rubbing against other items.
  • Use your honing steel to keep blades sharp. Here’s how>> 
  • Store knives properly — in a knife block (either freestanding or one that fits in a drawer) or on a magnetic strip affixed to the wall. Storing them loose in a drawer dulls them quickly as they rub up against each other, plus it’s easy to get cut as you root around for a knife.

BONUS BONUS tips:

  • Check out your cutting board(s), too. When I’m cooking in someone else’s kitchen I almost always find a collection of too-small, warped cutting boards. That’s another hazard as they slip around when you’re trying to cut. Replace tired old cutting boards (they’re cheap and so important!).
  • Bigger is better so you have ample room to maneuver. I like the 17’x13″ Epicurean cutting board (you can find it at just about any kitchenware store or online).
  • Wash cutting boards by hand. Sure, it’s OK to throw them in the dishwasher occasionally, but doing that all the time makes them warp.
  • Slip a damp towel under your cutting board to keep it from sliding on the counter.
  • If you’re picking up a new cutting board, get yourself a bowl scraper or two. This plastic tool has a curved edge intended to scrap contents out of bowl (typically dough for baking). The straight edge is ideal to scoop up and transfer chopped ingredients from the cutting board to a bowl or pan.

KNIFE-BUYING tips:

If having your knives professionally sharpened doesn’t make you fall back in love with them, it may be time to replace. A few tips:

  • You’ll get lots of recommendations for the “best” kitchen knives (I’m a longtime fan of the Japanese Mac Knife, which really holds its edge). But the “best” knife is the one that’s most comfortable for you to use. If you can, visit a kitchenware, restaurant supply or knife store where you can try out different makes and models.
  • IMHO, knife sets often are a waste of money, not to mention a space hog. Unless you know you’ll use all those different types, you’re probably better off spending a bit more on a good-quality chef’s knife, paring knife and serrated/bread knife. A good quality pair of kitchen shears also are handy to have on hand.

Want to take a deep dive into all things sharp? Check out My Kitchen Culture’s Complete Guide to Kitchen Knives>>

Happy (and safe!) chopping!