In 2004, on the first day I stepped foot into a restaurant’s back of house, I vividly remember a large line cook aggressively (and very intimidatingly) sharpening his 10” chefs knife against a long piece of steel he was holding is his opposite hand. He turned in my direction with a dark stare and stated: “The most dangerous thing in a kitchen is a dull knife”. My stomach dropped since I half believed he was about to kill me...but I later found out this was a part of his normal hazing. As time went on and I was accepted into the fold, he also explained that the scare tactic he barked at me was actual a well-known mantra in the kitchen. A dull knife will use more effort to make a cut, which can lead to a potential injury when your knife slips.
There are a lot of ways to sharpen a knife. This can range from a simple whetstone to having your set sent out and professionally done. Personally, I’m a fan of the long, handheld sharpening steel, but that might just be me reliving my college years in the kitchen. It’s far from the most efficient method and really only works if you repeat the action before every use of the knife. Food52 recently put together a list of care tips from famed knife maker and expert, Bob Kramer. In the article, Kramer highlights nine aspects to pay attentions to:
1. The best way to test your knife is with a piece of paper.
2. If you've never sharpened a knife before, start with a paring knife.
3. It's almost impossible to do irreparable damage to your knife on a whetstone, even if you're a total novice.
4. Honing your knife is as important (if not more!) than sharpening.
5. When sharpening, apply more pressure than you think you need.
6. Whetstones are not one-type-fits-all.
7. The angle at which you sharpen your knife matters.
8. Having good cutting technique is essential for knife maintenance.
9. Even the lowest quality knives benefit from being sharpened and honed.