Some of the most important tools in a chef’s repertoire, knives can be the difference between amateur and professional cooking. From slicing raw meat to carving pork leg bone, there are a number of specialized knives, used for a variety of purposes. However, one of the greatest sins of the culinary world is neglecting the proper care of knives, resulting in blunt edges that render the tools ineffective, and even potentially dangerous. Let’s take a look at some of the best practices when it comes to sharpening and maintaining your set of professional kitchen knives!

Knowing When to Sharpen

Knives can be tricky, and knowing when they need maintenance can be even more so. Over-sharpened knives don’t do anyone any good, and can result in irreversible damage to a blade that was never worse for the wear. In order to successfully identify when your knife needs sharpening, first test its edge on a sheet of paper. If the knife cuts through successfully, and with barely a sound, it is in good condition and needs no further sharpening. If it doesn’t cut the paper successfully, or makes a bit of a tearing noise, it is likely that your blade needs to be sharpened and honed.

Start Small

If you are new to the world of sharpening, it might be best to start off with a paring knife first, owing to it being smaller in size and lighter in structure. This leaves less room for error or accident, and will help you get a handle on your whetstone.

Choose the Right Whetstone

Not all whetstones are alike, and choosing the right one for your blade can make a world of difference. Whetstones come in a number of gradients, with varying levels of coarseness. Lower grit whetstones are more textured, and can be used to reshape and repair chipped knives, while higher grit whetstones are preferred for polishing and sharpening. As a rule, one should use multiple whetstones when sharpening knives.

The Professional Angle

In the world of culinary professionals, specific degrees of sharpening must be used for specific tasks. If your knife is used to split chicken on a frequent basis, an approximate twenty degree angle would suit your knife best. If you happen to be cutting veggies all day, a ten degree angle might work better for you. For beginners, experts recommend a balance somewhere between ten and fifteen degrees to start off with. Do your research and pick an angle that works best for you.

Cutting Edge Technique

The most important rule when it comes to knife maintenance is to maintain good cutting practices. When chopping using a cutting board, ensure your blade is never used to slide the chopped up items into a pile, or to transfer into a pan. This rolls the edge of the blade and makes it duller, quicker. Use your hands instead, and keep your blade-edge happy.

Knife maintenance is the mark of a good chef. So, go out there and use them the way they were meant to be used. Respecting and maintaining the tools of the trade is half the battle.

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