Anybody who cooks at home uses kitchen knives on a regular basis — and yet many people don’t know the first thing about knife maintenance. A well maintained, sharp knife will make food prep infinitely easier, and since a sharp blade is less likely to slip, it’ll be safer for you as well. Here’s a brief rundown on the basics of knife maintenance:
Honing the blade
First things first: that ribbed steel rod that came with your knife set isn’t a knife sharpener. It’s a honing steel, and its purpose isn’t to sharpen your knives; it’s to correct tiny bends and dents that occur during regular use. These bends and dents don’t actually make your knife duller, but they do push the cutting edge out of alignment so they don’t cut as cleanly in practice.
Ideally, you should be using your honing steel every time you use your knife to keep it in tip top shape. A few passes with the honing steel on each side of the knife and you’ll be ready to go. In the video above, you’ll see an explanation of the difference between honing and sharpening a knife, and a demonstration of proper honing techniques.
Remember to run the knife along the honing steel (not the other way around), to keep your blade on an angle, and not to press the knife too hard against the steel. You’re not trying to tear layers of steel off your knife — you’re just gently correcting the alignment.
If you have a high end, expensive set of knives (or you just want to ensure it’s done properly), take your knives to a professional to have them sharpened. If you’re using a mid-range or cheap set you picked up at a department store, it may not be worth it to shell out for professional sharpening — but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep your knives fairly sharp at home.
You can use a wetstone, sharpening rod, or sharpening wheel to keep your blades razor sharp. Follow the techniques shown in the video above and remember to sharpen whenever the blade feels dull and honing isn’t doing the trick.
Even basic maintenance will go a long way toward extending the lifespan of your kitchen knives and keeping them in proper working order — thus keeping you safer from knife accidents and making your job in the kitchen much, much easier.