Culinary Tip: Knife Sharpening Basics

For years my mother had her knives sharpened by a neighbor who sharpened knives, using the same grinding wheel to hone everything from paring knives to hedge clippers.

She loved the price (low) and the convenience (house calls!), not to mention the Old-World charm. But when I became a chef and realized her nine-inch chef’s knife had been ground down to the size and profile of a seven-inch boning knife, I decided it was time to get her serious about sharpening. Some things you all need to know.

But First, Some Basics

When it comes to keeping your knives sharp, it’s important to understand the difference between honing and sharpening. Honing, which is what you’re doing when you’re practicing your best Benihana-style swipes with your knife steel, doesn’t actually sharpen the knife. Instead, it straightens out the edge and smooths any microscopic burrs.

It will make your knife feel sharper (i.e., easier to cut with) and also extend the time you can go between true sharpening. So, it’s a good idea to give your blades a few passes over the steel every time you use them.

But a steel doesn’t actually remove much metal (if any at all) from your blade. That’s where sharpening comes in. This process involves shaving off metal to create a super-fine, like-new edge. And if something catastrophic happens to your knife, like deep nicks or a broken point, it’s likely the old edge will have to be ground off completely and a new edge created in the undamaged metal.

The Savory Spoon will host Kelly Lewis of Green Bay, The Traveling Sharpener, on Saturday June 17th from 9:00 to 1:00 P.M. Kelly will be sharpening in the schoolyard at the Savory Spoon Cooking School, Ellison Bay. Credit cards are appreciated.
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Floral Wreath DYI from Heidi Stodola