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It's time to sharpen your knife skills.
From picking the right one, to figuring out how to sharpen it, it's easy to shove them into a drawer and call it a day.
So, chop chop! It's time to sharpen (or hone?) your skills!
A single knife can cost anywhere from ten to several hundred dollars, so it's important to test them before you buy. Most cooking supply stores have potatoes handy and encourage customers to try chopping before purchasing.
Some people prefer lightweight knives (such as this one by Shun), while others prefer a heavier knife (like this one by Wüsthof). Picking out a knife is like shopping for a pair of jeans, so make sure to try a variety of styles until you find one that feels right.
For most home cooks, these four knives are all you really need:
1. Chef's/French Knife: This is your go-to knife for 90% of chopping jobs and can be used for anything from cutting steak to cutting lettuce.
2. Pairing Knife: These tiny knives are used for jobs that are small and intricate like slicing strawberries and deveining shrimp.
3. Serrated/Bread Knife: Besides slicing bread and cake, these knives are great for cutting into thick-skinned produce (like melons, pineapples, and tomatoes).
4. Boning Knife: These knives are flexible enough to easily cut meat, poultry, and fish off the bone.
If you're going to invest in quality knives, don't forget to buy one of these storing options:
1. Knife Sleeves/Guards: If you plan on storing your knives in a drawer, knife guards are a must. They prevent blades from banging into each other and keep you safe. Get them here.
2. Knife Blocks: If you want to keep your knives on the counter, this is the option for you. When picking out a block, make sure the slots are deep enough for your knives to fully slide into. Check out this one that holds 19 knives.
3. Knife Rolls: If you plan to travel with your knives (think picnics, cooking at friends, etc.), invest in a quality knife roll. This is what professional chefs use to carry their knives from place to place.
When washing your knives, never put them in the dishwasher (they can get banged up and rusted). Instead, gently wash them with soap and water and dry them with a dishtowel. Taking the time to fully dry them will prevent rust and water spots from forming.
Honing steels are an essential element in knife maintenance. They are different than sharpening tools because they realign the blade whereas sharpening tools actually grind them.
A general rule of thumb is to hone your knife every other time you use it. Most knives come with a steel such as this, so make sure you are using it. But how do you use it?
Place the blade at a 20° angle and stroke it on your steel from heel to tip (away from you). Do this several times on each side with even pressure. Although this will never sharpen your knife, it is an important preventative maintenance step.
With very little pressure, use your knife to cut through the skin of a tomato. If the knife has a hard time getting through the skin, it's time to sharpen. You can also hold a piece of paper and attempt to glide your knife through it. If it struggles to cut the paper, it's time to sharpen.
Tools such as this one allow home cooks to easily sharpen their knives. Run your blade (keeping it straight up and down) through the coarse side and finish it on the fine side to get a smooth, sharp edge. Five strokes on each side should be plenty to sharpen a typical blade.
Or, use a whetstone to sharpen your knife. These come in a variety of "grits" (the higher the grit, the finer the stone) and must be soaked in water before using. To use them, give your knife a few strokes on the coarse side at a 20° angle, then do the same on the fine side.
Many cooking supply stores offer professional sharpening services at a reasonable price. This is helpful if you have older knives that need some serious attention or for knives that haven't been sharpened in a very long time.
Once you get the basics down, invest in some additional pieces to complete your collection:
1. Cleavers : These knives are great for breaking down bones, large cuts of meat, and tough-skinned vegetables like squash or pumpkins.
2. Carving Knives: A long blade makes these knives perfect for slicing meat with a single stroke.
4. Quality Kitchen Shears : Beyond cutting parchment and twine, shears come in handy for cutting items like herbs and bacon with ease.
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