I wrote recently about the fact that I’m using my kitchen knives on a daily basis as I try to get my daughter to eat fresh, homemade meals.
Today, I’m going to talk about how I know a particular knife is becoming dull, and how I sharpen that blade.
How to know if your knife is blunt
When you’re knife is very dull, it becomes obvious. It takes more effort to cut through food, you find yourself needing to saw through, and you may even have cut yourself because the blade slid off onto your fingers (ouch!)
I’ve learnt that you can test a blade for dulling well before you get to this ‘finger chopping’ stage.
There are 2 tests that I’ve learnt to do. You can choose either one of them, depending on what you have to hand.
1) The tomato test: Try to cut a tomato with your knife. The cutting edge should slice through a ripe tomato, if it’s sharp.
If it dents the tomato, or squashes the flesh, instead of cleanly cutting through, your blade is dull and needs sharpening.
2) The paper test: Take a clean sheet of paper (standard thickness) and use your blade to push straight down to cut.
The blade should cut right through in one fell swoop. If you need to slice or saw, then your blade is blunt.
How to use a knife sharpener
- Choose a knife sharpener that has 2 sharpening slots – a coarse grinder AND a fine grinder
This is quite important as I’ve seen many models about with just one slot. To expect one slot to be able to handle all the different types of blades out there is just crazy!
If you think about the kitchen knives you have currently, there will be one type of blade that instantly comes to mind as ‘different’ – that’s the serrated edge knife, or bread knife.
No, you need to opt for a sharpener that has a coarse grinder slot, for straight edged knives, and a fine grinder slot, which is ideal for serrated edges.
Using a coarse grinder on a serrated edge could actually start to remove the serration – not what you want!
In fact, the fine grinder is a real multitasker, as it not only sharpens serrated knives, it can sharpen or hone straight edged knives where there is only slight dulling.
That’s the reason why I don’t own a honing / sharpening steel!
I can use the fine grinder of my knife sharpener to hone my slightly dull straight blades, without needing yet another kitchen gadget!
- Place the heel of your dull knife blade into one of the slots
Once you’ve chosen the best slot for your particular needs, place the heel of the blade (the part closest to the handle) into the slot.
- Draw your blade through the knife sharpener from heel to tip, pulling the handle towards you
Don’t press down or add pressure. Your knife could bounce, which will damage it, or you could remove too much metal, and then you’re in danger of reducing the longevity of your blade, just as if you were using an electric knife sharpener.
- Check for sharpness by using the tomato or paper test. If it’s still dull, pull your blade through the slot again
Many people make the mistake of pulling their blade through several times, removing a lot of metal, without checking if their blade actually needed more than one ‘pull-through’.
I always check how sharp my blade is after each pull-through. Sometimes, all I needed was one attempt.
- Do not push the blade through the slot in a sawing motion
Hacking the blade back and forth inside a slot will not sharpen the blade. In fact, it will actually cause the blade to be duller than what you started off with!
- If using the coarse grinder slot, and your blade is still a little dull, use the fine grinder slot
Remember, the coarse grinder is for straight edge blades that are very dull. This slot will remove more metal than the fine grinder.
If your blade feels like it just needs a little more sharpening, after 1-2 attempts using the coarse grinder, consider using the fine grinder to simple hone it a little further, without removing a lot more metal.
- Use the fine grinder more regularly than the coarse grinder
As I’ve explained above, the coarse grinder is for very dull knives. Once you’ve sharpened your dull blade, it makes sense to try and keep it in decent condition so it does not require the coarse grinder regularly.
First of all, reduce how long it takes for the blade to dull by taking these preventative measures.
Then, regularly hone your blade using the fine grinder to keep the blade sharp.
How often should you hone? That, I’m afraid, I can’t answer, as it is completely dependent on how much you use a particular knife.
By honing your blade, you’ll find that you won’t need to use the coarse grinder much at all, which means less metal removed, which means knives that will last a lifetime!
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