A lot of fun kitchen toys come through the doors at The Brooklyn Kitchen. I drool over a lot of them, be it practical or novel. And yet, I have come to realize that no matter how much new gear I insist I ‘need‘ there is one activity that more or less brings me back to earth: knife sharpening. It is a craft that I am still very much learning and learning to appreciate. When a nice knife (that has been noticeably well taken care of) comes to The Brooklyn Kitchen in need of some TLC, I take great pleasure in buffing it back into shape. It reminds me that a sharp knife, in fact, is all you really need in a kitchen. Sharpening a good knife gives me satisfaction not (just) because it takes a fraction of the time to repair over a poorly made knife but because the tool will return to a good home- giving the owner months more of seamless hacking, slicing and dicing. Handling a beautifully made knife reminds me that proper craftsmanship is not easy and not cheap. There is something about holding a beautiful knife in your hands that makes you a little less likely to toss it into the bottom of your sink amidst a pile of dirty dishes.
Recently, I got to put my sharpening skills to some serious use on a set of cutlery that has certainly seen better days. The chef’s knife pictured below had been used to defrost a freezer- as in hack away at the icicles which had formed around the freezer door. The new tip came out a little flared, which might have been remedied had I taken off more material and created a more subtle slope but I was afraid of just that, taking off too much steel. It was successful nonetheless and afterward, I was inspired to make a lil’ list of FAQ about knife care.
You only need to remember 4 things:
Wash, Dry, Steel, Put Away!
Keep your knives clean. Just do it. Even stainless steel can get gross if not kept clean. Don’t toss it into the bottom of your sink. Not only can it scratch up other tools (or get scratched itself) but it’s always the last thing you think you will grab when you reach into a bottomless tub of sudsy dishes. Ouchie!
Self explanatory. If you don’t have time to dry your knives (which I am guilty of), lay them flat on a thick dishtowel to air dry. I actually use one of these.
All straight edge knives need to be maintained regularly. And the fact is, it is easy to learn and will add years onto the life of your knife. There are two methods of keeping your knife’s edge: sharpening and honing. Sharpening, which can be done on a mechanical grinder or a whetstone, actually removes material from your knife whereby the edge is ground back. It is this method that is done the least often- about twice a year depending how often you cook. This is also the way one would remove dings, nicks and chips. Honing can be done every time you cook. Your knife is built more like a saw, with very teeny tiny teeth. You might notice that prepping food is easier if you hold your knife at an angle and use a gentle sawing motion (much like the angle on a guillotine- sorry for the gross reference) rather than a blunt chop (which will most likely squish your tomato). Over time the teeth of your knife will bend and curl over. Running your knife along a steel will realign the blade and keep it feeling pretty new.
For all the same reasons you wouldn’t leave your knives in the sink, resist the temptation to leave your naked knives in a drawer. You don’t need a knife block. Although we do carry a really cool one. Options can range from wall mounted knife magnets to knife rolls or, in a pinch, a simple sleeve will do.