How to maintain your knives

Your knife is the most important tool in the kitchen. For such an essential and often expensive tool, it’s really important to make sure you maintain it so that it endures years of fun in the kitchen. There is also nothing worse than trying to prepare a meal with a blunt knife – it’s dangerous and causes frustration.

The good news is that with a little bit of daily maintenance your knife will always be in perfect working order.

Why do knives need to be maintained?

With continued use the micro edge of the knife blade becomes jagged, which means you have a dull knife. If you could view the dull blade microscopically you would see that the edge is uneven and wavy. The easiest way to deal with this is to use a sharpening steel.

But, beware: a sharpening steel is not really a sharpener, it’s more of a honer. It realigns your knife edge and gets rid of the jagged edges, bringing your knife back to being razor sharp.

A steel is for maintaining sharpness, it cannot bring a blunt knife back to sharpness – for this you will need to use something more abrasive like a whetstone.

Using a steel every time you cook, just a few strokes before each session, will ensure a razor-sharp knife for a good period of time.

How to use a sharpening steel

Hold the steel firmly in your one hand at a 45 degree angle, and hold your knife in your other hand (use your strongest hand as this hand will be doing most of the work).

At a 15-20 degree angle to the steel, work the knife from the top to the bottom and draw the blade down the steel. For Asian knives, you can reduce the angle to 10-15 degrees.

Do the same on the other side of the blade and repeat
Repeat several times until the blade is feeling restored. You can also try this with the steel resting on a tea towel, on a table, as shown here.

If left unmaintained, a knife will become blunt and a sharpening steel will not be sufficient to bring the knife back to sharpness. In those instances, you need to get tough on your knife and use a whetstone or pull-through sharpener.

Watch this Spatula-shaped space for more knife sharpening tips. Until then, kiss the tools people.