Do your knives fit?
In the interest of economy, most knife manufacturers leave the spines of their knives squared off. The edges of the spine can sometimes be sharper than the knife itself. That edge cutting into your finger can lead to blisters, calluses, reduced circulation, numbness and injury.
Fasten your knife, sharp edge down, into a padded vice. The padding doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Two pieces of flat rubber or leather will keep the jaws from damaging the blade. You’ll need a sheet of fine (600 grit) wet/dry sandpaper available at any car accessory. Use a gentle shoeshine motion, lightly round the edges of the spine, you don’t have to buff hard or remove a lot of metal. All you need to do is to rub off the sharp edge at the base of the spine. How far you take it is up to you. This simple modification will make a world of difference in the comfort of your knives.
Keep knife handles free of grease to prevent your hand from slipping, and wash knives thoroughly between uses.
Clean your knives with hot water and detergent, ensuring you wash both the blade and the handle (ensure the sharp edge is facing away from the body and take great care to keep your fingers away from the sharp edge of the blade). Rinse with very hot water to kill any remaining bacteria and dry thoroughly with a disposable paper towel.
Knives should NEVER be left to soak in a sink because someone could put their hands in the water without seeing the knife and cut their hand or arm badly.
Never put your knives in the dishwasher. Detergents are hard on them, and they could jiggle around, harming the edges.
Knives must always be kept sharp. A blunt knife is dangerous because it requires more pressure and is more likely to slip and cause a cut. This is the most important reason to keep your knives sharp.
A sharp knife also means a better, faster and easier job. It will also enable you to work neatly and accurately.
After sharpening, always clean your knife to remove any filings that might be on the blade. The safest way to test for sharpness is to cut a soft tomato - a sharp knife will slice through easily and with little pressure.
A professional chef will sharpen his or her knives every time they are used. As soon as your knife feels slightly blunt, it should be sharpened.
After a long while you may find you won't be able to sharpen your knife with a steel because the edge will get too thick. This is when you'll need to have it professionally re-ground. There are companies that specialise in knife grinding or ask your local cook shop or butchers if they have a grinder on the premises.
Ensure you've got a secure cutting surface. You can easily slip and cut yourself if the board moves suddenly. Placing a damp cloth under the board will give it a good grip. Heavy, solid boards are also less likely to move or wobble.
When not using a knife, place it flat on the work surface with the sharp edge of the blade facing the board - never leave the knife standing up with the blade pointing upwards. Don't leave knives near or hanging over the edge of a surface where they could be knocked. If you do knock a knife then don't try to catch it as it falls because it could easily slice through your hand and sever a main artery. If you drop a knife, then move out of the way and allow it to fall.
Take care to keep your knife in sight and never allow it to get hidden under anything, especially food items. This can often occur when piles of vegetable trimmings accumulate or there’s a lot of clutter on the work surface.
If you have to carry a knife, then carry it at some distance from the body with the point facing down and the sharp edge facing backwards. Never carry a knife with the point facing forwards and never carry knives on chopping boards (this is often done when carrying dirty boards and knives to the sink and is a dangerous short-cut).
Never use a damaged knife - it's dangerous and can harbour bacteria.
Storing your knives
Store your knives in a purpose-made case or carrying wallet. No where else.
Is you knife sharp?
Before sharpening, you should check to see if your knife is sharp or not. Being able to determine if a knife is sharp is important because if you can't make that judgement, you won't be able to determine when to stop sharpening.
Following the diagrams below, gently apply downward pressure on your nail.
Place the knife blade here
Keep the knife in your right hand, and place the blade one your thumb nail as shown above
Press the blade softy on your nail. And tilt the knife over to an angle as shown above.
Be extremely careful not to press the blade too hard!
When pressing the blade gently on your nail, allow the blades own weight to press upon your nail
If the blade is properly sharpened, it will stop in your nail.
If the blade continually slips and does not catch, it is not sharp enough.
For your safety, please do not pull the blade across your nail or finger. When you pull these blade, you will realise its cutting value.
You have probably seen a blade craftsman or chef nonchalantly touch the blade lightly. They know that a blade will act by a pulling motion best. So by avoiding this pulling motion, you may test the blade's edge safely. There are other ways to check a blade is sharp. For example, a practical test of sharpness for a blade is whether or not it will slice soft vegetables like tomatoes.
All straight edge knives need to be sharpened regularly. When you see a chef sharpening his knife it makes us green with envy because he makes it look so easy. The fact is, it is easy - just learn the procedure of washing the knife, drying it, and then steeling it before putting the knife away in a protected sleeve or knife holder.
Some knives hold the edge better than others. Always use a wooden or a plastic cutting surface when chopping and slicing. It is good when there are slash lines left on the wooden or plastic surface as that indicates that the knife cut right through your food and found little resistance even on the board or cutting slab. When the sharp edge meets a very hard surface, such as a glass or ceramic surface, the sharp edge gets flattened and you will quickly lose the edge of the knife.
A steel is only useful when the knife is already sharp. If it is totally blunt, it will to be reground by having it sharpened professionally.
Another word of warning, steels wear out. A good steel should have triangular ridges. If they are semi circular put the offending object in the dustbin.
If you imagine the cutting edge of any knife seen close up, you get a thin bit of metal which is very sharp.
Cutting things with the sharp edge can make it fold over rendering the knife blunt and the steel is used to comb the sharp edge back into line so it will cut properly again.
A sharpening steel does not in fact sharpen the knife, it will only return the blade of a sharp knife to full function again.
One of the best tools at present is a diamond steel (which you can get hold of for less that £15) comprising an oval bar studded with about two million diamonds that really will put an edge back on just about anything.
The edge found on your kitchen knives is most likely a V-edge, meaning, that the edge bevels form a V, two surfaces intersecting at a line of (ideally) zero width.
A double bevel takes this idea a little further by adding a second, more acute, angle behind the edge bevel. This secondary bevel is sometimes called a back bevel or relief angle. It’s purpose is to thin the metal behind the edge. The thinner the edge, the greater the cutting ability. However, an edge that is too thin is prone to damage. By adding a smaller, more obtuse primary bevel to the edge will give it the strength to avoid damage from impaction, chipping or rolling.
Chisel ground edges are primarily found on Japanese knives, especially sushi knives. The edge is ground only on one side. The other is side is flat. Hence they come in right and left handed versions. Chisel ground edges can be extremely thin and sharp. If the edge bevel is ground at 25 degrees and the other side is 0 degrees, you have an included angle of 25 degrees – considerably more acute than the average Western knife.
Sometimes known as hamaguri-ba, the convex edge arcs in a rounded curve down to the edge. Thus the final edge is the intersection of two arcs, creating a very sharp edge with more metal behind it than the standard V-edge.
As the knife is repeatedly sharpened so the metal at the bottom will get worn away and the thickness of the knife increases making it more and more difficult to sharpen. At this point the knife must be professionally ground to thin the knife so it can be sharpened again
A burr is a rough, almost microscopic, raised lip of metal that forms when one edge meets the other. It is the only way to be absolutely certain that you have fully ground an edge.
One side is ground until it meets the other and pushes up a small curl of metal. If you stop sharpening before the burr is formed, your knife will not be as sharp as it could be.
Sometimes you can’t see a burr, but you can always feel it.
You check for a burr on the side opposite the edge you have been grinding. Hold the knife blade horizontally and place your fingers or thumb at a 45-degree angle to the edge and pull gently down and away.
DO NOT PULL TOWARD THE TIP OR HILT; YOU MAY LOP OFF A FINGER.
PULL AWAY FROM THE EDGE.
Remember, check the side opposite to the one you've been sharpening. You're checking for a very light lip caused by the edge rolling over to the other side. Check at various points along the edge. The burr tends to form quickly at the base of the blade but takes a little longer at the tip. You must feel a burr running all the way from heel to tip to know that you have fully ground that side of the knife
A new knife is supplied with a blade angle of around 50 degrees and this is too obtuse. An angle of 5 to 20 degrees per side (10 to 40 degrees total) for general kitchen work is best . Five degrees per side is incredibly thin and would require a very hard, high quality steel to keep that edge in regular use.
For the vast majority of kitchen knives, 15 to 20 degrees per side will provide a significant increase in performance without requiring undue maintenance. Meat cleavers should be a little thicker, say 20 to 25 degrees per side, while dedicated slicers can be taken down to 10 to 15 degrees per side.
The best compromise in the kitchen has proven to be a 15/20 double bevel. That is a 15 degree back bevel with a 20 degree primary edge face.
Magic Marker Trick
One of the easiest ways to ensure that you are matching an existing bevel is to coat the edge with magic marker. As the magic marker is worn away by the steel, you will be able to see where the metal is being removed and whether you have matched the angle properly. Once you have coated both bevels with marker, take a swipe or two down your steel. If the marker is wiped off over the width of the bevel you have matched the angle properly. If your angle is too high, only the marker near the very edge will be removed. If your angle is too low only the marker near the shoulder, above the edge, will be removed. Recoating the edge as you sharpen is a good way to ensure that you’re holding the correct angle throughout the process. No matter what type of sharpening system you use, the magic marker trick will save you a lot of time and frustration, especially in matching an unknown angle on one of the guide or rod-style systems.
Steeling regularly is the most critical maintenance you can perform on your knife. Whenever you use your knife, especially soft kitchen knives, the edge can turn. Hold the knife with the edge pointing to the ceiling under strong light. You shouldn’t be able to see it. The edge itself should be invisible. If, however, you see glints of light, those are spots where the edge has rolled. The edge is still reasonably sharp, it’s just not pointing straight down anymore. The steel realigns the edge of the knife, forcing the rolled spots back into line, making it useable again.
When you use a steel, lock your wrist and stroke the knife from heel to tip by moving your entire arm from the shoulder and slowly dropping your forearm. The key is to maintain a consistent angle all the way through the stroke. By locking your wrist and elbow, you will keep your angle stable from top to bottom. Go slowly and follow all the way through the tip. You don’t have to press very hard to realign the edge. Steeling requires barely more pressure than the weight of the knife itself.
Alternate from side to side, keeping the same alignment and angle on both sides. It really only takes four or five strokes per side to get your knife ready for more work.
When should you steel? Every time you use your knife. Oddly enough, steeling before you use the knife is much more effective than steeling afterward.
The standard image we all have of steeling a knife involves a chef with his knife in one hand and steel in the other, blade flashing and ringing. If you’re particularly adept at this type of swordsmanship, do it. It impresses the tourists!
A more effective method is to stand the steel straight up and down with the handle up and the tip resting on a folded towel to keep it from slipping.
Place the knife edge against the steel with the blade perpendicular to the steel – 90 degrees, right? Rotate your wrist so that you reduce the angle by half – 45 degrees. Reduce that by half – 22.5 degrees, and you are exactly where you need to be to steel your knife (if you have a 20 degree edge). You generally want to steel at a very slightly steeper angle than the edge bevel itself.
Types of Steels
Knife steels come in a variety of sizes, shapes and flavours. There are round steels, oval steels, grooved steels, smooth steels, diamond steels and ceramic “steels.” If you purchased a set of knives, it probably came with a round, grooved steel. Be very careful with this beast. Kitchen knives are reasonably tough and resist chipping fairly well, but a grooved steel can really put that to the test. The grooves in the steel create tiny points of contact with the edge. A smaller contact area makes for greater pressure on the edge. Used lightly, a grooved steel can realign the edge of your knife, though it does it fairly aggressively. Used with too heavy a hand, however, a grooved steel will act as a file and take microscopic chips out of your edge. Your edge will feel sharp because it is now, in effect, serrated, but it won’t last very long.
Coarse diamond steels fall into the same category, though they’ll generally leave a finer edge than grooved steels. They should still be used with caution and a very light hand.
Types of Knife
French Cooks Knife