Blades of gloryAugust 24, 2010
We all know from crappy holiday house kitchens that there’s nothing worse than a blunt chef’s knife – the kind you end up bludgeoning, rather than cutting, food with – and I take care to keep ours reasonably sharp. But the other day, as I end up doing only every few years, I had six of our knives professionally sharpened. Man oh man, what a difference.
Makes me realise that even using our nifty little Victorinox sharpener thing, which I have loved for its ease and relative efficiency, doesn’t really keep the knives in as good nick as I’d like. Before that I’ve used a whetstone, which works pretty well, but I have never mastered any skill at all with a steel. I seem to blunt the knife rather than sharpen it any time I’ve tried.
I see here that CHOICE tested knife sharpeners and ours came out somewhere in the middle, so I either need to learn how to properly use either a steel or our old stone (do they ever wear out? I’ve had mine for a thousand years) or get a new sharpener which I’m loath to do, especially after reading Fenella Souter’s amusing and inspiring Good Weekend article on the movement towards eliminating waste and saving cash, prompted by these people and their passion for not being diddled.
I guess the other aspect of good knife care is storage – long gone are the days I kept knives in the drawer. We have one of those great wall magnet strips that the blades just stick to, and a few years ago were also given one of these cool knife blocks, where the fibre things just move to accommodate the knife.
And what about cleaning? I usually just chuck them in the dishwasher, though I’ve just now read elsewhere that it’s not good for knives – but does it do anything to damage the actual blade, or is it only to prevent damage to the wooden handles?
So what about you – how do you keep your knives pointy? Do you ever have them professionally sharpened, or are you a whiz with a steel? Any tips? And what are the essential knives? We have lots, but only because I was given a large set by generous friends for a big birthday years back. Otherwise, we would have only two in constant use – the big Furi chef’s knife and the beautiful little Wusthof given me by the Lunging Latino, which I believe is known as a ‘sandwich knife’. Go figure.
Now, while we’re on the topic of slicing and dicing, I was thrilled to be alerted to this very useful knife skills video on the ‘claw grip’ over at Beyond Salmon (thanks Daniel Koontz at Casual Kitchen) – it demonstrates very clearly how to hold a knife, the action needed, and most importantly, what your other hand should be doing.
So happy chopping, shuckers. And do tell me how you keep your blades in glorious condition, or any other sharp points we should be discussing!
PS: My knives were beautifully sharpened by the lovely folks at the new Chef and the Cook – check them out if you’re in the neighbourhood.