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Equipment and Materials
Optional Equipment and Materials
A sharp knife does a job better
Sharp knives cut with less brute force than dull knives. Less brute force does less damage to the food, which you can easily see by looking closely at the cut.
Delicate ingredients, like herbs, sliced through cleanly will look fresher for longer. A dull knife will crush more of the cells surrounding the cut, which ultimately accelerates wilting and discoloration.
Dull knives slow you down. A sharp knife makes working through your prep list easier and more pleasant.
A sharp knife is safer
- A sharp blade is predictable. When it strikes, or is drawn across the food's surface, it won't slip. This makes it easy to control how the blade moves through the food, giving you control over your chopping or slicing. A dull blade will slip, which makes control difficult and risks slipping off the food and plunging into your fingers. With a dull knife, it's only a matter of time until you badly cut yourself.
How to sharpen your knives
A reputable knife store will always provide a sharpening service, usually for several dollars per knife. Depending on where you live, this might involve mailing your knives and waiting for them to be returned.
We prefer to sharpen our own knives. It's not that difficult and doesn't take much time. Here, Grant demonstrates a basic sharpening technique for a very dull knife.
It's best to sharpen your knives frequently. This avoids the need to work hard at establishing a new cutting edge on a knife that has been allowed to become very dull.
Control of edge
By sharpening your knives yourself, you can control the bevel of the edge to suit how you use a particular knife.
You may choose to put a broad 45° angle on either side of a sturdy chef knife. This yields a tough, durable blade that's well suited to chopping.
On a fine slicing knife you can hone the edge to a shallow angle of 15° on either side. Such a blade will be fragile, but will slice through food with ease.
By doing your own sharpening, you can also control how finely you hone the cutting edge. If you are slicing notoriously tricky foods like very ripe tomatoes, for example, you might avoid finely polishing the edge—going only as far as a 4000 grit stone. Viewed under a microscope, such a blade will have more jagged peaks and valleys to grab hold of the slippery skin of a tomato. Basically, you are leaving your blade with a larger number of micro-serrations to help with the slicing and provide durability.
A set of waterstones for sharpening your knives will cost about the same as a good knife. We think this is a great investment since a whole set of expensive, but dull knives, is useless.
If you don't have a set of waterstones, Grant uses this economical set by Norton.
Why I prefer to sharpen my own knives
- Here are Grant’s thoughts about why he likes to sharpen his own knives.