Knife Skills Part II: sharpening your knives and associated risks

11:37 pm

One of the keys to effective knife skills is keeping your tool sharpened. Our knife skills class chef had concerns about professional knife sharpening as the high speeds of the mill can remove a significant part of the blade.  She suggested, instead, an affordable two-step process.

1. Frequently use a sharpening steel to get the kinks out. What kinks, you say?  Look at the blade of your knife up close…you’ll likely notice gouges bending one way or the other along the blade. The steel moves these back into alignment with the rest of the blade; 10 strokes at a 10-20 degree angle on a regular basis will allow it to cut smoothly and swiftly.  Sur La Table has a pretty nice rundown of this.

2. Sharpen the blade with a stone once in a while.  You can probably find one for $15-$25 (some need oil for maintenance) at your local kitchen supply store, where they can also help you choose the right one.

One obvious but worth mentioning aspect of knife skills is to ALWAYS keep your eyes on your work.  Well, obvious to most people.  As I was speeding through the kale prep for a holiday dinner, flush with pride, I kept chopping away while I turned to ask Rick something. The knife, no longer under my watchful gaze, quickly went to work on my thumb.

Queue crying, swearing and a speedy trip to the emergency room.  

I debated smearing some of the blood on the window so that the cars we passed knew we had a legitimate reason for my Auntie Therese’s adept crisis maneuvering, but figured it might escalate the situation.

Unless you want are lacking in ways to traumatize your nieces, nephews and mother all at once, want to emphasize your klutziness to your soon-to-be sister-in-law (after already shooting her in the eye with a Pig Popper), or give a super-emphatic thumbs-up, I strongly urge you to stay humble and focused on your work.

In spite of my trauma, I have greater appreciation for the tool having learned how to use it.  All the more after reading a loving tribute to knives in Edible Madison Magazine.

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