Today, I am shamefully stepping out from the shadows to confess my guilt in one of the most shunned of culinary sins: I’ve allowed my knife to become painfully dull. Ever since I left my last job in a professional kitchen, I’ve gotten lazy in keeping my blades as sharp as they should be. To admit this to an audience of fellow cooks and foodies hurts almost as much as trying to slice into the delicate skin of a tomato with a knife you have tormented far beyond the help of anything less than a professional grind.
Flash back to a couple of weeks ago as I watched my Dad slam what was once one of my most decent knives, through a watermelon like a lumberjack throwing an axe into a log: listening to the stark sound of carefully crafted steel defenselessly smacking into a plastic cutting board, it hit me. Everything turned to slow motion: my father wielding the chef’s knife Psycho-style, watermelon juice flying into the walls. Suddenly I was horrified-- not just at the situation, but at myself. Bad chef!
I got a pit in my stomach as I remembered the not-so-far-away past where I had taken such good care of my knives. I made sure they were sharp and felt a sense a pride in keeping my tools in check. I kept them tucked away in my knife bag, covered, and untouchable to anyone but myself. Plus, if I ever got lazy with them, I’d have a chef down my back asking, “What the hell is this?” I still keep most of my knives sharp and healthy, particularly those used for butchering (which I haven’t done much of lately). But due to the sake of convenience, my trusted all-purpose chef’s knife somehow got thrown in the drawer with all the rest of the delinquent cutlery to be used and abused.
A result of weekend dormitory boredom at culinary school
and the sudden urge to be artsy; I call it "cereal killer."
How many times have you heard, “a sharp knife is a safe knife”? It’s true. Not only is a sharp knife safer to use, but it allows for more precision, and simply makes slicing and dicing easier and less strenuous. So why make things harder for myself? I have no idea. I guess using my knives only at home and not in a professional setting caused me to black out of my chef’s mindset for a minute. As with anything, using the right tools in the kitchen can make a world of difference in getting a job done quicker, easier, and safer; but all that goes out the window if they aren’t properly cared for.
To keep your knives up to par, it is ideal to steel them before each use. Once you get lazy with this practice, you will eventually reach a point where there is no turning back. Honing a knife on a steel is great for maintaining its edge for a while but does not actually sharpen the blade. Properly sharpening on a whetstone will bring it back to life. There are also many professional quality home knife sharpeners that can help to get the job done. As an example, WÜSTHOF sells all of the above. When my knives get dull, I always take them to a small grinder shop near me. For about five to ten bucks he makes them sharper than I ever could; just like new. As a matter of fact, that is where I’ll be heading--stat!