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How to Make the Cut

There is almost nothing more frustrating than a dull kitchen knife.

A dull blade requires more pressure, and working with pressure on many foods increases your risk of slipping (think onions), potentially slicing your fingers instead of your veggies. A weekly sharpening will keep your knives in tip-top form and make cooking a breeze. Most importantly, a sharp set of knives will keep you safer.

There are three primary ways of sharpening your knives:

Electric sharpener

Professional sharpening

Stone grinder – manual

Electric sharpeners

Electric sharpeners are attractive because there is minimal work involved. That said, they will remove the most metal from your blade with each pass and are probably not the best for the overall life of your steel. Still, if this helps you keep your knives sharpened, then go for it. Follow directions carefully to avoid over grinding your knives.

Professional sharpening

This is a fantastic option, and not as difficult or expensive as it may seem. Very often farmer’s markets will have a mobile sharpening stand, and your local butcher may also be able to help you locate a local sharpening shop. Even if you aren’t planning to bring your knives regularly, a twice-yearly sharpening could get you blades on track, while you home sharpen in between. Serrated knives need professional sharpening, so make sure to include those when you outsource this task.

Stone grinding

A sharpening stone is a wonderful kitchen tool to own. A fine grit stone should be soaked in water before working on your blades. Keeping your knife at a slight angle (20-degrees), pull the knife’s cutting edge one direction across the stone. Repeat on both sides several times, checking that you don’t press too hard, or lose your angle.

The Best Blades for your Buck

Now that you’re ready to keep your blades in cutting form, how about investing in the best blades for your situation.

There are plenty of cheap options out there, and more likely than not you’ve already got some in your kitchen. Poorly made knives will render poor cutting abilities. From handle grip to blade edge, cheap will show and dull quickly.

The knife’s steel edge is called a tang. A tang can run completely inside the handle, distributing weight into your hand (good), partially into the handle, giving some strength (o.k.), or as a rat-tail – a spike that is encased in handle, but not by much (worst choice).   A tang that run the length of your handle, meaning your blades steel extends all the way back into your hand, but isn’t sharpened and is usually molded into a handle casing or encased in wood, will be the best knife for your kitchen. The cheaper knives found at discount stores will undoubtedly have a rat-tail. There is less investment in materials and design in these models.

There are three knives that are a must for any kitchen. The more the better, obviously, but with these three the home chef can do almost anything:

8-in Chef’s Knife

If faced with purchasing one good (pricey) knife, your best bet is an 8-in chef’s knife with full tang. This multipurpose workhorse in the kitchen should have a heavy handle that rests in your hand when you bring the knife to the cutting surface. Used for chopping, slicing and just about everything else in the kitchen.

Pairing Knife

A good, sharp pairing knife will make quick work of peeling, and coring. It’s perfect for separating skin from meat, and working on small projects.

Serrated bread knife

A bread knife is a must for any job requiring some grit. Slice bread easily for making crostinis or use it on large veggies and cooked meats. It’s multi-purpose and a must for delicate work making sliced breads and cakes without smashing the grain. A chef’s knife will require too much pressure to cut through breads, while a serrated knife will drag back and forth, cutting in steps as you descend down through the product.

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