Honing and Sharpening: The importance of regular knife maintenance

The goal for Cook Culture has always been to help people learn more about their food and how they can better use their equipment to make it. This not only applies to the customers we serve but also to members of the Cook Culture team, such as myself. My time at Cook Culture has been a journey of learning experiences and new-gained knowledge, which I would like to share with you all today. More specifically, I’d like to talk about knives!

Before I started working at Cook Culture, I didn’t realize how important it was to maintain your knives, let alone the differences between sharpening and honing. Of course I knew that having a sharp knife was safer and more effective than a dull one, but I never stopped to think that I should actually be doing something to keep them sharp. To me, as long as my knives were still in one piece, they were usable. Let’s just say I’m now more strict about what I consider a ‘usable’ knife. 

The two main things I learned about knife maintenance is that there’s a difference between honing and sharpening, just like there’s a difference between brushing your teeth and going to the dentist: one is done more often than the other but both are important. In this case, honing is analogous to brushing your teeth (only in terms of frequency). The purpose of honing is to correct your knife’s edge by straightening, and realigning it to the center. Whenever you use your knife, the edge not only becomes more dull but it gets misaligned at a microscopic level. Unlike sharpening, honing simply pushes the existing edge back to its proper position without removing much, if any, steel. This should ideally be done every time you use your knives, with the help of a sharpening steel or pull through sharpener. However, if you’re like me and can imagine yourself mangling your knives with a sharpening steel, the better option would be a simple pull-through sharpener. Despite their names, both of these tools actually hone rather than sharpen.

Sharpening, analogous to going to the dentist, should be done once or twice a year depending on how heavily you use your knives. The process of sharpening involves shaving off bits of your knife’s blade to create a new edge. Unlike honing, which helps maintains an existing edge and keeps your knife sharp for longer, sharpening creates a completely new and different edge. There are a variety of sharpening tools you can use at home, such as a whetstone or electric knife sharpener, however, we offer free knife sharpening in all our locations!

Once I started maintaining my knives more regularly, I could feel the difference compared to some of my older knives: it was like night and day. It was just so much more enjoyable to chop and slice things with ease and without the worry or risk of a dull edge slipping and cutting my finger. An added benefit is that the more you maintain your knives, the longer they last, and the less you end up spending to replace them! If you still need some more convincing before you re-define what a ‘usable’ knife means to you, then come on in to one of our stores and talk to our helpful staff about it. Maybe bring in some of your old knives and get them sharpened for free. Just prepare to be amazed.

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