Plowing through all of that Turkey Day prep probably leaves you with sore hands and a sense that maybe, just maybe, those knives you've had for years could use a good sharpening. While I'm sure a good portion of cooks have invested in a nice set of knives, the average set of home knives, while awe-inspiring in its multitude of different blades and sizes, don't hold and edge and simply can't cut it anymore. Without rushing out and buying a hugely expensive new set, here are a few tips and tricks of the trade to achieve and maintain a cutting edge worthy of your hard work.
That long metal rod in the middle of your block isn't for chasing away grazers from the kitchen, it's a honing rod, and it's a good idea to use it before every cutting session. Don't confuse honing with sharpening, a honing rod simply eliminates slight imperfections in the cutting edge and keeps the blade of your knife balanced and straight.
Cooking Enthusiast has a great illustrated guide to proper technique.
Similar in look to a honing rod, the diamond steel (easy to find at restaurant supply stores or on the internet) can provide quick sharpening and is a very handy and useful tool to have on your side. Use the same technique as you would with a honing rod, but don't get over zealous, diamond steels can be harmful to a blade if overused.
Nothing, of course, can be more beneficial and produce better results than sharpening. While sharpening can be done for yourself, I would recommend locating a local business that provides the service for you, and sometimes they'll even come to you. Also, several knife companies offer lifetime sharpening for your knives, all it costs you is shipping. Relatively inexpensive and not particularly time consuming, your knives and your hand will thank you.
The Newspaper Trick:
After a quick honing and before you get started cutting away, nothing kicks your edge into gear like this little gem. As you use a knife, and especially when you hone/steel the blade, tiny little metal particles collect along the edge and get in the way of that razor sharp edge. Much like a barber runs his blade over a leather strap, a slightly moist piece of newspaper can provide similar results for your cutlery.
Place one sheet of slightly moistened newspaper on a flat surface (cutting board preferably.)
Hold your knife with the blade against the newspaper, and pull along the length of the blade, keeping it in contact with the paper.
Flip the knife and repeat.
A couple of passes should do, and it will leave your blade particle free and ready to slice and dice.
Storage and Handling:
The above tips can keep your cutlery sharp and straight, but most knife damage and wear results from improper storage and handling.
-Always store your knives in a block, magnetic wall strip or in some kind of protective sheath.
-Never use knives on surfaces like glass, metal, or tile. Wood and food plastics are best.
-Always wash and dry knives after each use. Hot water promotes quicker drying.
While knife care can be intimidating, utilize these tips and tricks to extend the life and usefulness of your knife, and make your cooking much more painless. More cuts result from dull knives, so keep those edges sharp and treat your knives with the respect they deserve. Your food will thank you.