You won’t have seen much on The Grind about knife sharpeners and knife sharpening for a little while, and we thought we’d covered most of it in previous articles, but – lo and behold – a few recent articles on the web have shown us that there’s still a lot of differing advice out there for people who actually want to keep their knives sharp.
A while back we penned a response to this article on Lifehacker, which recommended that its readers always sharpen their knives on a whetstone. We think whetstones are great (and we sell some), the only problem is that it takes a fair amount of expertise and quite a lot of time to sharpen a blade properly on a whetstone. And if you get it wrong you can stuff up your knife. It’s not what we’d recommend as the main way to sharpen your kitchen or professional grade knives, unless you’re willing to learn how to do it and have plenty of time on your hands.
This is where a good electric knife sharpener (like the Nirey) really shines – it maintains the angle of the blade and takes off the minimum amount of metal to return it to perfect sharpness. Any less and the knife isn’t sharp, and any more and you risk shortening the life of the blade. Plus the blade is sharp in a jiffy.
So when we read a recent piece on Lifehacker ‘In Defence of Pull-Through Knife Sharpeners’, it was hard to resist having a read. Written by a professional chef, he (or she – we don’t know) admits to not having the time to learn how to ‘hone’ a blade, but only has one set of knives so can’t leave them somewhere to be sharpened – they’re needed on a daily basis. The writer’s preferred sharpener of choice is – shock, horror! – a pull-through knife sharpener.
He/she also admits this isn’t a popular choice with ‘knife snobs’, who – rightly – point out that the pull-through will shorten the knife lifespan. He also says that ‘it’s almost impossible to truly ruin a knife’, a statement we’d have to humbly disagree with (see above).
But don’t take our word for it. Chef Moon Kyung Soo, senior executive chef at Kisume in Melbourne, and previously at Michelin star Singapore restaurant Mikuni, interviewed recently by Broadsheet Melbourne, says you can instantly improve your cooking skills simply by using sharp knives.
And his number one piece of advice? Buy an electric sharpener. His second choice – a honing steel*. And finally – in a real emergency – he advises using the bottom of a ceramic mug**. He doesn’t suggest a pull-through sharpener.
If you’re a jobbing chef in Sydney you do in fact have yet another option – get your knives sharpened by the motorcycling knife sharpener.
Ex preschool teacher Vicky Loomans learned how to ride a motorbike and how to sharpen knives when she grew up on a farm in New Zealand. Now she has a motorbike equipped with a knife sharpening wheel and spends her time zipping around all the top restaurants in Sydney. Now there’s a different job.
*we sell these too
**we don’t sell these