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How to sharpen your kitchen knives.
Get a good knife
Keep your knives sharp
One of the biggest differences between professional chefs and home cooks are the state of their knives.
Too many people have kitchens overrun with every useless gadget ever contrived, but when it comes to the one thing that can really make a difference (the chef's knife) they endure the shoddy cutting of cheap and hard to use knives. If you only buy one quality item in your kitchen it should be a good chef's knife. You can go with the old German names, and knives by Wustoff or Henkel's are pretty good, or you can go with some of the new and lighter weight Japanese models, but get a knife that feels good in your hand, and enjoy a lifetime of better cooking. It will be the best $100 you ever spend!
But I digress… I actually want to talk about keeping your knives sharp. Too many home cooks suffer with inefficient cutting and dangerously dull knives. Dull knives require a heavy hand with the blade, and it's easy to slip up and cut yourself badly. Keeping your blade razor sharp doesn’t sound safer, but it really is; and with a sharp knife you can operate with gentle precision, and get the job done much faster.
To sharpen your knives all you really need is a $2 Boy Scout whetstone, easily available from any outdoor shop and most hardware stores. A whetstone is about 6 inches long by two inches wide, and has one rougher and one smoother surface.
To sharpen your knife, run the stone under water (hence the name) and then holding the knife at about a 20% angle, exert steady pressure and push the knife back and forth down the length of the stone. You want to make sure you get the whole length of the blade sharp, so as you move the knife back and forth, also slide/grind it along the length of the blade. Do this for about a minute, and then switch hands and do the opposite side of the knife for another minute.
As an analogy, imagine you are using your knife to try to shave down the whetstone as you sharpen it; holding your knife at a low angle, and scraping it up and back down the stone.
Repeat the process with the smoother side of the whetstone for a finer cutting edge.
Repeat this whenever you notice that your knife doesn't slice through a ripe and juicy tomato effortlessly, and you will always have great honed knives at the ready.