So I say to the customer ‘Great – you’re happy with knives then. How do you sharpen them?’ and the customer says ‘I don’t!’. ‘How long have you had them?’, I ask. To which the customer replies ‘Oh, about 2 years’. If I had 1p for every time I had this conversation, I would have about £1.27 by now.

The tricksy thing about knives going off the boil is it happens so gradually. There is no definite point that says ‘Get a sharpener! Now!’. Instead, something that thrilled with how easy it glided through unsuspecting vegetables is often neglected and left to disappoint, then frustrate.

My acid test of whether your knives need a sharpen is the following 'tomato test'. Slice a tomato in half and place it dome side up. Your knife should glide through. If it does, it’ll cope with anything your repertoire will throw at it. If it bumps, it needs sharpening.

These are the three sensible ways to sharpen a knife.

  Sharpening Steel Season London

Sharpening Steel

These are what you see chef’s waving around and showing off with on TV. A steel technically doesn’t sharpen a knife, but hones it, which often amounts to the same thing. Basically, as you use a knife, the very fine, neat edge gets knocked out of shape. A steel will straighten the very tip of the knife out again, bringing its cutting ability back to normal. As it takes pretty much no steel from the blade away, a steel should be used often; many chefs use it before each service.

If you have a high quality knife with hard steel (such as a Wusthof), most of the time when it needs a sharpen, chances are the edge just needs re-setting with a steel.

Highs

  • They’ll maintain a perfect edge on your knife when used properly, so your knife always performs as it does the day you bought it.

Lows

  • You have to get the angle of application correct in order to bring your knife back to peak performance.
  • The right tool for maintaining a sharp knife, but it won’t sharpen a blunt knife.

 

 Whetstone season london

 Whetstone

A whetstone is a flat stone with a fine grain. It’s not rocket science to use – you move the blade backward and forward over the stone until it becomes sharp – but you’ll need to get the angle right.

Highs

  • Unlike a steel, a whetstone will sharpen a blunt knife to perfection when used correctly.
  • A whetstone is the only way to straighten out the edge of the blade if you damage it.
  • You usually have to soak a whetstone first before using. I tend to notice my knives are blunt halfway through cooking, and want a quicker solution.

Lows

  • You usually have to soak a whetstone first before using. I tend to notice my knives are blunt halfway through cooking, and want a quicker solution.

pull through season london 

Pull through

The easiest way to sharpen a knife.

Highs

  • Quick – grab the pull through when your knife needs a sharpen, slide the blade in and out five times or so and you’re done.
  • No angle to worry about – it’s set for you. You just need to make sure you have the correct one for your knife – it’ll be set to an Asian or European angle.
  • Technically, it won’t get the knife as sharp as a whetstone. A good one will get your knife pretty damn sharp though – plenty good enough to pass The Tomato Test.
  • Like knives, not all pull throughs were created equal. Use a poor quality one and it will damage your knife.

Lows

  • Technically, it won’t get the knife as sharp as a whetstone. A good one will get your knife pretty damn sharp though – plenty good enough to pass The Tomato Test.
  • Like knives, not all pull throughs were created equal. Use a poor quality one and it will damage your knife.

If you come into see us or drop us a line, we will advise you on the perfect sharpener for your knives and you. If you can’t be doing with all that sharpening malarkey, all of our stores have big industrial sharpeners and will sharpen them to perfection for you. However you sharpen your knives, do sharpen them; the point (hohooo!) is, a well looked after knife will make cooking a more joyous experience.