Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Sharp Knife is a Beautiful Thing

Most chefs are so used to having really sharp knives that when an edge gets a bit dull, it is a constant source of irritation. It slows us down, primarily, but it is also not nearly as safe. A sharp knife performs the necessary task; a dull knife does everything but and can wind up cutting you pretty badly.

We spend a good bit of time every day tuning up the edges of our knives on a steel. I have two steels, a big heavy diamond steel for serious blade work and a very slick lightweight steel for polishing and truing blades. Still, a steel does not a blade sharpen; it merely realigns and straightens the edge. And if you're not working with a good edge to begin with, you wind up steeling your knife very frequently.

A professional knife needs to go on the whetstone or polishing wheel with some regularity, at least twice a year if not much more frequently to rebuild the edge. After that, realigning the blade with a steel will keep it in tune until the next date with the stone.

Living out here seemingly in the middle of nowhere, we do not have access to all the things that big city chefs do, such as knife sharpening services. On the flip side, we're a lot closer to fresh produce than they are. So, it's been a long, long time since I've really had my knives sharpened.

Yes, I have beautiful Japanese waterstones in many grits in my workshop for accomplishing the task, but what I don't have is the time. And without regular practice sharpening knives, it becomes a tough task to do well.

So I was delighted when a guy came into the restaurant yesterday afternoon asking if we needed any knives sharpened. Yes, this happens regularly in big cities, but never here in Winchester.

After washing the blades post sharpening, I tucked into a side of snapper with my fish knife. What a difference! It reminded me that a sharp knife is indeed a beautiful thing.

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