kitchen skills: sharpening knives gives me the chills.
How ironic, how absolutely hilarious yet awkward: my little peeve of knife sharpening. Here I am, front and center, a new culinary student and one of my personal fingernails-on-the-chalkboard [sends chills down my spine] is the noise of knives sharpening. Ask my parents, they will tell you. As a little girl if ever the knives were scraped against steel, I would clamp my ears shut as quick as a mouse grabs cheese (and likely scamper out of the room).
So you can imagine my secret concern, my fear of the time when knife skills rocked my world and every peer near my shoulder would be obsessed with sharpening, honing and otherwise scraping their knives at every opportunity. In the least, it showed they were serious about their agenda in the kitchen. Like giving a permit-driver a race-car; a new culinary student, just learning to wield his or her sword, is a sharpening fiend.
I have been in school for 8 weeks and still have not sharpened my knives. Eh, don't cringe, I haven't been using them yet. I am still in the lecture class and baking, remember? But I HAVE noticed how insanely dull my knives at home are (small glitch---! still haven't figured out how to clamp my ears closed while sharpening my knives), and it is beginning to annoy me.
Ha, so when the dullness annoys me more than my loathing of scraping sounds, then I will sharpen my knives. And that is my plan. And guess what finally pushed its way to the top of my list of things to do? Sharpen my knives. I think it was reading Anthony Bourdain go on and on about knives in his book, Kitchen Confidential (refer to page 76 if you are so inclined). My favorite is when he rants on about garlic... but that is another story for another time.
Here is what you need to know: the 'knife sharpener' that comes with your knife set (the long steel rod with a handle) is actually a knife honer. Eh? It keeps your knife at the ready and straight in between sharpenings. It doesn't actually sharpen your knives---it simply maintains your sharpening efforts. Which means, if that is all you have ever used, your knives aren't sharp (though to be sure, they are well honed). So when I recently bought my knife sharpening stone, the manual provided instructions '... or for previously improperly sharpened edges'---how kind. I had no idea political correctness went so far as to not offend those of us with 'knife sharpening avoidance syndrome.'
You actually need a stone to sharpen your knives: a whet stone (pronounced 'wet') or sharpening stone of some kind. Usually they come in coarse, medium and fine stones. Coarse are for those sad, pathetic knives that are beyond dull, with nicks or damage. Usually you just use the medium and fine-tune with the fine stone. Then, you hone it a lot in between. You don't sharpen it each time you use it (you would wear down your knife, especially if you are an over-zealous knife sharpener... probably another syndrome of another kind...). Instead, you sharpen it periodically then hone it in the meantime to keep it sharp and straight longer. Got it? I do:
Because today, my friends, was no small feat: I sharpened 7 knives, without even cringing... no doubt, the chef hat helped.