One of the first things I teach new apprentice's is how to sharpen a knife. I use only three things, a whetstone, water and a steel, and in the case of Damascus steel, a little mineral oil to prevent rusting. There are multiple archived blogs discussing other knife quality factors and handling as well.
There’s room to disagree about the essential cooking tools needed to prepare food at home, but there’s no question that owning at least one good chef knife kit is fundamental. But how good is your good knife if it’s dull? We’ve tried hundreds of varying styles and price points to help any home cook make informed purchases — but once you possess the perfect knife, how do you care for it?
Every few months, you'll notice that your chef's knife has a harder time yielding perfectly thin slices and precise dices. You might even find your knife work is slipping—literally. And aside from being annoying to cut with, a dull knife can be seriously dangerous. To keep your fingers (and your dinner) in good shape, you'll want to learn how sharpen a kitchen knife by using a whetstone or a sharpener, and maintain that edge by honing it with a steel rod.
Our favourite way to sharpen a blade is to use a whetstone—a rectangular block that works almost like sandpaper, helping to straighten and refine the cutting edge on the blade as you slide the knife across it. Most whetstones are designed to be soaked in water before every use, so check the manufacturer's instructions to be sure. (Fun fact: Whetstones aren't actually named for the fact that most are used wet—"whet" is actually just an old word for "sharpen").
If your whetstone needs to be soaked, submerge it in water until it's completely saturated and there are no bubbles coming out of it, 5 to10 minutes. To use it, hold the knife at a 20-degree angle against the whetstone, and gently drag each side of the knife against it a few times. Most whetstones have both a "coarse-grind side" and a "fine-grind side"—start with the coarse side if your knife is especially dull, then repeat the process on the fine-grind side.
If you already sharpen your knife yearly and hone it regularly, you can go straight to the fine-grind side. If the whetstone seems to be drying out as you use it, just rub some more water on it and continue on.
Now that you've sharpened your knife, use a honing steel weekly to keep the knife's edge perfectly straight (don't worry about damaging your blade with frequent honing—the process doesn't wear down your knife like sharpening does).
Instead of making a show of holding the steel in the air and dramatically sliding the knife against it, hold a honing steel vertically, with the tip resting on a work surface and the handle gripped firmly in one hand. Press the bottom of the knife’s blade (the thickest part) against the honing steel and, working at a 15-20 degree angle, pull the knife down and towards you. Follow through to the tip of the blade. Keeping the knife in the same hand, repeat the motion on the other side of the steel, reversing the angle of the blade against the honing steel.
That's all folks, happy hump day. Catch you on the rebound!