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You’re in the kitchen preparing fresh vegetables to toss with a salad. You pull out your trusty chef’s knife, line it up to cut a bell pepper, start the slicing motion and the knife slips. Now you’re left with a mangled piece of pepper and a slight nick in your finger.

All of that could have been prevented had the knife been properly sharpened.

“You should be able to glide the blade across the edge of the food, and it should make its own way through without using a lot of force, ” said Willa Breese, owner of Kitchen Outfitters in Acton.  

Jonathan Henke, owner of Local Root and Didriks , based in Belmont, said many people don’t realize their kitchen knives are dull and, therefore , don’t bother getting them sharpened.

“You can get through a lot of stuff with a dull knife, ” he said. “And it’s an eye opener once you do get your knives sharpened. ”

While recommendations on when to get kitchen knives sharpened depend on how often they’re used,   how they’re cared for, and what  type of cutting surface they’re used on,   culinary experts agree knives need sharpening on a regular basis.

“Most people do it on an as-needed basis, ” Henke said. “But I recommend modifying that practice and making it routine, every six months or every 12 months. … Or have all of them sharpened if you’re going on vacation – preferably not just before Thanksgiving. ”

Henke stated most places that offer maintenance services charge per blade, so it is not necessary to bring in an entire set of knives all at once.

“If you’ve never tried a sharpening service, just bring one knife inside at a time and see if you like it, ” he suggested.

The sharpening process

Tom Pannello, who operates  National Sharpening Co.   in North Andover, has been sharpening kitchen knives and a host of other items since 1993.

“When I get the knife, I’ll clean this and inspect it for damage, ” he mentioned. “If I need to, I rebuild the tip and repair any chips in the blade. ”

He then uses a water-cooled sharpener to create a strong and durable tapered advantage.

At  Local Root, the whetstone sharpening process begins with a 400-grit stone, which is used  to shape the edge of the blade and develop a burr along the edge of the knife.

Once the shape is set and there’s a burr along the full length of the knife, it’s transferred to the 1, 000-grit stone to refine the advantage and begin removing the burr. Then it’s on to the 5000-grit fine stone to give a beautiful sharp edge on the knife.

Each knife is finished on a leather stropping block, which removes the final remnants from the burr and gives a strong plus lasting edge.

Scott Zimmerman, who has been in the food service industry his whole life, decided to launch his Brookline-based blade sharpening service, A Cut Above , during the pandemic when he had some time off his regular job.

“I ended up getting a shout-out from Chef Michael Scelfo at Waypoint in Cambridge, ” he said. “And ever since, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in work. I sharpen anywhere between 300 and 400 items per week. ”

Zimmerman uses a series of synthetic and natural whetstones to sharpen cutlery blades.

“For knives that are not chipped and in good condition, it usually takes about 20 minutes per knife, ” he said. “It takes longer than it would take someone using a grinding wheel or belt sander. ”

The cost for sharpening cutlery depends on  the length of the particular blade, the type of sharpening process used, as well as any additional repairs that may be  needed. Keep in mind, some places do not sharpen serrated knives.

When do knives need sharpening?

It’s not always easy to tell when kitchen knives are getting dull. Those who don’t use their knives every single day may not notice they are applying more pressure to get through food items.

“If you can’t slice a tomato or you’re struggling to cut a pepper, it’s time to get your knife sharpened, ” Zimmerman said. “The perfect litmus test is slicing the tomato. ”

In addition , dull knife blades typically require  more pressure to cut, which increases the likelihood that the knife may slip due to the increased force behind it and cause an injury.

No matter what, kitchen knife cutting blades will need to be sharpened on a consistent basis to maintain their effectiveness.  

However , there are things folks can do to keep them sharper longer.

  • Do not put kitchen knives in the dishwasher
  • Wash and dry kitchen area knives immediately after using; do not let them sit on the counter or in the sink wet
  • Upgrade to a wood cutting board if you don’t already use one
  • Hone your cutlery after each use utilizing a ceramic honing rod
  • Don’t cut frozen foods, bones, shells or even seeds
  • Store knives properly, preferably in sheaths or along a magnetic strip on the wall (not in a drawer with the blades clanging together)

“I usually ask everyone how they store their knives, ” Pannello said. “The better you take care of them, the longer they’ll stay sharp. ”

Kitchen knife recommendations

In addition to making food preparation easier, maintenance knife blades regularly also makes it safer, as does having knives that fit your hand and are comfortable to use.

Calling them the most important tool in the kitchen, Breese encourages people to buy their knives in person so they can get a feel for them.  

“You know when you hold it if it’s a good match, ” she said. “Talk to someone who’s knowledgeable about knives. … And don’t buy knives from non-knife companies. The place where it’s through does matter, especially when it comes to the quality of the steel. ”

Henke also tells individuals to only buy the knives they need, as many sets contain a bunch of other knives that are not needed or will never be used.

“And there’s no need for them to be matching, ” he added.

Breese agreed.

“You only need about three or four knives, ” she said.

And those knife brands that are marketed as never needing to be sharpened? There’s no such thing.

“There are knives out there that are micro-serrated and claim to never need sharpening, ” Zimmerman said. “That usually means they can’t be sharpened, at least not back to their original form. ”

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