Why Sharp Knives Make a Difference: The Importance of Keeping Your Kitchen Knives Sharp

Posted by Tara Hohenberger on

Having a sharp knife in the kitchen is crucial. Not only does it make food preparation more efficient and precise, but it also enhances safety. A sharp knife cleanly cuts through ingredients, preserving their quality and appearance, which is particularly important for delicate items like herbs and vegetables.

A knife’s purpose is to cut ingredients so that you can incorporate the right shapes and sizes for your dishes.  Although it’s difficult to tell just by looking at it, a dull knife edge can lead to trouble.  Here we explain four of the main reasons why it’s important to use a sharp knife in the kitchen.

Safety

Sharp knives are safer to use. When executing different cuts, a well-maintained blade will behave more predictably.  When the knife moves where you point it with ease, there is less chance to lose control and injure yourself.  Sharp knives also cut with less need to apply pressure.  Forcing a knife, when it won’t cut with ease, can cause the knife to skid or slip, which can cut you or something around you.

Efficiency

Attempting to slice vegetables, meat and other ingredients with a dull knife can be an ordeal.  You might find yourself needing to struggle with repeated sawing motions, rather than swiftly moving through in single, complete cuts.  The more you struggle, the more time it takes to process ingredients when preparing food.  A sharp knife lets you work efficiently and in turn makes cooking a more enjoyable experience.

Making Precise Cuts

A sharp knife can make it easier to control the knife when making all the cuts a professional chef or home cook needs to make.

The various densities of different ingredients is one reason why an onion or a carrot may require different cooking times.  By adjusting the size and shape of and ingredient you are cutting, you can control how quickly it will cook and that the results are in harmony with the other ingredients in a dish.  Uniform, precise cuts also create more attractive final dishes.  Whether you are making basic cuts or using essential culinary cuts, a sharp knife is essential. 

Improved Presentation

The last point in discussing the importance of using a sharp knife in the kitchen is that it improves food presentation. Unlike the rough hacking you may have to do with a dull knife, the cuts you produce with a sharp knife will be clean. Combine a sharp blade with a bit of practice and technique and you will produce clean, uniform cuts that make your dishes cook evenly and look beautiful on the plate.  When striving for perfectly diced vegetables, slices of fish and proteins, or portions of fruit, a sharp knife will support your every endeavor.

Knife Sharpening Tools

Sharp knives contribute to safety and efficiency in the kitchen. Whether you are sharpening single-edged or double-bevel knives, a little practice and attention to maintenance goes a long way.  Every knife will need to be sharpened eventually, check out our sharpening guide for tips and tricks on how to keep Japanese knives in the best condition.  

 

Whetstone

Whetstones are the single best tool to keep Japanese knives sharp.

There are several types of sharpening stone, from natural, to synthetic..  Natural stones (JNAT) are quarried in Japan. The stones are cut from sedimentary rocks using a diamond saw. Because of their unique composition (fine silicate particles within a sedimentary clay like material) natural stones are unable to be assigned a grit number. Japanese water stones are much softer compared to synthetic sharpening stones. 

Synthetic stones are made by suspending abrasive particles in a binder material, usually ceramic like silicon carbide or aluminum oxide. The ceramic is fast cutting leaving the abrasive compounds to recreate the knife’s edge.  Repeated use will create a divot, so it’s important to use a flattening stone to maintain a level surface for sharpening your knives.


Whetstones come in a variety of grits with the lower number being the most rough and becoming smoother the higher the grit number.  It is important to learn how to use them properly to remove just the right amount of steel from the blade’s edge.

Honing Steel

Honing is different from sharpening.  Sharpening removes steel to create a new edge, whereas honing only serves to realign a blade’s edge.  Harder steels are less receptive to honing and may cause chips.  For this reason, we don’t recommend using honing steels on high quality Japanese knives. 

Pull-Through Sharpeners

Whatever you do, do not use a pull-through sharpener on a high quality Japanese knife.  Although they might seem user friendly, a pull through sharpener can destroy the blade angle and take off a lot of steel, which can dramatically shorten the lifespan of your knife.  

Whether Manual or Electric, avoid pull-through sharpeners on any high quality kitchen knife.

 

Professional Knife Sharpening

If you can find a skilled professional knife sharpener, it can be a great resource for keeping your knives sharp.  When taking your Japanese knives to be sharpened, make sure the person has experience with many different steel types and is familiar with the blade angles.  Ask what kind of waterstones or grinding wheels they use.  Recommendations and references can be useful when choosing a sharpener. 

The cons of professional knife sharpening are that it can be expensive and might take some time, particularly if you have to ship your knives a far distance. 

FAQ

Where should you store a knife to keep it sharp?

Wooden blade covers known as sayas are the ideal shealth to protect your blades.  Wall mounted storage, knife racks and  knife bags are also good options.  Read more on how to store knives.

How often should you sharpen kitchen knives?

As a general rule, you should sharpen your knives when they are dull.  If you notice a decrease in cutting performance, it’s probably time to sharpen your knives.  How quickly this occurs depends a great deal on what kind of steel your blade is made from, what you are cutting, how often you use the knife and what cutting board you use.

What does it mean to hone a knife?

Honing realigns the very edge of the blade.  It doesn’t remove steel, just pushes the edge back into alignment.

What is the best way to sharpen kitchen knives at home?

The best way to sharpen knives at home is to use a whetstone.  Check out our guide to sharpening a knife with a whetstone.

How does a knife become dull?

The impact of repeatedly striking a cutting board as well as the friction from dragging a blade through the ingredients you chop over time blunts the cutting surface of a blade. 

If you are looking for razor sharp kitchen knives straight out of the box, visit Chubo Knives today. Our online Japanese knife store provides customers with the best handcrafted knives produced by the best artisans in Japan. Chubo Knives have excellent edge retention and respond well to sharpening stones.

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