Many people have heard that one of the best ways to up your cooking game and get more beautiful food is by using a very sharp knife. And this is true. A sharp knife will keep your food intact and make prepping a breeze. But while a sharp knife will help you cook and cut more easily, it's not so easy to sharpen them.
Let's face it, steel rods can be intimidating and while some may even accomplish getting that perfect edge, it's not long before it becomes dull and loses that sharpness. You are then faced with the same dilemma and have to go through all of that again. So, how do you do it?
1. Make sure you actually sharpen the knife
First, a quick word about steel rods. While these rods will align a knife's blade, they won't actually sharpen it. This means that a steel rod can help keep a blade sharp but it won't actually sharpen it itself. Steel rods are actually meant to be used just before and after cooking, not when the blade is so dull it won't cut anything.
When using a steel rod, you need to visualize a 90 degree angle coming from the rod; this will help you know where to place the blade. The angle is actually at the corner between the blade and the imaginary line you've drawn and the blade should be in that right angle. Then just pull the handle of the knife towards you, drawing it against the steel as you do. This will ensure that you're not only aligning the blade, you're aligning it properly. Holding it at any other angle will actually throw the blade out of whack and hurt your chances of sharpening it properly the next time.
2. Choose your sharpening method
There are many tools that will help you sharpen a knife easily. You can use a stone or a wedge that comes with many knife sets. When using these you still need to make sure you hold the knife at a 90 degree angle and still pull the knife handle towards you against whatever device you're using.
Even with these two basic options you'll still have many options such as using the stone wet or dry, and using a wedge that will nicely fit the blade. Be sure whatever method you're using you read any instructions that come with it, both for its use and its maintenance and storage. All of these things will matter when it comes to how well they'll sharpen your knives, so pay close attention to them.
3. Use things in your cupboard
There are a couple of tricks you can do to sharpen your knives without using a stone, wedge or rod. If you cook a lot and are going to need to sharpen your knives a lot, you'll still want to invest in one of these tools, but if you really need to carve a turkey right now or cut through a tomato for a salad, there are a couple things to try until you head out and purchase your knife-sharpener.
One of the oldest tricks in the book is to cut through a piece of aluminum foil. Aluminum foil is made of just that - aluminum - which is a stronger material than a knife's blade. Fold a piece of foil up a couple of times and just use the knife to slice through it. Test the sharpness by cutting a piece of paper. If it makes a clean cut, the aluminum has done the job.
Another trick is to take a ceramic mug and turn it upside down. There will be a rim along the bottom and if that rim is unfinished, you can use it to sharpen your knife. Again, hold it so the blade is within the 90 degree angle and quickly pull the blade along the rim. Turn the knife over and do it again on the other side and you'll have a beautifully sharp knife.
4. Don't put knives in the dishwasher
Once you've gotten all your knives to the sharpness you want them, you'll want to keep that sharp edge for as long as possible, which is one reason why the blade should be aligned before and after use. But another way to keep the edge of a blade sharp is to treat them with care. Knives should never be placed into a dishwasher, as other dishes can knock against them and the harsh chemicals could actually dull the blade. Plus, the prolonged exposure to water could rust the blade, which means you'll have to throw it out anyway.
Instead, wash your knives with some warm water and dish soap in the sink and then dry them well before putting them away. This will keep the blades sharp and extend the life of your knives.