Do You Sharpen Your Knives?

How often do you sharpen your knives?  Do you sharpen them at all?  I’m guessing you probably pay attention to your equipment, so chances are good you don’t let your knives go dull.  That’s great, but do you grind them until they’re dull before sharpening, or do you hone them every day?

When we first became serious about cooking, we purchased a set of quality knives.  We shopped around and brought home a set of Henckels “Professional S” seven piece block set, which included the 8″ chef’s knife, 8″ carving knife, the 3″ paring knife, a 5″ serrated utility knife and the obligatory sharpening steel.  The difference between these gleaming instruments and the old serrated kitchen knife we’d been using was amazing.  We really felt like we were creating at a higher level, although we’re probably just lucky we still have all our fingers.  Those new blades were sharp!  For a while, anyway.  Eventually they dulled, and I was forced to learn to use the sharpening steel to bring them back.  Hey, I watch the Food Network, and that’s what all the great chefs seemed to do, right?  I had some success, but that was short-lived.

I found out later that the sharpening steel you receive with one of these sets can, after much use, lose its ability to sharpen the blade.  So, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t keep an edge.  And because I found it difficult and frustrating to hone those knives using the sharpening steel, I began to do it less and less often.  Cutting, chopping and carving began to be a chore, and forget about those thin slices of tomato that taste so great with shaved mozzarella!

About this time, I received an amazing Christmas present from my wife.  I was very surprised to find the Chef’s Choice Diamond Hone 300 knife sharpener under my Christmas tree.  Hallelujah!  This two-stage sharpener is reasonably affordable, and it puts a terrific edge on all of our kitchen knives, usually in about 30 seconds per knife.  There is no setup beyond plugging it in, and now we have extremely sharp cutting tools whenever we’re in the mood to create in the kitchen.

I don’t sharpen knives every day, but I’m pretty good about pulling out that blade sharpener at a moment’s notice when the work begins to become difficult.  It’s been a great tool to have, and if you don’t have one I greatly encourage you to give it a thought.  Certainly, I enjoy having a sharpening steel in my kitchen, but I’ll only use it for a theatrical flourish to impress our guests.  I’ll be using my electric sharpener to really keep my cutting tools in perfect condition!

The War of the Grills

The choice between charcoal and gas grilling is the subject of an almost endless succession of arguments, most of which begin reasonably, at low volume.  Like most religious discussions, most of them grow in fervor and intensity, until voices are strained and others in the area slink carefully away to safety.

There isn’t much middle ground in this battle, and I won’t pretend that I could convert you here.  Each method has its own benefits, and if I had the means I’d honestly go with both.  The scent of burning charcoal mesmerizes me, and the sight of a charcoal haze in the air takes me back to the ballgames and town picnics of my youth.  Once upon a time I was a diehard aficionado of those burning coals, and gas grilling was a lesser art, one to be talked about with a wry smile and just a hint of condescension in one’s voice.

It’s probably obvious from the last paragraph, but I’m now the proud owner of a sleek, black 30,000 btu gas grill, with a tool holder rack and optional side burner for warming sauces.  (Disclaimer: That burner is cool, but it really never gets used.  Still…)  I still love the taste and texture of honest, charcoal-grilled meat, but I’ve also come to appreciate the immediacy and flexibility that comes installed with a gas grill.  Living, as I do, in the upper Midwest, I’ve grown to enjoy my ability to grill food any time of the year, even on those days when I must shovel my way to the grill.  Could I do the same with charcoal?  Absolutely.  But would I make that effort?  Perhaps, but probably not as often.  If I lived in the south the choice might be different, with different determining factors.  I’ve chosen gas, simply because I’m sure I’ll be out there regardless of the season, making and enjoying that sensational grilled food.