a girl needs a knife… and i've got mine

by Stacy

A sharp knife cuts the quickest and hurts the least.~ Katharine Hepburn

How often do you sharpen your knives?

A while back I was hanging out with a friend as it was approaching dinnertime. She had a ton of CSA veggies at home, so we headed back to her place, and had the boys meet us there. With an abundance of produce and four hungry adults, we figured stir-fry would be a simple solution. I volunteered to help chop, the most time-consuming part of making stir-fry. Armed with a cutting board and a knife, I started cutting.

“Um. Hmm. Do you have a sharp knife?”
“That is our sharp knife.”
“Oh. Er. Huh. Is this even made of metal?”

With the constant stream of vegetables coming through our door, I spend a decent amount of time at the cutting board. A few months ago, it was even more time — because my knives were dull. A knife is not a crowbar; the blade should be able to slice food without pressure. My knives weren’t as bad as the one in my friend’s kitchen, but it was not going to cut a tomato anytime soon.

Some grocery stores offer free knife sharpening at their butcher counter. Here in California, I had not found such a service. Lucky for me, I have a certain fantastic friend who works at a restaurant and found a wonderful resource which she oh-so-generously shared with me.

sharpening a knife

Ronnie highly recommends buying high-quality Japanese knives. In addition to a good quality knife, however, that knife needs to be sharpened.

We have Wusthof knives that we got as wedding gifts which are not as good as the Japanese knives I linked to, but they’re in my kitchen and it’s what I’ve got. The bad news about Wusthof knives is that my chef’s knife has a full bolster (here’s an illustration for you) which makes it really hard to sharpen if you’re not experienced. Ronnie’s advice to buy awesome knife-sharpening stones might not do the trick.

But wait!

Jon Broida, the owner of Japanese Knife Imports, was coming to San Diego for the day. He dropped by with his own knife-sharpening equipment, taught us how to sharpen, and ground down the bolster on my knife for me so I can continue sharpening on my own.

sharpening a knife

A personalized 2-hour knife sharpening class in my own kitchen. How awesome is that?

He’s based in L.A. but currently in Japan for 3 months meeting knife and stone makers and looking for new products. Ronnie uses the knives from his shop in the restaurant kitchen daily, learned how to sharpen from him, and now regularly sharpens the knives of the other chefs in the kitchen because she does it better.

The initial outlay for sharpening supplies isn’t huge, and paying someone else to sharpen your knives adds up. Of course, it helps when the aforementioned friend sends you a sharpening stone for your birthday, too.

sharp knives

It’s so much faster and more fun to chop veggies with a nice sharp knife! My husband even volunteered to help prep dinner to test out the edge on the knife.

With the holidays coming up, the chef in your house (especially if it’s you!) would benefit from sharp knives, whether that means a new knife that holds a better edge, a sharpening stone, or just a trip to get the knives sharpened professionally.

Just so you know, I don’t get any freebies or benefits for posting this. Jon charges a very reasonable rate for sharpening classes, and I thought it was a great value. If someone loves me and wants to buy me a knife from his shop, however, let’s talk!

If so, stop by Japanese Knife Imports for some really amazing cutlery. Then tell me what you bought and send photos so I can be jealous.

When is the last time you sharpened your knives?

little blue henKeep up with Little Blue Hen: get updates via email, subscribe through an RSS feed, connect on Facebook, or say hello on Twitter.
Comments? I love feedback and suggestions! Leave them below or email me.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Bridget November 6, 2010 at 7:29 am

After trying to help my mother-in-law prepare food in her kitchen with what was essentially a butter knife, I bought her a decent knife and some plastic cutting boards for Christmas last year, so she would stop using her glass knife-destroying cutting boards. When I visited six months later, the glass cutting boards were still out and the knife I’d given her was dull dull dull! Sigh.


Stacy November 7, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Ooh, I feel you. We gave my in-laws our old knife set because, dull as it is, it’s still sharper than what they had. I also bought my mom a tomato knife for Christmas last year after a visit. The glass cutting boards win (or fail?), though. Ugh.


Mama Bean November 6, 2010 at 12:07 pm

I grew up with dull knives and never knew the difference, until I got married. My husband is a little fanatical about keeping our knives sharp. We have Japanese water stones in very high grit for sharpening his straight razor, but for the kitchen, he uses a GATCO knife sharpening set. The sets are 30-40$ which is cheaper than stones, and bolsters don’t get in the way. It’s still a learned skill to use them (one I have not learned) They are a good alternative to stone sharpening.


Stacy November 7, 2010 at 8:04 pm

The stones shown in the photos (and the one I received) are also Japanese water stones. Jon also recommended a good basic stone for home use that only runs about $20.


Jeff November 6, 2010 at 5:17 pm

The last time I sharpened my knives? Must be about a year ago now. My chef’s knife and paring knife could probably use another sharpening, since those are the two that I use the most.

I never knew that Lund’s will sharpen knives for free. I might have to take them up on that…


Stacy November 7, 2010 at 8:07 pm

It is definitely about time. Seriously, the difference was so amazing.
I’m not sure ALL locations do, but stop by the meat or fish counter and ask. I know the one in Northeast does for sure.


Kimberly November 6, 2010 at 8:31 pm

I have a set of knives from Target and a cheap 2-step sharpener from the same. I’m sure it’s not as good as the professional sharpening you got, but I do notice a difference when I sharpen my knives. Just in case anybody is looking for a cheaper alternative :)


Stacy November 7, 2010 at 8:10 pm

The problem with cheap knives is that they don’t hold an edge long after being sharpened because the metal is so soft. Even my (expensive) Wusthof knives are softer steel than Japanese knives.

I would look at it as an investment against spending money to eat out because you don’t want to cook since it’s such a laborious process using a dull knife. Just saying.


olivia November 7, 2010 at 3:03 pm

We also have wusthof knives and a wusthof sharpener (they were for shawn’s old knives). We absolutely need our knives to be sharp. We never knew the difference until we sharpened them correctly.


Stacy November 7, 2010 at 8:12 pm

I knew mine were dull (not a good sign at all), but forgot how wonderful it is when a knife is really sharp. That “hot knife through butter” sensation when cutting dense root vegetables and such is just lovely.


Colleen November 8, 2010 at 1:38 pm

My mom would have been so much more relaxed in the ’90s if she’d know if would be dull knives, and not teenage pregnancy, by which I brought shame to my family! You missed a HUGE “I told you so!” moment when you were on vacation. Matt was attempting to slice something when the knife slid right off and grazed me working next to him. Barely broke the skin, which should not be super surprising.


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Previous post:

Next post: