Sharpening Stories - Beginner Steps
Japanese Knife use is very popular, and once you get hooked you'r in for a long winding educational ride. First of all my name is Arturo chef owner of Peko Peko Food Truck in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We prepare Japanese cuisine, specializing in Ramen. Since our first day with the truck we've developed skills unknown to us before, but necessary to run a successful business. Refrigeration, electricity, plumbing, automotive mechanics, truck driving, human resources, accounting, inventory, cost management, food cost balancing, marketing, social media, video editing,...sharpening knifes.
Sharpening knifes requires intention from the user. This skillset is a necessity to successfully achieve some basic tasks in the kitchen like chopping garlic, butterflying chicken breast, thinly slicing scallions, cubing tuna, cutting carrot batons, thin slicing chachu, etc.
In my experience, sharpening skills are under rated greatly, as i've witnessed dull knifes being used in professional kitchens every day. The blame falls on lack of education and getting used to dull knifes. Some kitchens use "place and pull" sharpeners and some use honing rods, this last two aren't sharpening. The "place and pull" sharpener is in my opinion a blade damaging contraption, that damages inevitably the edge. On the other hand honing rods are great, and NOT a sharpening tool. Honing rods, straighten the edge, and do help a lot, but do not substitute the sharpening steps.
Sharpening is a skill very well documented and it must be dormant in our human blood, since this is ancestral knowledge. Thus sharpening is very much attainable for any human with the intention of achieving a sharp edge. There is no one road for developing this skill, and your most likely road is that of needing to cut something properly. That was my road, buying a chef knife pack at a big box store. This come out of the pack very sharp and you don't really notice them gradually turning dull. Until you try cut thick fat, and cant fillet correctly without hacking the meat piece.
I figured this was skill I needed to accomplish my job, a skill I now love and respect. Went to "La Plaza de Rio Piedras" (Produce Market), and got myself a cheap combo wet stone. For a beginner this is the best route definitively and can be easily found at any Chinese Store. I will suggest for this step, to buy a new stone, as you'll learn in the future that blade sharpening will affect the stones. As you sharpen, the stone changes profile and requires flattening. But for the beginning youll probably not need this for quite a while. Find a basic video, get a new stone, and use cheap kitchen knife.
Overall and as a very general guide, you want to sharpen every side until you can fill a "burr" form on the opposite side of the sharpened edge. This will take you some time to understand and dominate, hang on and keep you knifes sharp. There's a lot more to learn plz come back as i add more to this topic on the next post.
On our next post we will discuss a bit more about specifics on sharpening Japanese Knifes. This blog will help me present to you some food topics i love.