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Sharpening Advice for Beginner Home Cook

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

I am a beginner home cook that is starting to get more serious about cooking and I was hoping for some advice on sharpening setup and knife choices.  First, let me say that I my setup will not be getting used very heavily. I recently graduated college and my job requires me to work late, and thus order food to the office, with somewhat regularity. Therefore, in a typical week, I usually only cook about 3 times. That said, I enjoy cooking and really enjoy food so I am invested in developing better technique and like the idea of slowly building a nice kitchen.


After reading a bit of this forum I decided to go ahead and purchase a 10.5" MAC Pro chef's knife to serve as the building block of my new knife set. Today, I also ordered a Victronix Forschner Rosewood 10" bread knife and 3.25" paring knife to round off the basics. I do all my cutting on a large cherry end grain cutting board that my father made for me (he does woodworking as a hobby, as did I before I went to college).


Now that I have those basics setup, it’s time to start tackling the question of how I'm going to keep my new MAC knife sharp. I purchased a 12" ceramic rod but now I have started to browse around about what to do when my knife starts to get actually dull. I was considering the 8 piece sharpening set sold by chefs knives to go, but I am pretty skeptical if learning to freehand sharpen actually makes sense for someone who cooks as little as I do. How long do you think it would take before I actually get good results? Also, what’s the likelihood of me doing actual significant damage to my MAC Pro during the learning process? How sharp can I expect something like the Minosharp3 to get my knife? How big of a difference would the jump up to the much more costly Edge Pro make? And is freehand really worth learning for a basic at home cook?


Secondly, I tend to roast chicken for dinner with some frequency, do I have to worry about damaging my chef’s knife when breaking down or carving a chicken or is that a reasonable use? Now that I have this fancy knife I get a little worried that I’ll chip it when cutting through the leg joint of the chicken. Is a carving knife or something worth the investment?


I probably just asked a few too many questions, so the short and sweet of it is: what would you recommend to a basic young cook to keep knives sharp? Thanks for the help.

post #2 of 4

To CPReilly


I am really glad that you see fit that a sharp knife is important in any kitchen, I have only recently started free hand sharpening too, although I was lucky and had a teacher to learn from, their are many different resources you can use to learn how to sharpen. Mark from chef knives to go has some good videos you can watch before you sharpen your knives, or Jon from Japanese knife imports has some videos that go a little more in depth about sharpening.


If you have the time to learn how to sharpen free hand that will really help in the future, plus it is cheaper than the Edge Pro Apex and you will get a much better edge than the minosharp. I say free hand all the way if you are willing to learn.


The 8 pc CKTG kit is great comes with everything you need and more. Don't worry about doing something wrong because it can always be fix. If you are uncomfortable with using your mac to start learning how to sharpen use one of your older knives to practice a couple of times and than go to the mac. When you first start sharping it will seem very hard, you have to multi task, this sure this is correct and the angle is consistent, the fingers are in the right place. Just relax and take it slow, first get uses to getting a consistent angle and correct technique are two of the most important things to get uses too, than when you have it down move on to finger pressure and etc. Learn on how to detect burrs and removal of burrs. Than finally how to test whither you have done a good job on sharpening. Remember a couple of starches here and their on your knife is no problem it will happen, when you learned how to ride a bike you fell a couple of times before you finally got it.  


2nd: If you are worried about getting chips in your knife (happens to everyone if your are not careful, but you can fix if needed) go out and buy some poultry shears to break down the chicken and then use your knife to cut the meat into smaller pieces. If not you can just pick up a cheap victoronix chef knife to break down the chicken, but depending on what your are doing i think the mac can do the job only if you are cutting soft cartilage


Hope I help

Allen Lum

post #3 of 4

The best sharpening kit for your knife depends, somewhat, on your circumstances.


If the MAC is as good a knife as you'll ever get, you'll want to eventually build to three different surfaces:  Coarse; Medium/Coarse; and Medium/Fine. 


The Medium/Coarse is the first stone you'll use in the course of ordinary sharpening, and the first stone you should learn to master. 


The Medium/Fine comes next.  It will take you awhile to build steady enough angle holding so that you actually sharpen with a finer stone, instead of bobbling the angle so much you end up rounding the edge. 


The Coarse stone is the stone you'll use for repair and profile, and will always be followed by the other two.  In that sense, you could think of it as the first stone.  But don't.  Think of it is the last.  You want to wait until you've developed decent skills on both of the other stones, before fooling around with a coarse stone.   Coarse stones have consequences which can only be fixed on coarse stones.  You don't want to get into a death spiral of making things worse.


Speaking of which...


You can't do much harm with a medium/coarse stone, so there's no great need to get a set of practice knives.  On the other hand, it's not going to hurt anything either. 


If you want to buy a practice knife, get an (Ontario Knife Works Old Hickory) 10" butcher.  It's a great knife to learn sharpening, to learn how to care for knives in general and carbon knives in particular, a great heavy-duty knife strong enough to split lobsters, a very good meat knife, and it costs less than $15.  


The 8 piece kit Alan wrote about has three excellent stones, and a good, diamond-plate flattener.  It also comes with some accessories which are nice to have but not -- strictly speaking -- necessary.  It's one of the few starter kits for any purpose which doesn't have any duds, and will serve you well for years. 


If you want to keep your immediate costs down, you can start with a "combination stone" which has a medium/coarse surface on one side, and a medium/fine on the other. 


Whatever you buy, you'll need a flattener.  All water stones should be flattened AND dressed before their first use; and should be flattened frequently -- if not every time they're used -- thereafter.   



post #4 of 4

Hope BDL made it clearer for you and hope this can guide you to where you want to learn to free hand or not, I personally love sharpening my own knives and have the satisfaction of having done a great job on your sharp knife.


Hey BDL, what grit would you consider for a medium/fine grit stone would you say between 2000 to 3000 grit, I would thinking of picking one up because right now I have the 5 pc kit from CTKG and I think the 1200 is too course to finish off and the 5000 is too fine for everyday basic use. IF you where to choose what brand would you recommend for Cp Reily or I when buying a set or individual stones.


Allen Lum


PS what is dressing a stone I have not really seen that on videos, any videos I could watch to learn about it, will it help get an edge sharper or quicker?

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