Because most basic cooking involves a good deal of cutting and chopping, good knives are a must in the kitchen. Sharp scissors--in the kitchen and around the house--are another necessity.
To get the best service from knives and scissors, treat them with care and keep them sharp. Here's how:
Use a knife only on a cutting board.
Don't stir hot food with knives, since heat can damage them.
Wash knives by hand right after using them and dry them thoroughly.
Don't soak knives in water, since water can damage and loosen wooden handles.
Store knives in a wooden knife block or with blades up on a wall-mounted magnetic rack. If you must store them in a drawer, use a divider or a knife rack to keep the blades from bumping against and nicking one another.
Knives with serrated edges depend on notches for their cutting ability. They should be sharpened by professionals or not at all.
Before each use, sharpen non-serrated knives with a chef's steel:
1. Grasp the steel in your left hand (if you're right-handed) and the knife in your right.
2. Place the heel of the blade against the steel's tip, with the sharp edge of the blade meeting the steel at a 15- to 20-degree angle.
3. Applying light pressure, quickly draw the knife toward you and to the right so that the entire blade passes over the steel.
4. Repeat the action with the blade beneath and at the same angle to the steel. Alternate strokes until each side of the blade has passed over (or under) the steel 10 to 20 times.
To restore a badly dulled blade, use a whetstone (available at hardware stores) with coarse and fine sides. Before using it, saturate the stone with light mineral or vegetable oil. (Some stones must soak overnight; check package directions):
1. With the stone coarse-side up and placed lengthwise in front of you, put the heel of the blade on the stone so that its sharp edge is at a 15- to 20-degree angle to the stone. Maintain this angle throughout the procedure. Applying pressure, draw the blade in an arc toward you and across the stone so that the entire length of the blade is sharpened.
2. Flip the blade and reverse the stroke. Repeat 10 times on each side.
3. Continue with a few light strokes over the fine side of the stone. Finish with a few strokes on the chef's steel. Wipe the whetstone clean and wrap it in a soft cloth for storage.
Sharpen scissors only if they are very dull. Frequent sharpening whittles away too much metal, causing the blade to cut poorly. Leave removal of deep nicks to a professional knife grinder. Before sharpening, tighten the pivot screw holding the blades together. If the pivot is a rivet, place the rivet head on a solid metal surface and firmly hit the other end with the ball end of a ball-peen hammer. If tightening the pivot improves cutting, there is no need to sharpen.
1. Oil the coarse side of a whetstone as the manufacturer suggests.
2. Open the scissors wide and, firmly holding one blade and handle, place the other blade on the fine side of the stone with the inner face vertical. Tilt the blade slightly, about 10 degrees, so that the cutting bevel is flat against the stone. Repeatedly move the blade diagonally across the stone toward you until you have the desired edge. Repeat on the other blade. It's not necessary to hone scissors' blades totally smooth. Scissors cut by breaking--rather than slicing--fibers.
3. Wipe both blades clean with a soft cloth. Open and close the scissors several times to remove the accumulated metal that results from sharpening.