My Inherited Kitchen

Cooking for people who can't cook but now have to

Rustic kitchen table

Month: April 2017

How to sharpen a kitchen knife

Some readers of my last post about how to tell if a knife is sharp now need to know how to sharpen a kitchen knife.

In my inherited kitchen there were lots of knives of all shapes and sizes and I soon discovered that none of them felt particularly sharp and the light test proved it. While I had seen TV chefs and Tim nonchalantly rubbing a knife against a sharpening steel while talking I just knew that they had spent years practicing and I had to find an easier way.

Tools that didn’t work

I tried a couple of devices that claimed you just need do pull the knife through a groove a couple of times and it becomes sharp like magic. Sounded good to me. The problem is that they either didn’t work and/or they took off pieces of metal which didn’t seem right.  So I did what anyone else would do.  I threw away all of the old knives and bought a new set of knives and a sharpening steel. The new knives gave me a benchmark of what a sharp knife is really like and the difference that it made. The challenge was then keeping them sharp.

How to use a steel to sharpen a kitchen knife

After a bit of research and testing I found the easy way for us newbie knife sharpeners. It involves keeping the steel still and only moving the knife. The first step is it get an old tea towel, fold it over a couple of times and put it on the work top. This will stop the steel from moving or damaging the worktop and also collect anything rubbed off the knife.

Now put the base of the steel in the centre of the tea towel and hold it vertical without moving.  With your other hand pick up an old knife (while you are learning) and try to work out what a 22.5 degrees angle looks like. The easy way is to estimate a 45 degree angle then half it, near enough will do.  Now hold the knife against the steel with the end nearest the handle at the very top. Try to maintain that 22.5 degree angle and pull the knife down and along the steel to the very tip of the knife.  Don’t pull the knife back up the steel or you risk damaging the edge. Once you have got the hang of it try doing it three times on each side of the sharp edge of the knife.  (You might find it easier to change the hand holding the steel when doing the other edge of the knife). Then do the bright light test to spot any burrs or imperfections.  If you can see anything bad just repeat the process.

Success is when your knives feel as sharp as when they were new.



How to tell if a knife is sharp without cutting your fingers

Ok, hands up who has not accidentally cut their finger with a knife in the kitchen. Other than the few smug faces I’m sure that most of us remember the painful and often messy experience quite well.

The two main causes (at least in my case) is lack of knife skills and/or knifes that are not sharp enough.  There is a third cause which is running your finger down the edge of a knife to see if it is sharp.  Definitely not to be recommended.

How to tell if a knife is sharp

You could try slicing a tomato as I suggest on the website but I have now found a better way. First find a bright light source like the sun or a torch. Hold the handle of the knife and tilt the edge of the blade backwards and forwards under the light with a dark background behind the knife. You will quickly see any blunted or burred areas. If you can’t you either have sharp knifes or you need find a magnifying glass and try again.

I’ll cover how to sharpen knives in my next post.

Red Thai curry chicken

How do you know when the meat is cooked?

Have you ever read a recipe that said “when the meat is cooked” and wondered how on earth you know that?  Even Loyd Grossman says it on the side of his jars.

Help is at hand with a meat thermometer which is one of the top 20 tools that I recommend for every kitchen. Just stick the prob into the meat when you put it in the oven. Watch the temperature rise on the large circular dial as the meat cooks and take the meat out when it reaches the right temperature.

However – there are some limitations

What if you can’t see through the window, insert the prob properly or the piece of meat is too small? Having experienced all these things and the thermometer just falling Digital meat thermometerout there had to be a better way.

To find out I spent about £15 and bought an electronic meat thermometer. This works differently. You do not leave the thermometer in the meat. You just insert it when you need to check the meat’s temperature. It gives you the exact answer on a digital screen. It’s much easier, more accurate and you can check different areas of a large piece of meat. The only downside is that you will need to open the oven door to check the temperature.

How do you know when the meat is cooked in a pan on the hob?

The meat thermometer with an analogue dial is useless but the digital readout is perfect. Just insert the prob into almost any size of meat as often as you need.

The big benefit for me is that I’ve stopped overcooking pieces of chicken and beef because I didn’t know what I was doing. Now when Mr Grossman says “when the meat is cooked” I can actually tell when that is. I’m sure that Emma will be pleased to hear that it also works on my steaks.




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