Whenever you have finished using a knife, you should hone, or sharpen, it briefly with a honing steel before you put it away. The steel, which is a long, metal rod, actually shaves off the tiniest bit of metal to improve the edge. Every 6 months or so, most knives should be sharpened either by a professional or with an at-home mechanical or manual sharpener (such as a sharpening stone).
Knife Set Essentials
Beyond the essentials, build your collection of knives based on the kind of cooking you like to do. If you roast meat a lot, then a carving knife may be more necessary than a thin-bladed vegetable cleaver.
8 Inch Chef’s Knife
3 1/2 Inch Paring Knife
9 Inch Serrated Bread Knife
10 Inch Chef’s Knife
5 1/2 Inch Santoku (Metal or Ceramic)
Nice To Have
9 Inch Carving Knife
Thin-Bladed Vegetable Cleaver
Serrated Tomato Knife
4 Inch Paring Knife
The edge of a knife is made at a 20-degree angle. So, to properly hone a knife, hold the knife at a 20-degree angle to the steel and run each side of the cutting edge across and along the steel three or four times.
If you don’t have a honing steel handy, you can use a ceramic plate or mug. Turn the plate over and draw the knife along the edge of the unglazed bottom ring, holding the blade at a steady 20-degree angle. The ring of the plate will turn gray, but it will clean up with the wipe of a moist sponge.
When knives are stored in a wooden knife block, the blades are hidden, which can make it difficult to identify knives that have similar handles. To help distinguish one knife from another, use red or white nail polish to mark the heel of each knife with an initial, i.e., C for carving, S for serrated, or U for utility.