When is Sharp Too Sharp
If we are considering making the edge angle to be less than 10 degrees, than yes. Even when it comes to very sharp kitchen knives with edge angles that low, it takes for a perfect composition of shape, materials, and manufacturing for it to be usable.
That being said, kitchen knives need to be kept sharp, not only because that makes them easier to use, but for your safety as well since a dull knife is far more likely to cause an accident and an injury.
Single bevel knives
Think, santoku, sashimi,nakiri, and other Japanese knives. They usually have a 15 to 17 angle edge and are on average a lot sharper than the Western knives. The single bevel means that the blade is sharpened only on one side, leaving the other perfectly straight. This sharpening technique allows for smaller angles while still maintaining the strength and durability of the blade.
These knives are “slicers” – as in, they are best suited for slicing motions. Chopping and dicing are only going to dull it quicker.
When it comes to sharpening them at home, it’s a lot more difficult to do so since there are not a lot of beginner or amateur-friendly gadgets that can help you to do so. You will have to invest in a sharpening stone and learn how to use it properly.
Double bevel knives
This is where the classic chef’s knife fits in, together with the pairing, serrated, filleting, and other knives. Even some gyuto knives (a hybrid between a santoku and a chef’s knife) belong here. The blade is sharpened on both sides, ergo the name.
Now, this may make you think that they will end up having a sharper blade, but it is not so. It’s sharpened only to a 30-degree angle on each side, though some may go down as low as 20 degrees.
A standard chef’s knife is supposed to be an all-rounder and you should be able to use it to chop, slice, dice, etc. Taking one of these guys beyond 20 degrees could work (if you have decent equipment and know what you’re doing), but it may take away from its versatility (or you’ll have to repair/resharpen the edge quite often).
It’s already sharp enough as it is for home use. You can also keep it sharp by using a multitude of gadgets that are on the market, though it may be a good idea to take it to a professional sharpener from time to time.
Cheap steel will not be able to retain the sharpness of the blade. Even some steel that you pay good money for (ie Damascus) is not any better than the stuff you can get from the budget bin.
Currently, the best steel for making knives is Bohler M390 (and its price confirms the fact), but you don’t have to go there if you’re a regular home cook. Just search for a durable stainless steel blade so it’s easy to maintain at home.
Shape and sharpness
A cleaver can’t maintain the same edge angle as a sashimi knife. The task a knife is supposed to perform will influence the shape, and both the shape and the designated task will dictate the sharpness of the blade.
However, keep in my mind that just because a knife is light and flexible, doesn’t have to automatically mean that it has a sharper blade than a regular kitchen knife. For example, a filleting knife often has the edge as a standard chef’s knife, but its precision comes from the shape of the blade and flexibility.
Can a knife be sharpened too often?
A resounding yes. Sharpening takes away some of the steel each time, which means that your knife’s blade will become smaller with time – just like in the case of a pencil.
Before an edge becomes dull, it starts curling making it seem like it’s losing its sharpness. This is where that big hunk of metal called honing blade comes in. That impressive thing chefs do before they get to chopping and dicing is not sharpening their knives, but making sure that the edge is straight and ready to use.
An average home chef may not need to sharpen their knives more than once or twice a year, but it would be a good idea to take out the honing blade before every cooking and prep session.