Sunday, November 24, 2019

Ready, Set, Go. Sharpen Your Knives for Thanksgiving and Holiday Entertaining

I enjoy cooking the most when I've taken the time to plan what I'm cooking. I made a recipe list and finished the shopping. The kitchen is cleared of clutter. The ingredients are organized and my knives are sharpened.

That preparation is most important when we're having a dinner party or a seasonal celebration. Right now, that means Thanksgiving.


In reviewing the recipes we want to use, we culled out ones that weren't as good last year as we hoped and searched for dishes that take us in new directions. We confirmed our standby favorites like roasted Brussel sprouts, cornbread stuffing with apricots and shiitake mushrooms, kosher and Moroccan style pickles, whole roasted tomatoes, made-from-scratch cranberry sauce and so many more.


We're organizing all the kitchen implements we need. Roasting pans, turkey baster, oven thermometer and, most importantly, that our knives are sharp.

A Good Knife is a Sharp Knife

If you enjoy cooking, you know the value of a good knife. There is nothing so unsatisfying as using dull knives to prepare a big meal like Thanksgiving dinner. The chopping and carving that should be a delight become a tedious, unhappy chore.


Over the years, I have put together a good collection of carbon stainless steel knives. I prefer Japanese style knives with their thiner blades and harder steel.

I have a filleting knife, a half dozen pairing knives, a serrated bread knife, utility knifes and several chefs knives. I also have a sushi knife for those occasions when I want to make thin slices of raw fish to serve on steamed rice or on a fresh green salad.


I want my knives with me wherever I am. Even when I travel, packed safely in my checked luggage, I always carry one of the pairing knives and a chef knife.

Cooking is one of the best ways to explore a destination if you have a kitchen where you are staying. Shopping puts you close to the local rhythms of life and cooking with fresh, local products is so much fun.

Or, if you are staying with friends, nothing says "thank you for letting me be a guest in your home" than making a meal for your hosts.

But a knife is only as good its edge. When you feel the knife drag as you slice a carrot or cut through a chicken breast, you know it's time to sharpen the blade.

For many years I used a steel rod, the kind butchers use to carve a thick pork chop or trim a rack of spareribs. But when the steel rod didn't give me the sharp edge I wanted, I switched to an electric knife sharpener. That made all the deference. Every couple of weeks, when I noticed that slicing a tomato wasn't as easy as it used to be, I'd run the knives through the sharpener and I'd be back in business.

I was perfectly happy with the knife sharpener I had, and then, I was asked to try the Work Sharp E5.

The Work Sharp E5 Electric Kitchen Knife Sharpener

When I used my old knife sharpener, my knives sharpened up nicely, but they didn't hold their edge. Now that I've been using the E5, I find my knives are sharper than before and they hold their edge longer.


Created by Work Sharp Culinary, the E5, its sister the E3 and the newest and most economical the E2-S sharpen every type of kitchen knife.

The more expensive E5 sharpens as well as the E3 with the added advantage of timed sharpening. Draw the knife through the sharpening slot, once, twice or as many times as necessary. The machine can sense when the edge is sharp and turns off.


To finish the sharpening processes, both the E3 and E5 come with a ceramic honing rod for fine tuning your blades. The E5 honing rod has an ingenious addition. On the side of the handle, a v-shaped notch is actually a MicoForge, designed to clean up the edge of your knife blade, extending its sharpness and giving you more control when you are slicing.


The E3 and E5 will also sharpen blades that are sharp on only one side like serrated bread knives, scissors, kitchen shears and my Japanese sushi knife.

Unlike my old sharpener which relies on factory installed disks to straighten and sharpen. The E3 and E5 use replaceable belts of varying grades (extra coarse, coarse, medium and fine). Color coded, they are easily replaced by flipping open the front panel and threading around three rollers. The belts slide off and on with ease.

The 17° guide that comes with the E3 and E5 works well with both East and West style knives. For a finer edge, I was given an Upgrade Kit which includes 15° (East) and 20° (West) guides and an expanded selection of belts.

Since my knives are mostly made in Japan, I switched out the 17° for the 15° guide. I'll be interested to see if I notice a difference in time.

Right now I'm seeing a big improvement in the sharpness of my knives.  Of course, the true test will be Thanksgiving, when all hands and all knives will be pressed into action to bring the half a dozen salads, dozen side dishes and a carved turkey to the table.

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