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Thread: Knife too sharp?

  1. #1
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    Knife too sharp?

    From Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw:
    The very essence of knife maintenance--a notion inextricably tied up with one's self-image as a cook--is that the sharper the knife, the better.

    He then offers this different opinion from an expert on breaking down fish, in this case regarding the extremely cartilaginous skate:

    "I like medium sharp. Too sharp? You get part of the bone. When it's sharpened correct, it passes over the bone."

    Your thoughts?





    Before you dismiss this claim outright, you may choose to consider the source of the quote:
    Spoiler:
    Justo Thomas, the man who cuts every piece of fish prepared by Le Bernardin- over 700 pounds a day, and half a ton on Friday.
    I really am related to Tony Clifton.

  2. #2
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    This has been remarked on by Jon Broida when he discussed sharpening with Japanese chefs. Too sharp a knife, and it "runs away".

  3. #3
    Senior Member FryBoy's Avatar
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    That makes sense -- if you're blind, lack feeling in your hands, and are in too much of a hurry.
    Doug Collins
    Hermosa Beach, California

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Pensacola Tiger View Post
    This has been remarked on by Jon Broida when he discussed sharpening with Japanese chefs. Too sharp a knife, and it "runs away".
    Its important to note a few things about this... first, the concept of what is sharp to me and the chefs i was talking to is likely drastically different from bourdains fish guy. Second, the edges can still be very sharp, they just need some bite to them. The bite helps improve feeling in the cut.

    With slippery or super smooth edges, that feeling is not there. I get bite from a 15000 grit stone, but most of the chefs i spend time with in japan finish with something in the 8k range (or a natural in a slightly higher range)

    I'm not suggesting anyone use a not sharp edge... i'm just suggesting that you use a sharp edge with bite versus a sharp edge that is smooth and slippery

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by JBroida View Post
    I'm not suggesting anyone use a not sharp edge... i'm just suggesting that you use a sharp edge with bite versus a sharp edge that is smooth and slippery
    What! I wish you would have told me this, before I went and dulled the edges on all my knives.

    Jay

    I didn't dull the edges on my knives

  6. #6
    I think that is just because he is used to using a duller knife, and the angle he holds it against the bone works like the Bic Pen test. The more acute knife will work just fine, and the front of the edge will face more in the direction of the motion.

    This is something that I love to emphasize--There are a whole set of skills for working with a dull knife that don't apply to a sharp one. I've seen cooks do things with dull knives that sharp knives would just lop off your finger doing.

    That said, I think there are a legion of reasons to use a sharp knife instead, and learn to do things differently. I am working on setting up a class for local foodies that is called "How to use a sharp knife", because knife skills for a sharp knife are very different. For example, having a locked-on death grip isn't as mandatory for a well sharpened edge, because you won't be fighting with it to get through food. This is why Hatchets have rubber handles and scalpels have plastic sticks.

  7. #7
    Caveat:
    I have "over-sharpened" a knife recently. It was a Chicago Cutlery and I was showing off my abilities to refurb a knife to a friend and before I gave it back, I REALLY put it through the paces getting a super buffed edge on it. It was hair-popping sharp. Put it to some food, and it wouldn't cut ANYTHING. It was as good as a dull knife, plus wedging. I took it to my 1k stone and scratched up the bevel, stropped it on 2micron SiC on rough-side leather...it cut like a dream, as long as it was moving. It would still shave, but it wasn't as hair-popping sharp, but the knife itself didn't have the geometry to make a real push cutting edge work.

  8. #8
    I ran into something similar to this recently. Now granted my sharpening skills are primitive but I found this to be interesting none the less. I have a Wustorf Classic Icon Chef's knife that I use as a beater even though it is a very nice knife, albeit heavy. My every day knife is a Fujiwara FKH Gyuto that I sharpen with 1k, 2k and finally 5k shapton pro's with leather strop and dave's diamond spray. Long story short, my Fuji never seems to hold an edge very long at all, could be the reactivity of the carbon steel as I cut a lot of onions and citrus at home ( I'm only a home cook). Well, I decided to take out my Wustorf and cut up some tomatoes because my Fuji was failing and I was absolutely amazed at how effortless it was to cut thin slices of tomatoes with my heavy German clunker. Now I only take my Wustorf up to 1k as I have been told any higher is a waste of time with soft German steel. Needless to say I was blown away at how sharp my Wustorf still was because I hadn't sharpened it in over three months and it has one of the most ugly multi-faceted bevels I had ever put on a knife .

    I decided to sharpen my Fuji two days ago and only took it up to 1k and then stropped on a .25 diamond leather strop and it is cutting through tomatoes far better than when I take it to 5k. Is this because tomatoes need a toothier edge or is it because my sharpening skills are just that bad that I really can't take advantage of the benefits of a 5k polish?

  9. #9
    Pete, tomatoes like a toothy edge - true, but I also suspect that you're creating a multi-faceted bevel (through natural wobble) that when polished to 5k becomes somewhat rounded or convex thus slippery. You may see this work different on different knives that have different steels though, ie - finer grain may result in smoother edges when polished.

  10. #10
    Thanks Dave,

    I think I should have been a Jeweler by trade after seeing the "amazing" multi-faceted bevels I can put on knives .

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