Monthly Archive: October 2015

Sharper Knives for Sharper Kitchens

 

For enjoyable dining, a well-equipped home kitchen is a necessity. It’s usually the most visited place other than the bedroom, a station where we have meals and drinks alone or with others. One of the most useful appliances a cook could own is a Sharpener.

These tools are used to hone and also the reshape blades to produce new burrs. Most home sharpeners can do both to a degree. Redoing the edges of knives before they get scratched or too dull saves time in repeating the procedure and helps to preserve their material. All units work by drawing the metal repeatedly across an abrasive. These come in tungsten carbide, ceramic, steel or diamond surfaces, which are used to reshape blades. Most models have at least two surfaces, one with coarser grit to remove metal, and a finer one to smoothly polish edges.

Different models come with different compromises. Simpler hand tools are more compact and cheaper, while fancier models allow more control of their operation but also require more practice to master.

Types

  • Sharpening machines provide less control but are easier and quicker to use. Most are large units meant to be used on the counter. The knives get pulled slowly through slots, and motorized abrasives inside the work. The way in which these are positioned is set by internal guides which keep their blades inserted at proper angles, but certain models accommodate multiple angles to suit various styles. Most have blade styles angled at 20 degrees, but “Asian” ones are usually angled at 15.
  • Manual sharpening tools come in many versions. A common type is a handheld tool with two ceramic rods set at certain angles. Knives are stroked against both in sequence, which takes some practice but is effective.
  • Sharpener rods are great for honing but not for reshaping really dull material. As there’s no base, the tool is gripped in one hand while the other pulls the knife across.
  • Slot sharpeners pull knives repeatedly through a guiding slot like that of electric models. But this takes longer as the abrasive surfaces are not motorized.
  • Whetstones like flat Japanese water stones are manual types which take a lot of practice to master, and if used incorrectly can further dull a blade. The type is not popular with users and usually not recommended.

Features

  • Good performance. The most important consideration is the ability to produce a consistently sharp and polished, unscratched edge.
  • Hard abrasive. Diamond is the hardest and fastest-sharpening material, followed by tungsten carbide and polished ceramic. Higher grit numbers indicate abrasives with finer surfaces.
  • Adjustable angles. Some types let inexperienced users keep the blade at correct angles, but others need more practice to use. The best accommodate various angle standards such as 15 and 20 degrees.
  • Operating stages. Coarser material is applied to reshape the edge, while finer material is used to touch-up and polish while saving steel.
  • Safety features. Good manual models place a barrier between fingers and the blade for safety. Electric models employ slots or rails as guides.

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A Kitchen Designer’s Kitchen

WHEN TROY ADAMS RENOVATED HIS OWN L.A. KITCHEN, IT WASN’T ABOUT BIG, SPLASHY, OR OVER-THE-TOP. INSTEAD, HE USED A CAREER’S WORTH OF CLEVER, PRACTICAL TRICKS OF THE TRADE. LUCKY FOR US, HE AGREED TO SHARE HIS SECRETS.

TRICK OF THE TRADE USE LIGHT FROM MANY SOURCES

Lit from within, this overhead cabinet is a light fixture, too–frosted-glass doors conceal cabinet contents and help shed ambient light. Recessed fixtures underneath provide task lighting, while track fixtures and a pendant provide ambient as well as task lighting.

TRICK OF THE TRADE GO FOR A BIG SINGLE SINK (INSTEAD OF A DOUBLE)

One deep, wide sink takes up the same amount of space as a divided one, but it does what a double sink can’t–provides enough room to fill a 16-quart stockpot, rinse voluminous bunches of greens, or soak a turkey-sized roasting pan.

WITH 24 YEARS OF DESIGNING KITCHENS AND AT LEAST 1,000 PROJECTS UNDER HIS BELT, L.A. KITCHEN DESIGNER TROY ADAMS KNEW JUST WHAT HE WANTED WHEN IT CAME TIME TO REDO HIS OWN KITCHEN: BLEND THE EFFICIENCY ANY GOOD COOK CRAVES WITH THE STYLE AND ORIGINALITY ANY GOOD DESIGNER LOVES.

He began with a novel idea. “Instead of wallpapering the room with cabinets and appliances, as in a conventional fitted kitchen, I wanted each element to have its own presence, like separate pieces of furniture.” Sounds impractical and space-hogging–especially in this long, narrow 10×30-foot room. But it’s not: Thoughtfully conceived work zones make for a kitchen that’s as snug as a ship but feels spacious.

One key decision was keeping overhead cabinets to a minimum so that the room would have a more open feel. “I’m not a fan of overhead storage,” he says. “You only use the bottom shelf, because getting to the top one is usually really hard.”

A beautiful and eclectic mix of materials warms up this sleek room. But each has a specific reason for being there. A red enameled lava-stone countertop offers a juicy pop of color and is heat-, stain-, and scratch-resistant. Durable soapstone countertops take on an appealing patina over years of use, and the slate backsplash is shot through with colors that tie the room together. The butcher-block work island is a freestanding cutting board that’s always ready for action and looks great with the bamboo floors, which are both practical and green. Troy points out that bamboo, a renewable resource, is also a grass and handles moisture even better than a wood floor.

TRICK OF THE TRADE KEEP THE WORK TRIANGLE TIGHT

The uninterrupted path between work zones is a design concept called the work triangle–conventionally, the imaginary line from sink to cooktop to fridge. But for best use of space, there are actually two triangles: the line from chopping block to fridge to sink, and the one from chopping block to sink to cooktop. However you configure it, “each leg of the triangle should be at least four feet and no longer than nine,” says Troy. “If the distance is too short, you’ll feel cramped and want to spread out to another surface. But if it’s too long, you’ll be hiking across the kitchen for everything.” One of the secrets to this small space’s workability is that the island–where Troy spends most of his kitchen time–is the nexus of the kitchen. (more…)