The single biggest problem in home kitchens. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

Dull knives. It’s the single biggest problem in home kitchens. The. Single. Biggest. Problem. It’s the main reason cooking seems more difficult than it should be. And I’ll say this again, too. Guys and girls, the best Valentine’s Day gift you can give your lover/cook, get his/her knives professionally sharpened or buy a good sharpener. Again: Nothing says “I love you” like a really sharp knife.

I get mine—I use Wusthof, btw—professionally sharpened at a wet-grind sharpening place, and OpenSky found this astonishingly effective and easy-to-use sharpening “stone,” called the DMT Sharpening Stone. (It’s not really a stone, but rather a patented diamond-dust coated perforated steel sheet on rubber; see video below.)

If you have to saw on a lemon rind to get the cut started, your knife is dull. Dull knives force you to press harder, and tend to slide off food and cut you. Dull knives leave ragged cuts that take longer to heal. It’s a kitchen adage, “A sharp knife is a safe knife.”

But mainly dull knives make cooking harder. No one needs cooking to be harder. I don’t think I’ve ever walked into a friend’s kitchen who had sharp knives. Ever. A friend recently used my knife and said, “Wow, this is a really sharp knife.” Well, yes. My friend Mac took his knives to my place and was spluttering with wonder—he had no idea what using a sharp knife felt like. If you want to be a better cook, start with really sharp knives. On a big heavy cutting board—give yourself plenty of room to work.

And use your common sense. Don’t cut yourself. You don’t have time. And for godsake, don’t fuss with the blade of your immersion blender while it’s still plugged in. This is news? Jesus.

What American kitchens need more of: sharp knives, big cutting boards, common sense.

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© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.