Taking part in the Kitchen Cure? This would be a great week to learn how to sharpen your knives, especially given all the cooking you'll be doing in the final three weeks. Even if you're not one of the 800 plus Cure-takers, my guess is your knives haven't been sharpened lately, if ever.
First a quick survey, then click through for a great how-to video on knife sharpening.
You'll need a sharpening stone (or bench stone) for sharpening and a sharpening steel (or rod) for honing. For stones, I like one with a diamond edge, but it's not necessary for sharpening success and non-diamond stones will only set you back less than $10. For the steel, they are usually included in knife sets, or pick one up for less than $20 at most cook's supplies.
Here's Marc Bauer of the French Culinary Institute demonstrating the method I learned (as a student at FCI, although not from Chef Marc.)
After you watch the video, read Emma's step-by-step post on how to sharpen your knives.
A note on frequency: Professionals sharpen their knives a lot more often than home cooks. I cook at home often, probably using my chef's knife at least four times a week, so that is a knife I sharpen on a stone about four times/year. I hone it on the steel almost every time. Once you work with a properly sharpened knife, you'll know when it needs to be sharpened again. Honing re-aligns the blade whereas sharpening on a stone actually scrapes off a little of it, so obviously you want to hone more often than sharpen.
• Pick up this inexpensive sharpening steel (Cooking.com, $13.95) and Smith's Diamond Sharpening Stone (Amazon, $24.45) or this budget-friendly Silicon Carbide Sharpening Stone (Restaurant Source, $2.23)
Related: Feeling lazy? Get Your Knives Sharpened By Mail