A sharp knife is an essential tool in any kitchen. It not only makes cooking more efficient and enjoyable but also safer. Dull knives can slip and cause accidents, while a well-sharpened knife allows you to work with precision and control. Learning how to sharpen a knife is an important and necessary skill for any home cook or professional chef.
How to Sharpen a Knife
We will take you through the basics of knife sharpening, covering the tools you need, the techniques to use, and the reasons why keeping your knives sharp is so important. So, let’s get started on the journey to sharpening your knives like an expert.
Let’s make it simpler:
- Hold a honing steel and your knife at the angles recommended by the manufacturer. Then, gently slide the knife along the rod, starting from the base and moving towards the tip.
- Do this on both sides of the blade. To check if it’s sharp enough, try slicing a piece of paper. If it cuts easily, your knife is adequately honed. If not, repeat the honing process until it’s sharp enough.
- Ronna Welsh, a cooking expert, suggests that starting with regular honing using steel is essential. Once you’re comfortable with this, you can also use a whetstone for occasional knife sharpening.
Step By Steps Way to Use Honing Steel
One of the easiest ways to keep your knives sharp is by using a tool called honing steel, also known as a honing rod. This maintenance method, called honing, doesn’t sharpen the knife but keeps it in great shape. It’s like a quick tune-up for your knife each time you use it.
Here’s a simple way to use the honing steel:
- Hold the steel and the knife with the knife’s sharp edge pointing away from you.
- Tilt the blade up about 20 degrees and keep the sharp edge in contact with the steel.
- First, work on one side: Gently slide the blade from the steel’s handle to its tip. Make sure the whole blade touches the steel as you do this.
- Now, work on the other side: Place the heel of the blade under the steel near its handle, again at a 20-degree angle, and slide the sharp edge towards the tip.
- Repeat this process 10 times on each side to hone your knife.
How to Sharpen a Knife with Whetstone
Whetstones, or sharpening stones, are flat blocks made from abrasive materials like aluminum oxide, ceramics, diamond-coated steel sheets, or natural stone. Some have two sides with different levels of abrasiveness for general sharpening and finishing. Whetstones need to be soaked in water before use and kept wet while you rub the blade against them.
However, using a whetstone correctly may require practice, patience, and confidence, which come with time. Provided below are the steps to sharpen a knife with a whetstone:
- Submerge the whetstone in water until there are no visible air bubbles, which can take 10 to 45 minutes depending on the whetstone.
- Position the whetstone horizontally with the coarse side facing up on a damp towel to prevent sliding.
- Place the upper portion of the blade’s sharp edge against the whetstone’s surface, near the left end. Tilt the blade to a 20-degree angle, with the sharp edge touching the stone. Slide the sharp edge to the right while applying pressure with your free hand. At the same time, move the knife toward the top edge of the stone so that the blade’s lower edge contacts the stone by the time you reach the right end.
- To work on the blade’s other side, start at the whetstone’s right end and tilt the blade in the opposite direction. Repeat this sharpening process ten times on each side.
Whetstone sharpeners give you more control over how your knife is sharpened, A multi-grit whetstone, when combined with either a honing rod or a piece of leather to help create a burr and polish the edge, is one of the best ways to maintain your knife, according to Griggs.
How to Sharpen a Knife with an Electric Knife Sharpener
While a whetstone requires manual effort to sharpen the blade, an electric knife sharpener uses powered abrasive wheels or discs to achieve the same goal. There are pros and cons to electric sharpeners. Good electric sharpeners can produce a sharp edge quickly, but they may wear down your knife’s edge faster over time.
Electric sharpeners are typically faster and more convenient, but quality units can be expensive and aggressive, especially if you don’t follow the guidelines accurately. Electric sharpeners often limit blade angles, reducing their flexibility for different types of knives in your collection.
When and How Often to Sharpen Knives
How often you sharpen your knives depends on what they’re made of. Ceramic knives stay sharp for a long time, but stainless-steel knives may need more frequent sharpening. Carbon steel knives are easier to sharpen.
A simple rule to follow is to sharpen your knife when it starts to feel like it’s struggling to cut through food. When it’s truly sharp, it should effortlessly glide through even tough or dense ingredients without any resistance.
Which Method is Best for Sharpening a Knife
When you hone a knife, you’re essentially realigning the blade’s edge to make it straight and sharp, but it won’t fix any chips or nicks. Sharpening, on the other hand, involves removing a bit of material from the blade to create a completely new sharp edge. We typically recommend starting with honing using honing steel or a device to straighten and sharpen the blade without removing material from the knife itself. However, if the knife is severely dull, there are various sharpening options available,” says Griggs.
The primary sharpening options include pull-through sharpeners, electric sharpeners, and whetstones. Culinary professionals like Welsh and Griggs often prefer honing steels and whetstones. Hammer Stahl offers a sharpening system that includes both tools. Regardless of the device you choose, understanding the correct angle to position your knife blade with the sharpener is essential for achieving successful results.
Why it’s Important to Sharpen Your Knives
Using a sharp knife is not only safer but also makes your cooking tasks quicker and more precise. Also, having sharp tools can improve your cooking skills, whether you’re slicing chicken or preparing ingredients for a stew. Keeping your knife sharp enhances your cutting precision, and evenly cut ingredients cook evenly/ In simple terms, using sharp knives leads to better cooking results.
What safety precautions should I take when sharpening a knife?
Always be cautious, keep your fingers away from the blade’s path, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific sharpening tool you’re using.
Should I seek professional help for sharpening my knives?
If you’re unsure about sharpening or have valuable knives, consulting a professional sharpener is a good idea. They can provide expert guidance and service.
How can I maintain the sharpness of my knives between sharpening sessions?
Regular honing and proper knife storage, such as using a magnetic strip or a knife block, can help maintain your knife’s sharpness for longer periods.