How to Sharpen Kitchen Knives and Keep Them Sharp Year-Round
There’s an ancient proverb that states, “A sharp knife is a chef’s best friend”.
Whether you’re a chef or not, you can probably relate to this ancient proverb if you’ve ever tried cutting something with a dull knife.
At best, you probably gave up and found something else to eat. But at worst, you might have injured yourself from trying to cut with a dull knife.
Obviously, knives are meant to be sharp, and a dull knife is bad news. But, what are you supposed to do when a knife becomes dull?
Check out this guide to learn how to sharpen kitchen knives.
Figuring out If Your Knife Is Dull
Before you worry about how to sharpen a knife, you first need to figure out whether your knife is even sharp or not.
Luckily, there’s a pretty easy trick that can help you figure out how sharp your knife is.
All you have to do is hold a folded, but not yet creased piece of newspaper by one end. (If you don’t have a newspaper, you can use a sheet of printer paper.)
Then, lay the blade of the knife at the top edge of the paper and slice outward. If the knife does not cleanly slice the paper, then that’s a sign that it needs to be sharpened.
If you don’t have paper on hand (or just really like testing the sharpness of your knives), then there are two other methods of testing available.
The first option is to cut a tomato. Tomatoes have a tough outer skin with a very soft interior. If your knife blade is dull, the tomato will squish before breaking into the skin.
The second option is to cut an onion. If your knife is dull, you won’t be able to cut through the outer skin of the onion.
Safety Precautions to Keep in Mind When Sharpening a Knife
Now that you know how to test for a dull knife blade, let’s take a look at the safety precautions you need to take before sharpening your knife.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind:
- Wear kitchen gloves when sharpening as an extra precaution
- Never expose your fingers to the blade of the knife
- If you use a whetstone to sharpen your knife, make sure that the whetstone is affixed to a rubber mat or that you’re holding it in place
- If you use a honing rod to sharpen your knife, make sure to hold both the rod and the knife out and away from your body
- After you finish sharpening your knife, remove any steel shavings with a wet cloth
These safety precautions are very important to keep in mind, as cutting yourself deeply with a knife can actually do irreparable damage.
How to Sharpen a Knife: Different Methods
When it comes to sharpening kitchen knives, there are a lot of different options available. Let’s take a brief look at the different sharpening methods.
There are a couple of DIY options available for sharpening your kitchen knives.
One way is to use a piece of sandpaper. All you have to do is run the blade of the knife against the sandpaper (out and away from your body) and it will sharpen.
You can also use a nail file, and sharpen your kitchen knife by running the cutting edge of the blade of the knife against the file.
Lastly, if you’re in a pinch, you can also use a mug to sharpen your kitchen knife. To sharpen it with a mug, turn the mug upside down and run the blade of the knife against the rough part of the bottom of the mug.
Keep in mind while these DIY methods are certainly cost-effective, you’ll need to take extra safety precautions to make sure you don’t cut yourself with the knife.
Invest in a Sharpening Tool
If using one of the above DIY sharpening methods doesn’t sound appealing to you, you can also invest in a kitchen knife sharpening tool.
For knife sharpening tools, you have three options:
- A manual kitchen knife sharpener
- An electric kitchen knife sharpener
- A whetstone
To use a manual kitchen knife sharpener, all you have to do is pull the knife through the coarse sharpener slot, beginning at the heel and ending at the tip.
Make sure you use even pressure, and that you pull the knife through 3 to 6 times for maximum sharpness. If the knife is damaged, you should plan to pull it through more times.
After this, you’ll want to pull your kitchen knife through the grit side of the sharpener one or two times.
Many people consider manual sharpening the cheapest and easiest option for sharpening kitchen knives.
Just like a manual sharpener, an electric kitchen knife sharpener has both fine and coarse slots.
However, the electric kitchen knife sharpener contains motorized wheels that spin against the blade. This makes electric kitchen knife sharpeners both more powerful and more precise than manual ones.
To use an electric kitchen knife sharpener, you’ll want to slowly pull the knife through the slot.
The motorized abrasives do all the work, so all you have to do is alternate the knife to the other side when one side is done sharpening. Alternate three to six times to completely sharpen your kitchen knife.
Before using a whetstone, you’ll want to figure out the sharpening angle for your kitchen knife. (Different knives require different angles.)
And, before sharpening, you’ll also want to lubricate the stone with a bit of mineral oil. Next, you’ll want to let the whetstone sit in water for about 10-15 minutes.
Then, place it coarse side up on your counter and put your knife blade against the edge of the stone. Applying a slight amount of pressure, place one hand on the handle of the knife and the other one against the backside of the blade.
Next, allow the knife heel to slide down the whetstone and towards your body. Make sure you’re holding the knife at a constant angle until the tip of the knife is at the end of the stone.
Repeat this 3-6 times, or until you see a bit of metal forming over the edge of the blade (also known as the burr). Once the burr forms, repeat on the opposite side.
Then, flip the whetstone over and repeat the process on the fine grit side.
Read on to learn more about the whetstone sharpening process.
How often you need to sharpen your kitchen knives will depend on how often you use them.
But in general, you should sharpen your kitchen knives every 12 months or so.
Also, to maintain the sharpness of your kitchen knives, you should invest in a honing rod. These are long metal rods that can help maintain the sharpness of your blade.
How to Sharpen Kitchen Knives: Are You Ready for Some Sharp Knives?
As you can see, there are many different ways to sharpen a kitchen knife.
If you have any questions about how to sharpen kitchen knives, please comment below.
And, be sure to check back in with our blog for more how-to articles like this.