Keeping your kitchen knives sharp need not be an onerous chore. Whether you're using an electric sharpener or a manual sharpening tool, you can set a sharpening schedule that will keep your knives working at peak performance.
Our Top Pick: Chef's Choice Sharpening Station
Why Get A Knife Sharpening Tool Or Kit?
Whether you're an avid cook, a hunter or just someone who wants to cook safely and efficiently, keeping your knives sharp and ready to use is a great investment of your time.
- For those who dress their own meat, a quality knife with a sharp edge can make a difficult task much easier and result in a better butchering job.
- Cooks who enjoy seeing to every minute detail will appreciate how a freshly sharpened knife handles.
- Finally, busy cooks taking care of growing families can work efficiently and get accurate cuts no more what they're slicing. SEE ALSO: Best Electric Knives
How Well Do They Work?
Sharpeners can only work as well as they're used.
Do you have Japanese style blades? You'll need to sharpen on a different angle.
Is your favorite knife the world a serrated or scalloped blade? To sharpen that, you'll need to learn to use a manual sharpener.
It's important to note that while an electric sharpener may appear quicker and can take some of the guesswork out of the process, these sharpeners can deliver a lot of heat to the blade, and heat can change the quality of metal.
Consider using a manual sharpener to study the process so you can purchase the best sharpener for your needs.
See Also: How To Sharpen Knives
Types Of Knife Sharpeners
You can use an electric knife sharpener for many smooth blades. However, for scalloped or serrated blades, you'll need a manual sharpener. Pull-through sharpeners grind away at the dull blade until a new, narrower metal edge is revealed.
Whether you use an electric sharpener or a manual, you'll need to remove the burrs from the metal edge prior to using the knife
Manual Sharpening Stones
When grinding a stone against a knife, you'll need to use a lubricant of some sort. Many grinding stones can be lubricated with water. This offers added coolness and reduces the risk of blade damage by excess heat.
Sharpening stones come in a variety of styles and need a variety of lubricants. A ceramic stone allows you to sharpen the knife by drawing or pushing it on the beveled edge in a slow, smooth fashion.
Water stones offer a flat surface against which you draw your knife to grind away the rough edge and provide a fresh, sharp bevel. Water stones are easy to care for and quickly release metal shavings. Once they're rinsed, you can leave your sharpening stone to air dry for the next use.
There are stones that should be used with oil. However, it's important to note that an oil stone can get sticky if you use the wrong product. For the best quality oil sharpening, many hunters recommend plain mineral oil as a lubricant. Keep the stone brushed after every use so it doesn't get clogged with metal shavings, and enjoy a freshly sharpened blade.
It's important to note that no knife experts recommend using a dry diamond stone. While some thick blades, such as those found on hatchets or possible cleavers, can tolerate a dry stone sharpening, eventually you'll damage the metal of your knife blade.
Sharpening rods can be used dry and are easy to find in many kitchen supply stores. These rods are made of diamond abrasives, so they should be used with care lest you damage your knives.
As possible, work slowly so you don't cause damage. An oval or ceramic sharpening rod will give you plenty of surface area against your blade as you draw it from hilt to tip. Again, let the surface abrasive on the rod do the work, rather than applying pressure on the blade with the sharpening rod.
Electric sharpeners generally function by grinding along both sides of the blade to remove metal and leave a narrower, sharper edge. Because knife blades are beveled, the direction you sharpen is critically important.
Drawing the blade back through the sharpener against the bevel will result in the removal of blade material on the wrong side, damaging the knife and doing little to add to the sharpness.
Most electric sharpeners are built as pull through sharpener units. They are stored flat and when you need to use them, you simply plug in the sharpener and draw the blade through the groove or slot on the top of the sharpener.
Whether you plan to purchase a manual knife sharpening system or an electric sharpener, consider buying the sharpener from the manufacturer brand of your knives. This will make certain that your sharpener is the proper hardness for your blades.
Choose Knife Sharpener Brands Based On Your Knife Manufacturer
Steel is hardened and rated with a measurement known as the Rockwell scale. Wusthof knives are constructed of 58 degree Rockwell steel, and their sharpeners are designed to act on a metal of that hardness.
Running a harder knife through a Wusthof sharpener will yield little result, but a softer metal blade will likely be damaged in a Wusthof sharpener.
Lansky knives are built to travel. These extremely well-built knives are very popular among hunters and other fans of the outdoors. Lansky knife sharpening brands are also well suited to travel.
They're easy to pack, generally don't need electricity, and can quickly put a razor edge on a hunting knife. When sharpening steel at the campsite, portability is key.
EdgeCraft knife sharpeners include portable units for sportsman and countertop units for home chefs. EdgeCraft offers a wide variety of electric and manual knife sharpeners with settings that allow you to determine the sharpening stages you hope to achieve.
Depending on how fine you hone your blade, you can go from
- 1) Dull to sharp. This basic sharpening step uses a ceramic surface, or diamond, and grinding action to remove a dulled edge. This will bring it back to a sharp, easy to use state. This is known as 1 stage sharpening.
- 2) Sharp to very sharp, such as when the blade is rubbed over a wet stone for an even bevel and smooth-edged blade. This is 2 stage sharpening, and takes some time to learn.
- 3) Very sharp to razor sharp. Razor sharpness is achieved with a strop. The strop removes all burrs, hones the edge of your blade and gives it a shine. For most home cooks, this strop and polish step is probably unnecessary. The use of 3 stage sharpening is generally reserved for barbers.
How To Tell If A Knife Is Sharp
The easiest way to tell if your newly sharpened blade is ready to go to work is to cut down the length of a piece of newspaper. A dull spot on the blade will tear the paper as you slowly cut down; a smoothly sharpened blade will result in one long, clean cut.
Protect Your Knives From Damage
Hand-washing your knives will help protect them from getting knocked against other metal objects in the dishwasher. Dry them thoroughly before storing them in a quality knife block. Get a good cutting board with some give and never cut on a glass, ceramic or porcelain surface.
Edge Vs. Force
There are plenty of knives on the market that claim them never need sharpening. Is it that important to keep your knives sharp?
If you've ever suffered a severe cut, you know they're generally caused by one of two things. Either you're just not paying attention, or you're forcing a cut by putting your weight on the handle. It only takes one rolling carrot to leave you with a nasty gash if you're leaning on the blade and expecting force to do your cutting.
Can you cut yourself with a newly sharpened knife? Absolutely. But it's weight on the blade that causes the deepest lacerations because you can't get your digits out of the way of your own weight. Sharpen your knives and focus. Cooking will be a lot more fun!
Investing in a set of quality knives and the suggested knife sharpening kit is a great way to make cooking more fun. Keep the blades sharp with the method recommended by the manufacturer, or invest in a sharpener that can handle your knife steel hardness. Wash your knives by hand and enjoy these wonderful tools!
Did you enjoy this guide? Let us know in the comments and tell us about your favorite knife sharpener or sharpening method.