How To Sharpen Kitchen Knives

how to sharpen a kitchen knife

Dedicated cooks will often have a go-to knife when preparing food. Protecting your kitchen knives from damage caused by rough handling and poor storage is the first step in caring for them. Learning to keep your knives sharp is critical.

In this guide we will look at how to sharpen kitchen knives and proper care. We also take a look at ceramic and serrated knives and the best way to keep them sharp.

But first, let’s look at what makes a good blade.

SEE ALSO: How To Clean & Remove Rust From Knives

There are several features to a good knife.

1) A sharp edge.

Dull knives are dangerous. You have to apply more force, and force will cost you finesse. Can you still cut yourself with a sharp knife? Absolutely. But a dull knife blade with some weight behind it will do you more damage than a smoothly sharp blade.

2) Balance.

A knife that's heavier to the blade end, or a blade that feels loose in the handle, is a pretty good indicator that you're handling a poorly built tool. A well-designed knife is evenly balanced from handle to tip and should feel consistently weighted in your hand.

3) Strength along the length of the blade.

A knife blade that flexes while you're trying to use it can lead to general irritation or a nasty cut. Flexible knife blades are not a good investment, and many of them come loose from the handle very quickly.

There are many electronic sharpeners on the market, or you can send your knives out to a professional sharpener. However, the mechanized sharpening option will speed up the loss of metal on the blade.

Per culinary expert J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, this will upset the balance of a good knife. He recommends learning to use a knife sharpening stone.

How To Use Sharpening Stones

Sharpening stones are an efficient way to sharpen your knives while removing only a small amount of metal to reach a good sharp edge.

Sharpening stones are ranked similarly to sand paper; the lower the number, the coarser the stone. The first stone you'll want to use an 800 grit stone to remove any nicks or dull areas, and then a final sharpening with a fine grit, approximately 2,000.

Your sharpening stones will need to be wet, and you'll want a container of water nearby to keep the stone wet while you sharpen your knife.

Set the stone in front of you with the narrow end toward you and pull the flat of the knife toward yourself as you draw the edge to be sharpened across the stone.

Maintain a 15 to 20 degree angle and move the knife so the blade is in contact from handle end to tip during each diagonal draw across the stone.

  • Per Alan Henry, the first round of sharpening should be done on a low grit stone. Kitchen expert Henry uses a three stone process. The first sharpening should be on a 400 grit stone, then a 1,000 grit, then even finer such as 2,000.

His video encourages working toward a burr with the first stone, then switch to a finer stone for removing the burr and the final honing stages.​

How To Use A Knife Sharpener

If working with a stone is outside your comfort zone, a quality electric sharpener of your own will give you a good edge in a short time. Each electric sharpener comes with two slots.

One slot creates the burr of metal, grinding away the dull edge. Multiple passes will sharpen each edge on the sharpening side.

The other slot is for resurfacing dull blades. This process removes much more metal.

The following video demonstrates using a ​Wusthof Knife Sharpener, but the same principles apply to other brands.

Per experts at Bladesharp Weebly, most electric sharpeners rated for home use will not remove a great amount of metal, so concern about damaging your knife is minimal.

Additionally, a good quality electric sharpener will hold the blade at an ideal angle for sharpening.​

SEE ALSO: Best Knife Sharpener

How To Sharpen Serrated Knives

Kitchen lore claims that serrated knives don't need to be sharpened. Knife experts at Lansky Sharpeners disagree.

They recommend using a tapered rod to shape each serration until a metal burr forms on the opposite side. Once each serration has been sharpened, polish away the burrs with the same rod.

It should be noted that this is a dry sharpening process.

How To Sharpen A Ceramic Knives​

Ceramic knife blades are made of a material that's only second in hardness to diamonds. Knife authorities at MyCeramicKnives.com offer some pros and cons when deciding between ceramic and stainless.

  1. Ceramic knives are not cheap. However, properly handled, they will hold an edge for years.
  2. Ceramic knives do not rust. They are also lighter to handle than steel knives.

These knives are built for slicing. While they may not be versatile enough to be your only knife option, investing in one ceramic knife may be a great help.​

General Kitchen Knife Care

Poor handling does more damage to kitchen knives than the wear and tear that occurs in regular use.

Protect your knives from dings against other kitchen implements by storing them on a magnetized board, in a block or a drawer with proper dividers.

Wash and dry them after use and store them safely, rather than steaming them in the dishwasher.

Keeping your knives sharp so you don't wind up hacking at your food is a good use of your time.

Whether you go with a electric sharpener of a sharpening stone of your own, enjoy maintaining these critically important tools so they're ready to go when you are.​

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