How to Sharpen a Kitchen Knife
Keeping your kitchen knives nice and sharp is crucial to ensuring that they cut through your ingredients with ease, not only to make your life in the kitchen easier but also because dull blades are more prone to slippage.
A sharp knife is every chef’s key tool and it’s not that difficult to keep them in good shape, so we’ve put together this guide to everything you need to know when sharpening your kitchen knives at home.
In this guide:
- The Intro
- How Often?
- Sharpening Steel
- Electric Knife Sharpener
- Manual Knife Sharpener
How Often Should I Sharpen My Knives?
The first thing to know is when your knives are in need of a sharpening. All knives will dull over time, but they don’t actually need sharpening as often as you might think.
That’s because there’s a very important difference between actual ‘sharpening’ and ‘honing’.
When you see professional chefs using those big metal rods that are usually called a ‘sharpening’ steel, what they’re actually doing is honing the blade.
Honing doesn’t actually sharpen the blade, but simple realigns the edges of the dulled blade.
This is something that you should be doing fairly often, usually a few strokes down the steel after every heavy use of the knife and doing this can mean you don’t need to actually sharpen for months or even years.
When the knife is fairly dull though, it will need to be sharpened, where larger amounts of metal need to be removed and you’ll probably use a home knife sharpener.
A common test to see whether your knife needs to be sharpened is to see whether it can cleanly cut through a folded piece of paper after steeling.
How to Use a Knife Sharpening Steel
To hone your knives using a sharpening steel start by making sure that the steel with the tip firmly planted on your work surface.
You then need to place the heel of your blade against the tip of the steel pointed up at about a 15-degree angle.
Then, start to slide the blade down the steel in a sweeping motion, pulling the knife toward you with the middle of the blade in contact with the middle of the steel.
Repeat the motion about three to five times on each side of the blade until you’re satisfied that the edge has been properly realigned.
How to Use an Electric Knife Sharpener
Once your knives are ready to be sharpened, an electric sharpener is definitely the easiest way to go about it.
These tools have motorised wheels which spin against the blade to sharpen it and all you have to do is lightly pull the blade through the slots (no need to apply too much pressure) and alternate sides to get an even edge.
They’re probably the best and easiest way to sharpen knives as they provide a very smooth and even result as the knife is guided through the slots at a precise angle and usually have a few different slots to deal with different levels of damage.
The only downside, of course, is that they’re usually quite expensive to buy.
We have a range of I.O.Shen Electric Knife Sharpeners available which you can view here.
How to Use a Manual Knife Sharpener
Manual knife sharpeners are very similar to electric ones in that they sharpen using abrasive on wheels, but these ones are motorised (sometimes a V-shaped chamber is used too). Either way, you have to pull the knife through the chamber yourself at an even pressure.
They’re designed in such a way that you should still get a nice even edge to the blade and they’re a lot cheaper and easier to store than an electric version, but they can’t always remove the very worst damage. You can browse our selection of manual knife sharpeners here
How to Use a Whetstone
Whetstones aren’t as common as other sharpeners, but they do allow you to sharpen the blade at whichever angle you want, which is great if you have a wide variety of knives in your collection.
The main downside with whetstones though is that they can be difficult to use if you’ve never used one before and take a lot of practice to master.
Essentially, you need to face the knife away from you on the whetstone at the desired angle and place your other hand in the middle of the flat side of the blade.
You then have to draw the blade down the stone in a wide, circular motion at a constant angle, which you’ll repeat until it reaches the desired sharpness and repeat for the other side.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Possible to Over-Sharpen Your Knives?
While many believe that you can remove too much metal from your knives, this is actually a myth.
While you are removing small amounts of metal from the knife when you sharpen or hone, it’s nowhere near enough to cause any damage to the knife.
Does How I Store My Knives Affect Their Sharpness?
Yes, it’s important that you store your knives the correct way to keep them sharp, as keeping them all together in a drawer will only cause them to nick each other when you open and close the drawer.
Instead, we recommend using a knife block (a universal one works best to ensure that all your knives will fit), a knife rack (great for freeing up counter space) or a knife case, which will completely cover and protect the knife.
What is the ‘Angle’ of the Knife?
The angle refers to the angle of the bevel of the knife, which is the slim strip that narrows down to form the cutting edge.
While most western knives usually have a 20-degree angle, Japanese ones are usually sharpened to closer to 15 degrees.