How To Sharpen Kitchen Knives – An in Detailed Overview

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Imagine this- you are hosting a barbeque party. You try to slice the delicacy in front of everyone masterchef style. Suddenly, you realize it’s not sinking in. 

You’re not the so-called master-chef anymore because all you’re left with are sloppy edges of the barbeque meat thanks to an ignored and uncared-for knife! 

Common knowledge alert – A sharp knife is a must-have. Without it, even if you have the whole nine yards in your kitchen, it’s pointless. If you are a chef or a home-cook, you should know how a blunt knife can affect your cooking experience.

A knife’s decline isn’t entirely your fault. The daily use of a sharp knife will eventually make it dull. However, the blame lies with you if you don’t take the necessary remedial actions. 

How To Sharpen Kitchen Knives
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Knife Sharpening Tool

In this article, we’re about to give out some juicy and useful hacks on how to sharpen kitchen knives. So, when you’re about to make a Gordon Ramsey impression next time, you won’t be embarrassed by a plastic knife by your side.

Why do You Need to Sharp Your Knives?

How To Sharpen Kitchen Knives in the correct way
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You may have gone astray from the task because you thought knife sharpening is a risky business. Au contraire, It is said that a sharp knife is safer than a blunt one.

A knife with a sharp edge will give you more control and increase your work efficiency with swift and quick cuts.

It also reduces the chance of cutting your finger as you do not have to put any brute force. For fresh and clean cuts, you must sharpen your knives.

For instance, you are trying to make a fruit salad, cutting through a grape with a blunt knife will only end up crushing it; along with your appetite. 

What Are the Different Types of Knife Sharpeners?

Knife sharpeners come in different shapes and sizes. For a smooth cutting experience, you must keep these knife sharpeners at arm’s length.

Remember, the type of sharpener you’ll need depends on the knife you have. Let’s take a look at what each sharpener brings to the table.

Typically, knife sharpeners come in five different styles. All of which have the potential to provide the best way to sharpen kitchen knives. 

  • Sharpening steels 
  • Sharpening stones 
  • Manual knife sharpeners
  • Electric knife sharpeners
  • Serrated knife sharpeners

Sharpening steels

Sharpening steels for knife
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Knife Sharpening steels

Goes by another moniker honing rods, a sharpening steel is a form of knife sharpener.

Quick Note: If you’re sharpening steel rods, finding the perfect angle is the main trick. A 12-inch sharpening rod is ideal if you are honing a small knife or a medium-sized knife. Similarly, for sharpening a longer blade, you need a longer honing rod.

Although it may look very daunting to use a sharpening steel, it is pretty straightforward.

Method to sharpen your knife with sharpening steels:
  • Point the tip of your sharpening steel down and hold it with your right hand.
  • With your left hand, hold the knife crossways opposing the sharpening steel.
  • Make sure that the back of your knife’s blade is touching against the steel rod.
  • The angle of the knife is the most crucial part. Make sure you tilt the blade at an angle of 20 degrees. The tilting must be in such a way that the knife’s edge makes an encounter with the sharpening steel at 20 degrees.
  • Draw the cutting edge of the knife towards you and glide it downwards gently, opposing the steel.
  • Repeat this stroke at least ten times and move to the other side of the knife.
  • Make sure the blade is at a 20-degree angle the entire time.
  • Lastly, clean the blade using a soft towel and test the knife’s sharpness by cutting through a paper.

You must narrow the angle down, depending on the sharpness of the knife. However, be on your toes with this method.

Since it requires finding the perfect angle, you can start slow and steady. If you still struggle with it, you can hold the honing rod at the right angle to the kitchen counter and start again. 

Once you have mastered this method, now you can sharpen your knives like chefs by holding the honing rod upright. All it takes is a little patience and practice!

Now, here comes the big question- do you need a sharpening rod? Well, the answer is pretty apparent, YES!

You may not notice it, but every time you use your knife- it loses a tiny amount of metal. Thus, frequent use of knives makes their edges dull and blunt. If you are looking for a quick fix, a sharpening steel rod is your go-to tool.

Typically, it is recommended to buy a knife and steel rod of the same brand as specific knives will not sharpen as much without a specific manufacturer-certified tool. For a minimal and clean-cut, opt for a similar brand for both the knife and steel.

Sharpening stones

Knife Sharpening stones for knife
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Knife Sharpening stones

A classic and one of the widely used sharpening tools is the sharpening stones. They are known as water stones or whetstones.  

Sharpening stones or whetstones tend to remove a few materials of the knife to give it a stainless, sharp edge. From knives to gardening scissors, a sharpening stone can pretty much sharpen all of them.

Natural and synthetic materials are available for sharpening stones. However, natural stones are the traditional grinding materials. The synthetic alternatives deliver consistent and promising gravel of high and exceptional value.

There are three primary types of knife sharpening stones:

  • Oil stone
  • Water stone
  • Diamond stone 

These stones are rectangular blocks, each having a distinctive difference in their characteristics. 

Oil stones

The classic and traditional method of sharpening is by using oil stones. As the name suggests, oilstones require oil, mineral oil to be precise. Hence, both petroleum-based and non- petroleum based are efficient for this method.

The purpose of using oil on the sharpening stone is to attract all the extracted metal. The friction caused by the stone and the knife’s edge can also be reduced with oil use. Thus, it will promote a smooth and uniform motion while sharpening.

Oil stones usually include both natural and synthetic materials. Natural materials are made of substances like novaculite. However, synthetic materials include elements such as aluminum oxide and silicon carbide.

Water stones

These stones have recently come to the spotlight. Like the oil stones, water stones also include both natural and synthetic materials. They also provide a quick and smooth sharpening. 

As the name insinuates, before using a water stone, you need to submerge it into water. At this point, you’re probably wondering how long I need to keep the stone underwater?

Well, you must keep it submerged for a few minutes or just until it stops bubbling. As soon as the effervescence stops, take it out of the water, and now your water stone is ready to sharpen blades.

Diamond stones

No, It’s not a real Diamond! It is only made to sharpening your knife. As fancy as the name itself, diamond stones are sharpeners with a tiny micro-diamond embedded in it. They are usually more sophisticated and rougher than the natural and synthetic variants.

Although diamond stones are pretty expensive, they’re quick as a whip. With diamond stones, you can restore and sharpen your knife posthaste.

No matter what type of sharpening stone you are using, the technique is universal for all three stone types.

Method to sharpen your knife with Diamond Stones:
  • First, you have to saturate your sharpening stone in either water or oil, depending on your choice.
  • Hold the stone securely, put it on top of a towel, or any kind of non-slip fabric.
  • Hold the knife and position the blade on the edge of the stone. 
  • Make sure to use the coarse side of the stone.
  • It must be placed so that the heel of the blade should make a 20-degree angle with the stone.
  • Use your other hand to rest on the knife’s top side.
  • Using both of your hands simultaneously sweep up and down, applying a little amount of pressure.
  • At the end of the motion, release the blade and move to the starting position.
  • Repeat this process for at least ten times for each side.
  • Wipe your blade with a cloth and test its sharpness.

When using a sharpening stone, make sure to keep your angle and motion intact. 

Manual knife sharpeners

Manual knife sharpeners for knife
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Manual knife sharpeners

These babies include a coarse polishing material in a v-shaped chamber or on un-motorized wheels.

For a sharp edge on the knife, the abrasive surface grinds the smooth side of the blade.

Usually, manual knife sharpeners have two settings- coarse and fine.

For extremely dull knives that need revamping, use the ‘coarse’ setting. This setting extracts steel from the sheets of the blade to re-sharpen the edges.

However, the exquisite setting can be used for the daily maintenance of knives.

Method to sharpen your knife with Manual Knife Sharpeners:
  • Put your knife sharpener on the top of your kitchen counter.
  • Hold the handle of the manual sharpener with your non-dominant hand and insert the blade into the chamber of your desired setting. 
  • Make sure to grip the knife properly.
  • Gently, pull the blade towards you while pushing the sharpener downwards.
  • Repeat this process 3-5 times or until you are content with it.
  • To sharpen the blade entirely, follow the curve of the blade and bring it through the sharpener.
  • You will hear a grinding sound while doing so, and if not, you are probably making a mistake in following the curve of the blade.

If you are using the coarse setting for a stubborn knife, follow the procedure mentioned earlier. Afterward, you need to re-touch its sharpness.

  • For a final few finishing touches, insert the blade into the fine setting.
  • Gently, pull the blade through pushing downwards, this time try to be gentle without unnecessary force.
  • This additional step is necessary for the final finishing touch of your knife.
  • Lastly, wipe your knife with a soft cloth and soapy water and pat dry with a towel.
  • Another point you need to remember is, always finish using the sharpening tool at the ‘fine’ setting. 

It is recommended that you use the exceptional setting of your manual sharpener at least once a day, depending on how much you use it.

For instance, if you are a chef who uses the knife pretty frequently, make sure you use a sharpener once every two hours. Not only does it restore the sharpness of a knife’s body, but it all also gives out a pointy edge.

A manual knife sharpener is a perfect fit for everyone. You just need to follow the steps and work accordingly. Eventually, with enough practice, this can be your go-to tool.

When you pull through the knife, you will hear a grinding sound. Don’t be alarmed. This sound means you are using the sharpener correctly, and it is doing its work.

Usually, when you sharpen using the coarse setting, it will give a loud whirring sound. Once you move to the fine setting, the sound will be minimized because the coarse setting has done all the restoration work.

Manual knife sharpeners are ergonomic and very reliable. They also come at a reasonable price and are well known for their simplicity in use. 

Electric knife sharpeners

Electric knife sharpener for knife
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Electric knife sharpener

Akin to the manual knife sharpeners, electric knife sharpeners are almost similar in their features. They have a few distinct differences like the abrasive material on the electric sharpener is on a motorized wheel, which spins against a blade.

Electric sharpeners are relatively expensive because the design is sophisticated. It makes sharpening knives even quicker.

Method to sharpen your knife with an Electric Knife Sharpener:
  • Turn on the power of the knife sharpener.
  • Insert the knife in the coarse section by holding the knife firmly.
  • Gently push it through without applying any pressure for about five seconds.
  • When the tip of the knife comes in contact with the grinder, steadily follow the shape of the knife’s blade and make sure the entire edge of the knife touches the grinder.
  • Repeat this step for 3-5 times until it sharpens both the sides of the knife.
  • Lastly, to check if you need more passes, look for a burr on the knife.
  • Make sure you grit the burr from the base of the knife toward the edge.
  • To give a clean edge, pass the knife through the fine grit slots.
  • Wash with mild soap and soft fabric. Pat dry.

Refrain from washing with the knife with a dishwasher. Chefs claim that dishwashing detergents make the blades dull and weary over time. Hence, it is advised to use a mild soap when washing.

Newly sharpened knives tend to be quite sensitive, and the abrasive detergent may just remove the freshly sharpened edge. Taking care of your blades will increase their durability.

If you are a professional, you must know how to check for the burrs on the knife’s surface.

Electric knife sharpeners are well-known for their speed and compatibility. Albeit, you need to be a little cautious when using the tool. If you over-sharpen your knife, it will gouge and ruin the polish.

However, if you are new to this, you might be confused about when to stop or how many passes per pair you ultimately need to sharpen your knife.

Although looking for burrs is a straightforward method. When you use a knife too often, you lose its sharpness. It is because of the tiny amount of metals that your knife is shedding off.

Similarly, when you sharpen your knives, a burr is formed on the surface, which are the remnants of waste metal. So, it is essential to check for burrs in each section while sharpening your knife.

How to Check for a burr? – Step by Step guide

  • Hold your knife gently
  • Place your finger close to the holder or heel of the knife.
  • Then, slowly slide your finger through the knife in perpendicular motion towards the edge. 
  • The tiny bumps of materials are the burrs.

Although, the purpose of sharpening a knife is to move the burrs from one place to another. Remember, we do not want to over-do it, as over-sharpening will eliminate all the burrs. 

You just need to find the burr, polish, and tame it across the knife’s edge! 

Serrated knife sharpeners

Serrated knife sharpeners for knife
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Serrated knife sharpener

Serrated knives are one of the most useful and efficient knives in a kitchen. Several knives with serrated blades have a saw-like cutting effect. These knives are perfect for quick slicing and dicing.

A serrated knife has the highest life span because the serrated section makes it durable and long-lasting. As a result, it will not become blunt quickly. However, with time all sorts of blades become dull and weary.

Sharpening a serrated knife may look scary as each serrated section needs to be sharpened individually. Electric or manual knife sharpeners will not be able to sharpen a serrated knife.

A serrated knife requires an entirely different method and tools, unlike the straight edge knives. One of the best-serrated knife sharpeners is a ceramic honing rod.

Method to sharpen your knife with Serrated knife sharpeners:
Serrated knife sharpening Techniques
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Serrated knife sharpening Techniques
  • Set the selected sharpening tool on your table.
  • Compare the width of the cone to the size of the grip of your knife.
  • Each serration must be sharpened with small and soft strokes.
  • The beveled edge must be perpendicular to the sharpener, during each stroke.
  • To check if you have sharpened correctly, check for burrs.
  • Once you are satisfied with it, move on to the next serration, and repeat the process.
  • The process must be done for all the serrated edges on both sides.
  • Make sure both sides are sharpened equally.
  • Check for burrs, polish it with a fine-grit finishing stone.
  • Lastly, wipe your knife clean.

Although this method can be quite time-consuming, there are individual sharpeners that can sharpen your serrated knife quickly, such as the electric serrated knife sharpener.

An electric serrated knife sharpener is an excellent choice if you are struggling with maintaining the angle on the slopes. It also helps you sharpen your serrated knife faster.

  • Start with reading the manual of the product thoroughly.
  • Turn on the power of the electric serrated knife sharpener.
  • Insert the knife in the section that says ‘fine-grit.’
  • By using this section, you will be able to polish the blade correctly, similar to honing.
  • Make sure to gently draw the entire sharpener’s entire length at least 3-5 times on each side of the blade.

Note that the sharpening method will significantly depend on the electric sharpeners as each of them is different. Make sure to read the manual guide thoroughly before attempting to sharpen your knife, especially if you are new.

Some of the electric sharpeners work amazingly with both straight edge and serrated knives.

You will find a lot of different types of serrated-knife sharpeners. As different brands are continuously manufacturing products that are better and quicker than the traditional ones. Keep an eye on which one would be most suitable for you.

A sharpener with 600 grit-belt is highly recommended if you are looking for a quick fix. However, it dies out quickly. Remember that the higher the amount of grit, the sharper the edge of the knife. Still, it requires more strokes, resulting in an early death of the sharpener.

How to Know If Your Knives Are Sharp or Not?

Now that you know how to sharpen a knife, you need to think, is your knife as sharp as you anticipated?

Without a doubt, a sharp knife will cut through anything, but that doesn’t mean that a blunt one won’t.

A blunt, dull knife can cut through, but it will require pressure, which can put a lot of stress on your arms.

To see whether you’ve done a good sharpening job, there are quite a few tests you can run to see the results.

Slicing paper

A sharp knife will cut through a paper or a magazine effortlessly just with its weight. A clean-cut on the paper means that the blade is sharp enough. If the paper does not tear or slip right off, you need to sharpen your knife!

Slicing an onion

If your knife can cut through the smooth skin of an onion, it is good enough. However, if it seems like you have to apply pressure while cutting, grab your sharpening tool!

If you are new to your kitchen, you might be thinking about the best kitchen knives, right?

Fingernail test

Put the edge of the knife’s blade and rest it on top of your nail. If the knife catches on along the fingernail, it is sharp. For blunt ones, you will have to put pressure to catch on, and still, the edge might slip.

These are the ultimate tests you can do to check the sharpness of your knives.

How to Store Your Knife?

When you sharpen a knife, it’s natural for you to keep it that way. However, people often overlook the silliest mistakes. As a result, they end up with dull knives.

There are quite specific ways to keep a knife sharp other than using sharpening tools.

Store the knives properly

Tossing the blades with the kitchen utensils is one reason that wears out a knife’s sharpness quickly. Try to dedicate an entire drawer to all your knives and sharpening tools to preserve their sharpness. 

Using a dishwasher

Using a dishwasher is probably one of the common mistakes of home-cooks. Always use mild soapy water to wash the knife, even better if you use your hand to wipe gently. 

Cutting board

After chopping some fresh mint leaves, refrain from scraping across the wooden board. By doing so, it ruins the fine sharp edge of the knife. 

Ceramics or mugs

It may sound a little strange but trust us, if you don’t have a sharpening tool available. Just flip your ceramic mug, and use its base as a sharpener.

Take proper care

Everything wears out with time. With proper care, you can store the sharpness of your knife. Always try to keep the knife completely dry, not just the blade! 

Putting the Curtains Down – Conclusion

As you can see, the secret behind keeping your knives sharp depends on how the blade is being stored.

We hope the detailed guide on the best way to sharpen kitchen knives has given you some insight and shed light on restoring that dull but expensive knife you thought of throwing away.

Don’t wait for your knife’s death, keep our guideline handy, and jump into action. We wish you a good day ahead.

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