Have you ever wondered how often you should sharpen your knives? Any cook knows the key to a happy kitchen is sharp knives. Keeping your cutlery sharp also keeps it safe, so it’s important to make sure you sharpen your knives frequently. But, exactly how frequently do you need to sharpen them?
Knives should be sharpened once or twice a year. Professional knife sharpening is a safe and easy choice, but you can always sharpen your knives at home. To maintain the knife’s sharp edge, you also need to hone it daily. Sharpening and honing create a safe, sharp blade that can be used for years.
In this post, we will discuss when and how to sharpen your knives, how sharpening is different from honing, and some tips to better sharpening. We also answer some common knife questions, like how to sharpen your serrated knives and which sharpeners are best!
When Should You Sharpen Your Knives?
You should sharpen your knives one or two times a year, according to Forbes. And we agree!
There is no reason to sharpen more often than annually, even if you use your knives daily. However, if you are careless with your knives and do not take proper care of them, you may need to sharpen the blades more often.
There are a few things to avoid that would dull your knife faster and require more frequent sharpening:
- Avoid hard surfaces – Do not cut directly on your marble or glass countertop. Choose a wooden or plastic cutting board to lengthen the life of your knife.
- Never dishwasher safe – Do not wash your knife in the dishwasher as the heat and pressure damage the blade.
- Store knives with care – Do not throw your knives into a drawer haphazardly. Not only is that dangerous, but it also damages the blade. Store your knives in a knife block or on a magnetic wall strip.
By avoiding the above three things, you can extend the life of your knife. And you will only need to sharpen it once a year. If you put more wear and tear on your knife by not taking care of it, it will need to be sharpened sooner than annually projected.
Do You Need to Sharpen A Knife Before Every Use?
To make it clear, you should not be sharpening your knives every time you use them. However, you do want to hone them regularly.
Honing can be done every time you use the knife or when you notice it is not as sharp as it once was.
Honing and sharpening get mixed up in the knife world quite often, especially when talking with non-experts. But these are two distinct practices that both prolong the life of the knife. To learn more about honing your knives, keep reading, as we will discuss later on how to hone your knives. But first, sharpening.
How Do You Sharpen Kitchen Knives?
When sharpening your knives, you always want to move methodically. Moving the knife in a sweeping motion toward your body is safe as long as the handle faces you and the blade faces downward.
Sharpening your knives at home is easy, but it requires great care and focus, so you do not hurt yourself or those in the kitchen alongside you. First, we will show you the different types of sharpeners, and then we will discuss how to use each one safely.
Use the following chart to compare the advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of knife sharpeners:
|Type of Knife Sharpener||Key Features||Drawbacks|
|Electric||· Quick and easy|
· Seems safer than wielding a knife against a sharpening stone or steel
· The best option for your inexpensive knives, not for the knives you spent hundreds of dollars on
|· Destroys and degrades blades quickly|
· No control over the amount of metal removed from the knife
· Regarded as the worst option for quality knives
|Sharpening steel||· Long steel rod|
· Need a sharpening steel at least as long as your knife
· Tapers at one end with a handle at the other
|· Great for honing a knife, so the name is confusing|
· Not the best for sharpening a blade if it is already dull
|Sharpening stone||· Best way to sharpen a knife!|
· Diamond stones can be used dry and are very durable
· This tool actually sharpens the blade no matter how dull it is to start with
· Three different kinds: whetstones or water stones, oil stones, and diamond stones
|· Diamond stones are the most expensive of the three kinds|
· Must be cautious when using as it is easier to catch your fingers using this method
· Oil stones require greasing, which creates a mess
· Whetstones require soaking ahead of sharpening and can be more fragile than the other types of sharpening stones
|Manual Sharpener||· More affordable|
· One setting for dull knives and a second setting for honing
· Easy to use and requires less technique
|· Less accuracy with the amount of material removed|
· Not the best option for professional chefs
You may be able to tell from the chart above that the clear winner in types of sharpeners is the sharpening stone. Most professionals and at-home chefs use a whetstone to do all of their knife sharpening.
How to Find A Professional Sharpener
You can find a professional sharpener quite easily. But before you hire someone, you want to make sure they know what they are talking about before you hand over your precious knives. Check out our article on how much it costs to sharpen a knife.
There are a few simple ways to find a professional knife sharpener near you:
- Look locally – Keep your eyes open for a local knife shop that specializes in selling quality knives.
- Check out a Williams-Sonoma – Most stores will sharpen knives within minutes, and you do not need to have purchased your set from Williams-Sonoma. This is especially helpful for your serrated blades.
Make sure you ask people who claim to be professional knife sharpeners questions about what types of knives they sharpen. If they avoid certain types of knives or tell you serrated knives can’t be sharpened, steer clear of them.
How to Use A Sharpening Steel
To sharpen your knives using a sharpening steel:
- Hold the steel in one hand with the tapered end placed on a cutting board. The sharpening steel should be perpendicular to the cutting board.
- Hold your knife at a 10 to 15-degree angle against the sharpening steel.
- Move your knife across the steel from the base, near the handle, to the tip of the knife. Using your shoulder and elbow, draw backward with the knife.
- Make sure to sharpen both sides of the knife evenly. The easiest way to do this is to alternate sides. Repeat this 10 to 12 times.
- Wipe your knife with a dry cloth to remove any loose particles.
- Test the knife by cutting a tomato. Smooth, easy strokes that glide through the tomato are the goal. If your knife is still struggling, you may need to use the sharpening steel for a little bit longer. Or it may be time to try a sharpening stone.
See our full article on honing rods.
How to Use A Sharpening Stone
Since using a sharpening stone is the most common and best way to sharpen knives, we will cover the steps to use it below. The sharpening stone is what professionals use to sharpen knives. Some even have multiple textures and grains of sharpening stone from coarse to fine. This will get you the sharpness you desire and provide you with the most control.
The following steps detail how to use a sharpening stone to sharpen your knives:
- Prepare your stone. Soak the stone in water about 10 to 20 minutes before sharpening.
- Place the stone on a towel to reduce its movement on your countertop. You may want to consider securing your stone in the future if it is shifting a lot when you are sharpening your knife.
- Angle the knife at a 15 to 20-degree angle against the stone.
- Place the knife’s base, starting on the edge of the stone that is away from you.
- Draw the knife back. Move the knife across and down the stone going from base to tip.
- Repeat 6 to 12 times on the coarse side, or until the blade is V-shaped again and no longer dull. Then turn the stone over and repeat on the finer side to create a smoother blade.
- Clean the knife. Remove any small metal particles by wiping the blade down with a dry towel or cloth.
- Test the knife. Using a tomato, test the ease with which you can slice into it. If it is difficult to get a clean slice, continue sharpening.
How to Use Ceramic Wares to Sharpen Your Knives
A simple trick to use if you do not own any of the sharpeners mentioned above is to grab one of your ceramic wares. This can be a mug or a plate with an unglazed edge exposed. This will not work on a piece of ceramic ware that is completely glazed and has no natural clay exposed.
Follow the same motions as you would when using a sharpening stone to achieve a quick and easy sharpener in a pinch. Be careful to secure the dish and make sure all your limbs are out of harm’s way before you begin sliding your knife back and forth.
Hone or Sharpen: Is There A Difference?
There is one main difference between honing and sharpening a knife. This difference is timing. Honing takes place any time before you plan to use your knife, whereas sharpening is only done yearly. To hone your knife, you do four or five passes with the sharpening steel. It is important to do the same number of passes on each side of the knife to lengthen its life.
It is important to make this distinction because many people get these two terms mixed up. Sometimes they are even used interchangeably. Additionally, it is worth noting that the sharpening steel, while it has the word sharpening in the title, is actually used for honing.
Sharpening or honing steel is used more frequently than a sharpening stone. The sharpening steel is best used any time you plan to use your knife. It is a great way to keep the blade sharp. If your blade has been neglected for a long time, the sharpening steel will not be able to remedy the dullness.
How Do You Sharpen Serrated Knives?
You can sharpen and hone serrated knives at home, but it will take a bit more time and effort to restore your serrated knife’s sharp edge. You can easily sharpen serrated knives with evenly sized and spaced scallops using a sharpening rod. This rod is a smaller, compact tapered version of a sharpening steel that can easily fit into each scallop.
If your knife is on the cheaper side, it may have an irregular pattern that can’t be sharpened easily. Either it is time to replace this knife, or check the knife’s warranty.
When using a sharpening rod, hold the knife steady and move the rod back and forth in the scallops. Don’t forget to sharpen the smooth side of your serrated knife as you would a smooth blade.
You may also try using a Spyderco sharp maker at home. This is another easy tool for sharpening serrated knives. Steve shows you exactly how to set up your sharpening rods to hit each scallop on the serrated knife in the video below. Now again, this will only work for the knives with an even scallop pattern.
Which Knife Sharpener Works Best?
Getting a sharpening stone is the best way to sharpen your knives. It is even how many professionals sharpen knives. The following is a list of highly-rated options for you to consider if you want to purchase your own sharpening stone.
- Two sides – 1000 and 6000 grit
- Angle guide helps you apply consistent pressure
- Bamboo base to avoid a sliding stone
- Five-stone sharpening set
- Bracket to hold the knife and create the right angle every time
- Includes extra coarse, coarse, medium, fine alumina oxide, and extra-fine ceramic hones
- Lansky oil included to keep your stones well oiled
- Two fine and two medium grit ceramic sharpening stones
- Allows the sharpeners to be angled so you can keep your knife upright – no need to worry about the right angle anymore!
- Comes with a plastic base that also acts as a storage case
- Easy to use and durable
- Great for sharpening high-quality serrated knives
- Includes safety rods and instructional videos
Will My Knife Blade Be Worn Down from Sharpening?
In essence, sharpening a knife does remove metal from the blade. However, this metal is only removed once or twice a year. So, your knife will not be worn down to the point of not being able to use it, if you only sharpen your knife when necessary.
Additionally, these sharpening stones remove only a small amount of the metal, so you would only notice your knife becoming worn down if you are sharpening your knife too often. Another good rule of thumb besides sharpening every year is to sharpen your knife after 300 meals.
Keeping your knife honed between sharpening will prolong the life of the knife and keep it safe to use between sharpening. Remember though, if you do not feel comfortable honing your knife between each sharpening it may be best to seek out a professional’s advice and help.
Professional Sharpening: Is It Worth It?
Going to a professional is worth it! They will help you prolong your knife’s life and do so quickly and easily. Many times, professional sharpeners are not too expensive. Most charge by the length of the knife and how damaged it is. For example, $1.50 to $2.25 for every inch of the blade is average. This may increase depending on the shape your knife is in when you turn it over to the professional.
Seek out a professional knife sharpener’s expertise if you:
- Are afraid of getting hurt
- Are sharpening really expensive knives and do not want to mess up the bevel
- Do not have the time to do your own sharpening
- Want the precise angle or bevel to be recreated
Now even if you get your knives professionally sharpened, they will most likely suggest you get a steel to hone your knives before each use. This will keep the sharpness longer and reduce the amount of time a professional has to spend on reestablishing the knife’s edge.
In Summary: Sharpen Your Knives Every Few Months
Honing a knife can be done any time and uses a technique similar to sharpening a knife. But sharpening your knife will restore blade shape and make it easier and safer to use. While honing your knife should be done before each use, sharpening your knives is only needed once or twice a year.
Professional sharpening may be the better option for you as it is safer and will not require too much of your time. But it is quite easy to sharpen your knives at home and only requires a small investment in a sharpener.
Either option you choose, to sharpen at home or use a professional, is important to maintain a safe kitchen space. Do not neglect to sharpen your knives, especially if they are a more expensive variety, as you do not want to be wasting your money by destroying your knives.
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