How to Keep Your Kitchen Knives Sharp
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A good quality, properly sharpened knife makes kitchen prep a joy. Slicing, dicing, chopping and paring are all easier and actually enjoyable with a sharp blade in hand. Even the best kitchen knives go dull, however, so you should know how to sharpen your knives and keep them at their peak effectiveness.
There are several ways to sharpen your kitchen knives.
- Sharpening stones
- Sharpening steels
- Handheld sharpeners
- Electric sharpeners
Most professionals recommend a sharpening stone for the best results. Though electric sharpeners make the job quick and easy, they also remove more steel than other methods, wearing away your edge and throwing the knife off balance. This may not seem like a big deal, until your spending hundreds of dollars on knives like the Shun Kaji or something similar.
How to Use a Stone
A whetstone is an efficient, easy way to sharpen your knives. It’s not for serrated knives, however. But the stones are great for really large knives like butcher knives.
- Wet the stone by soaking it in water for 45 minutes. If your stone is an oil stone, skip the water bath and instead lubricate the stone as directed by the manufacturer.
- Spread a towel on your counter or table, with the stone on top. You’ll want a bowl of water nearby so you can rewet the stone as needed.
- Determine the angle of your blade. You’ll see the slant of the blade as you hold it straight in front of you. Most kitchen knives are honed to a 15 to 20 degree angle.
- Set the base of the knife on the stone, positioning the blade at its cutting angle.
- Slowly draw the knife across the stone, pulling the blade away from you. With your free hand, gently guide the knife along the stone.
- Your stroke should end with the tip of the knife on the stone.
- Repeat the stroke at least 30 to 40 times; until you feel a fine burr catch your thumb when running your finger over the blade.
- Flip the knife over and repeat on the other side. Skip this step if your knife has an angle on only one side.
- When your knife is sharp, wipe the blade clean and dry.
A sharpening steel is a thin rod of steel, often coated with diamond grit.
- Hold the knife in your dominant hand. Place the base of the blade against the tip of the sharpening steel, holding the knife at its cutting angle.
- Move the knife downwards in an arc, keeping the cutting edge of the blade against the steel from base to tip. Make sure you run the entire length of the knife against the sharpening steel.
- Repeat the action up to ten times, then sharpen the other side of the knife.
- Wipe the knife clean.
Using a Hand or Electric Sharpener
Hand sharpeners and electric sharpeners generally have a slot for fine grinding, and a slot for coarse grinding. With a hand sharpener, the sharpening stones are contained inside a simple countertop device.
You insert the base of the knife into the device, and draw the blade towards you. Both sides of the knife are sharpened simultaneously, and you only need to draw the knife through the sharpener a few times.
Electric sharpeners are similar, but the device automatically holds the knife in position, and rotates the sharpening stone against the knife as you pull it through. Both types of sharpener require only a few passes through the device for sharp results.
Sharpening Serrated Knives
Your serrated knives need a sharpener of their own. As with regular knives, there are different types of sharpeners for serrated blades.
Sharpening rods: Sharpening rods are similar to the sharpening steels used for straight-edged blades. You draw the rod along each serrated gulley on the knife, working your way from bottom to tip.
Manual sharpeners: You can find manual sharpeners that handle both straight and serrated edge knives. Simply use the serrated channel for your serrated knives, drawing the blades through several times.
Electric sharpeners: Look for a sharpener designed to handle serrated as well as straight blades. Electric sharpeners take the guesswork out of sharpening your blades, though some remove more steel than professional chefs would like.
The more time you spend in the kitchen, the more you’ll appreciate a truly sharp knife. Take a few minutes to sharpen your blades on a regular schedule, and enjoy the ease of chopping vegetables, slicing meat or preparing fresh herbs.
Did you know when you buy quality knives that some manufacturers actually sharpen your knives for you? For example, Shun Knives will sharpen any knife you send them from their company. Their knives are a bit more expensive, but when you get this kind of customer support, it’s worth every extra penny.