As a culinary teacher, I get this question a lot, “how do I sharpen my knives?”
So, I put all the info here in one handy, quick guide.
First, let’s go over why knife sharpening is important.
Having sharp knives is not just so you feel like a chef.
A sharp knife is actually safer. Yes, safer.
When you use a dull knife they can slip and cut you. Think about when you cut a tomato or a pepper. If the knife is dull it can slip off the tomato skin and slice your finger.
A sharp knife will just pierce right through the food with little effort. Which brings me to the next point.
A sharp knife takes less effort to cut through things. When you use a dull knife your hand and wrist will get tired more easily. And this may deter you from cooking.
If your knife is sharp, it will make cooking easier, and you’ll probably do it more often.
So, now that I convinced you that you should have sharp knives, how do you sharpen them?
Let me first point out that there are two ways to “sharpen” a knife.
One is with a honing steel- that’s what you see chefs do on TV often.
The other way is with a sharpening stone, or a manual knife sharpener (recommended for beginners).
The honing steel is a 10-inch rod that usually comes with your knife set. It’s best to “hone your knives” once a week, at least. Chefs do this every day usually. See video.
It’s the quickest way to sharpen the knife. What it does is actually straighten the blade.
The other way takes a bit more time and practice. Some people take their knives to a professional knife sharpening service once a year. (I recommend getting your expensive, forged knives like Japanese ones professionally sharpened).
But, most knives you can do it at home with a stone or manual knife sharpener. Even your cheap knives can be sharpened. They just need to be sharpened more often because they don’t hold their edge long.
When you use a stone or knife sharpener, you are actually creating a new edge to the blade. Some of the metal is scraped away to create this new edge.
Many of the knife sharpeners have diamond in them to sharpen the blade. But don’t worry it doesn’t make them crazy expensive. Always remember to wipe the blade with a wet paper towel after sharpening to take away any metal residue.
What honing steel and knife sharpeners do I recommend?
Below are the products I recommend. You’ll see that I really love Wusthof products. But there are a lot of good brands out there. If you’re just starting to sharpen your knives, start with a honing steel (not with diamond) and a manual knife sharpener.
I stick with the basics and like the lower-tech products. These are easy to use for beginners, too.
I will receive a commission for the products purchased below. I only recommend products I really like.
Other key things to do to keep your knives sharp:
1. Use a wooden cutting board (not glass!)
A knife’s best friend is a wooden cutting board. It’s a softer material than plastic or glass so it keeps the knife’s edge longer. Bamboo is good too. Please never use glass cutting boards. They dull your knife super fast and make horrible sounds when cutting. And I shouldn’t have to say it, but don’t cut on your counter tops. If they’re tile or granite, this will dull your knife quickly.
2. Keep knives in wood block or wood insert
Whatever you do, do not put your knives in a loose drawer. Whenever you open the drawer, they bang around and hit the tip, making it dull faster. Get a knife insert to put in the drawer.
Also, be sure to wash your knives right after use. I make it a habit now. Don’t leave them in the sink. First, it’s a danger because someone can not see it and cut themself. But, the knives can get banged up the longer they sit in the dirty sink with other things.
The takeaway is to sharpen your knives more often. “Hone” them or use the honing steel once or twice a month. Manually sharpen them every 6 months or so.
Sharp knives will make it more enjoyable to cook and a sharp knife will prevent you from cutting yourself.
Respect the knife and it will do amazing things for you.