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Kitchen Knife Sharpening: Everything You Need To Know

Every cooking lover has known the annoyance that is a dull knife. It’s such a struggle to use knives that are long overdue for a good sharpening session. Worse yet, dull knives are actually dangerous to use; the last thing you want is slippage when you’re cutting food. However, despite all of that, kitchen knife sharpening is still something that many of us don’t know too much about.

It’s true that it can seem intimidating and some of us simply opt to buy a new knife when the old one stops doing its job, but it’s not necessary. All knives dull over time — it’s an unavoidable process. It happens little by little with each time you use the knife.

Fortunately, a knife growing dull does not affect its overall usability and it can, once again, become as good as it once was. With a few simple tips, you could restore your dull knife back to a razor sharp blade.

Are you wondering how to sharpen your knives? We’re here to help! To make the whole process easier, we’ve prepared a comprehensive guide that will take you through all the steps. Read on to learn all about the art of sharpening your knives!

How to Tell If It’s Time to Sharpen Your Knife

Most of the time, you’ll be able to tell that it’s time to sharpen your kitchen knives simply because they’ll become a bit of a hassle to use. Food won’t be as easy to cut as before, the slices may become uneven, and in the worst-case scenario, the knife may even slip.

We probably don’t need to warn you about the possible consequences of a slipping knife. While it may not be anywhere near as sharp as before, it’s still a dangerous tool. To avoid painful cuts to your hands and arms, it’s good to perform a so-called “paper test” on your knives every now and then.

How to perform a paper test on a kitchen knife:

  1. Clean your knife and allow it to dry before you proceed with the next steps. 
  2. Hold a folded sheet of paper by one end. It must not have any creases. This can be a newspaper or even a regular sheet of printing paper.
  3. Lay your blade against the top edge of the paper and press downwards. Slice outward.
  4. Examine the sheet of paper once you’re done. Look closely at the edges where the cut was done.
  5. If the blade didn’t slice cleanly or, worse yet, got stuck, it’s definitely time to sharpen it.

If your knife has been acting up and did not pass the paper test, it’s time for kitchen knife sharpening! Let’s talk about the best ways to do that.

 

Method #1: Use an Electric or Manual Knife Sharpener

By far, the most popular method of knife sharpening is the use of electric and manual sharpeners. This is because they are the easiest and most reliable tools out there.

Electric Knife Sharpeners

It doesn’t get any easier than to simply use a reliable electric knife sharpener. In these machines, the motorized wheels support the abrasives and also spin against the blade, sharpening it effortlessly.

Make sure you always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using these tools. They’re generally exceptionally simple to use — the machine does all the work for you. 

All you have to do is hold your knife securely without pressing down too hard and then pull the blade through the different slots as needed. Do this slowly and repeat until you are satisfied with the result.

Manual Knife Sharpeners

Following a similar premise, manual knife sharpeners are still decent tools that require just a bit of extra work from you. The abrasives here are on nonmotorized wheels or fashioned into a V-shaped chamber. Through this chamber, the user pulls the knife.

As above, hold your knife securely but not too tightly — you don’t want it to slip. Pull the blade through the chamber while applying an even amount of pressure. Repeat as many times as necessary.

 

Method #2: Use a Sharpening Rod

A sharpening rod, also referred to as sharpening steel, is a that allows a manual kitchen knife sharpening. You use it by sweeping the blade along the steel rod, which then hones the edges of the knife.

Simple steps to use sharpening steel:

  • Safety measures: remember to hold the sharpening rod vertically. Plant the tip firmly on the counter and make sure it’s positioned upright without any tilting in either direction.
  • Before you begin, place some damp towels or a shelf liner on the top of your workstation to avoid slippage.
  • Put the whetstone coarse side up.
  • Facing the knife away, place it on the whetstone at a diagonal 15-degree angle.
  • Holding the knife with your dominating hand, place your other hand in the middle of the flat side of the blade. Keep your fingers well away from the sharp edge.
  • Draw the blade back towards yourself down the stone. This should be done in a circular manner while maintaining a constant angle.

Repeat the steps as needed and then move on to the second side:

  1. Start by placing the heel of the knife against the tip of the steel, then position it in a 15-degree angle away from the sharpening rod.
  2. Start light. Maintain the 15-degree angle and apply minimal pressure to begin with.
  3. Slide your blade down the steel in a sweeping motion, pulling it carefully towards your body and then back.
  4. Once you complete the above, finish by passing the tip of your blade from across the bottom of the steel.
  5. Repeat all the steps for the other side of the blade.
  6. Don’t use too much pressure — you may hurt yourself!

 

Method #3: Use a Whetstone

Whetstones are inexpensive knife sharpeners that allow you to perform the sharpening process in any way you want. They require a great degree of caution and are not the fastest, but they get the job done with moderate flexibility.

Simple steps to use a whetstone:

  • Before you begin, place some damp towels or a shelf liner on the top of your workstation to avoid slippage.
  • Put the whetstone coarse side up.
  • Facing the knife away, place it on the whetstone at a diagonal 15-degree angle.
  • Holding the knife with your dominating hand, place your other hand in the middle of the flat side of the blade. Keep your fingers well away from the sharp edge.
  • Draw the blade back towards yourself down the stone. This should be done in a circular manner while maintaining a constant angle.
  • Repeat the steps as needed and then move on to the second side.

Stay Sharp

Keeping your knives sharp will not just do wonders for the quality of the time you spend in the kitchen. It’s a key safety measure for every cook to be mindful of. We hope that thanks to our guide, you’ll delve into knife sharpening soon enough. Happy cooking!

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