The Best Way to Sharpen a Knife – One of the most frequent problems you probably encounter in your kitchen is your knives losing their sharpness. Blunt knives waste time, and they’re irritating and inefficient when it comes to food prep.
Fortunately, it’s a pretty easy task to keep your own knives in razor-sharp condition without having to drop them off with a professional who has special tools. There are a couple techniques you’ll need to master to get the best results possible, and there are several ways to get the job done, so you might prefer one over the other.
Learn about the different methods and tools for getting your blades as sharp as can be at home, and you’ll never worry about maintaining your knives again.
Sharpening a Knife Using a Knife Sharpener
There are two types of knife sharpeners, and they both have to be operated differently.
Manual Knife Sharpeners
To sharpen a knife using this tool, you first place the sharpener on the counter or a table to prevent injury and stabilize the tool. Place your knife in the tool’s slot and pull the knife towards yourself from the heel until the tip of the blade leaves the sharpener. Do this three or four times, and remember not to push the sharpener in the opposite direction; doing so can harm you or the blade and can result in dulling the knife even further.
- The benefits -They are cheaper than electric knife sharpeners. They are also simpler to use compared with another option: the sharpening stone.
- The drawbacks-You need some practice before you can use them. It is hard to get the angle right. The results are less effective than sharpening stones and only a few tools on the market can really make the knife razor-sharp.
Electric Knife Sharpeners
There are often multiple slots in an electric knife sharpener. You have to pass the knife through each one three to four times to get a nicely sharpened blade. Compare it to using different grits of sandpaper; each pass through a subsequently smaller slot refines the knife even further.
You have to pass the knife in the same way you do in a manual sharpener, and you should not push it in the opposite direction for the same reasons why you wouldn’t do it with the manual one.
- The benefits -These sharpeners are faster. You do not need a lot of skills to use them. They are the easiest to use when compared with others.
- The drawbacks-They are the most expensive of all knife sharpeners. The results are usually worse than the results of the manual knife sharpeners and it is rare to get a razor-sharp knife through this tool. The sharpness doesn’t lasts as long as it does with the sharpening stone.
With both of these sharpeners, applying excess force can result in damaging, nicking, or completely ruining the blade. Both knife sharpeners scrape a lot of the metal away with each pass, thus decreasing the lifespan of your knife. They work well for infrequent use, but they’re not ideal when you do a lot of sharpening.
Sharpening a Knife Using a Sharpening Stone
A sharpening stone is pretty much what it sounds like: a whetstone on which you rub knife blades. Going back to the sandpaper analogy, these stones are available with various grits to provide differing levels of sharpness.
To sharpen a knife using a sharpening stone, first lubricate the stone with water or oil (only use oil if it is an oilstone because some stones may be destroyed this way). Then, determine the sharpening angle of your knife; most European knives are 20-25 degrees, while Asian knives are 30 or more.
After doing this, attach a sharpening guide (it’s sort of like an old-school metal compass that clamps to your blade and holds it at the correct angle) to your blade. Use the rough-grit side of the stone to grind the blade by moving it in a circular motion around the stone. Do this on one side of the blade until you’re halfway done and then flip the blade over.
Repeat the rubbing on the other side as well until you see an edge and metal burrs start to form. After this, flip the stone to its fine grit side and use it to smooth and sharpen the knife.
- The benefits -It gives the best results and makes the knife razor sharp. It is the cheapest of all the methods for long-term use. A knife sharpened with this tool can retain its sharpness longer than if it was sharpened another way.
- The drawbacks- This is the most time-consuming method of sharpening a knife and requires a level of skill that can take a while to develop. It’s difficult to get the right sharpening angle by eyeballing it; you really need a guide.
Sharpening a Knife Using a Honing Rod
Honing rods aren’t exactly knife sharpeners, as they won’t bring a dull blade into razor-sharp territory. What these tools actually do is maintain the sharpness of knives you’ve already finished yourself and keep you from having to sharpen blades as often. They’re an important part of knife maintenance.
To use a honing steel, take the rod in one hand and the knife in the other. Hold the rod point down on a cutting board or countertop to stabilize it. Hold the knife against the rod at a 22-degree angle and start slicing the knife against the rod.
Do this five times per side of the blade, and then switch. When you’re done with both sides, flip the knife upside down and repeat the motion on both edges of the blade again. To obtain good results, make sure the angle remains constant.
- The benefits-You do not have to use knife sharpeners as frequently, so a honing rod saves time and prolongs the life of your knives. It’s also a quick process and takes only a few minutes.
- The drawbacks- It cannot sharpen a knife. You need to hone your knives before and after you use them, and you need to do this every time you use them.
Now that you know about the different ways to sharpen knives, you’re probably wondering which way is the best. Using the sharpening stone is unequivocally the most effective way to make those blades sparkle. No other tool gets knives this sharp, but unfortunately, the stone method takes the longest and is also the most difficult to master.
However, when you consider the length of time that a knife retains its sharpness after you’ve used the stone, you’ll realize that it’s actually not an excessive amount because it produces such great results. If you only have a few knives to manage, an electric sharpener is fine. They’re efficient enough and require almost no skill to operate.
Skip other manual carbide sharpeners if you can; they’re the least effective and you’ll need to use them frequently to maintain any sort of workable sharpness.