Having a sharp knife in the kitchen may be scary to some, but it’s actually much safer than having dull blades! A sharp knife cuts through food more easily, which requires less force and helps reduce slips. Fewer slips means fewer cuts on your fingers. Plus, it will help your knives last longer, giving you more bang for your buck!
But why do we need to sharpen our knives at all? They look pretty pointy to me!
Sure, they look pointy, and maybe even feel pointy, too. But if you were to (carefully) run your nail along the edge of the blade, or get verrryyy close to your eyeballs, you would feel and see little notches and a bent edge on your knife blade! (This isn’t recommended, by the way! I feel like I shouldn’t have to say that, but, hey, you never know.)
The more a knife is used and pressed against a cutting board (especially glass cutting boards), the more bent and dinged up the edge gets. The blade can be sharpened by basically sanding it down to remove those imperfections, bringing it back to its sharp and safe self.
Shane’s grandma has a knife that’s old as heck, I think at least 50 years old. It’s been sharpened so many times that only half of the blade actually remains, but it stays sharp and true, and she uses it all the time!
If you haven’t already, check out my post on basic knife skills to get started with knives in the kitchen!
Using a Honing Steel for Maintenance
Sharpening does not need to be done very often with kitchen knives, but the edge of the blade will still bend a bit. The edge might still be sharp, but not straight. If you notice your knife isn’t cutting as easily as it should, and you’re having to exert more force than normal, use a honing steel to straighten out the blade. Honing the blade will not shave off any of the steel, but will instead straighten it – so honing steels do not actually sharpen your knives!
To use a honing steel, hold the steel in one hand and the knife in the other. Run the blade of the knife along the honing steel, down and toward your body (but not too much!) Repeat this motion on the other side of the knife’s blade, then repeat 3-5 times on each side.
How often should I use a honing steel?
Professional chefs use their honing steels at least once a day, but at home we probably aren’t putting that much stress on our knives. Using a honing steel once a week on your knives is a good rule of thumb. But, if you are particularly fond of using the honing steel or just want to feel like Gordon Ramsay every time you’re in your kitchen, no one is stopping you (and it won’t hurt your knives!)
There are a few different ways to sharpen knives, and you can choose your favorite based on how “into” knife sharpening you want to get. For some, it’s fun and therapeutic! But for others, it’s a chore.
How often should I sharpen my knives?
Knives don’t need to be sharpened as often as they need to be honed. Every 6 months is often for someone who cooks a few times a week. As long as you’re honing your knives every week or so, you should only need to sharpen your knives once a year!
Tools used to Sharpen Knives
Pull-through Sharpeners look like a little block with a notch or two for the knife. You set the knife in the notch and manually pull it through a few times. These are common, cheap, and perfect for beginners!
Electric Sharpeners are exactly what you’d think! Providing speed and convenience, the electric sharpener has motorized wheels that spins. These looks like pull-through sharpeners, but don’t require all those exhausting pulling. (Sarcasm…) Criticisms include oversharpening, taking too much off the blade and shortening its life.
Freehand Sharpening with a Whetstone: If you’re really into knife sharpening, have patience, and want to perfect a craft, freehand sharpening might be ideal for you! I wouldn’t recommend freehand sharpening to someone who is just a beginner cook for kitchen knives. You can really dive into a rabbit hole when it comes to freehand sharpening, but it’s a great hobby if you’re interested!
Freehand sharpening requires the cook to understand the angles of their knives’ edges and reproduce that on a whetstone. A whetstone is a slab of stone, and the blade of the knife is literally dragged across the stone to shave away bits of steel and sharpen the knife.
If you want your kitchen knives to last a long time, stay sharp to stay safe, and impress your friends with your cool honing skills, take care of your knives! Remember to use a honing steel once a week or so, and sharpen your knives annually.