Cooking is an art, and tools you use separate trash and the good stuff. For excellent chops that bring out the ‘chef’ in you, a sharp knife is essential. The blades do not need to be new or expensive, just sharp.
Kitchen knives’ edge retention varies with the steel type used to make the blade. But be sure, your knife needs sharpening after continued use. Storing your knife together with other cutlery in the same drawer, chopping staff on a stone counter, and leaving it to dry on the draining rack dulls a blade and shortens its lifespan.
A dull knife slides off easily and denies you control over the cutting. You will not only use extra force but also risk hurting yourself in the process. You want a way out. Stick around for easy ways to sharpen a kitchen knife.
A dull knife is a dangerous knife. But how do you tell if a knife needs some minutes of sharpening? Put the sharpness to test using the paper test. First, get an A4-sized newspaper page or a printer paper. Make sure the paper has no creases. Then, fold the paper into two along the width. Hold your folded paper on one end, and insert your knife in the fold. Slice outwards with minimal pressure. If the blade gives a clean-cut, it has passed the sharpness test. Otherwise, it needs sharpening.
Honing Vs. Sharpening: When To Use Which
Honing and sharpening are two confusing terms, some people use them interchangeably, but there is a clear difference. Honing is regaining the edge of a knife through straightening the metal on the edge, while sharpening is reforming an edge through aggressive polishing. Further, sharpening removes burr from the blade, while honing doesn’t. Finally, honing is done using a honing steel, while sharpening requires something more rigid than steel, like stone or ceramic.
Honing is ideal for slightly dull knives. Since honing removes no burr, a gentle fix lengthens your knife’s lifespan. Sharpening, on the other hand, is excellent for very dull knives. The burr removed leaves a shaped edge ready for cutting. Sharpening shortens the life of your blade. Hence, hone more and sharpen rarely.
Honing Your Knife
It would be best if you honed your knife to fine-tune the blade after sharpening or slightly sharp knives.
You need a honing steel rod and a clean knife. Process:
- Hold your honing rod vertically using your non-dominant hand. The tip is planted firmly on a flat surface, preferably a wooden cutting board.
- Hold your knife with the dominant hand, and make sweeping slides across the steel. Apply even and gentle pressure while honing the whole blade, base to tip.
- Make a few strokes, turn your blade to the other side, and stroke. Ten strokes should be fine.
- Be sure to maintain an angle of 15 degrees between the edge and the steel.
- Perform the sharpness test.
Sharpening A Kitchen Knife
As stated above, sharpening is ideal for very dull knives. You can either use manual tools or an electric sharpener or send it to a professional sharpener. Manual sharpening and using an electric sharpener yield similar results when done the right way. Only the speeds of sharpening differ.
1. Using An Electric Sharpener
Electric sharpeners are easy to use. They are of different brands but having the exact functioning mechanism. An electric sharpener has abrasive wheels or belts that spin over motors. There are separate slots for knives with varying dullness.
The process is simple. Connect your sharpener to a power source and turn it on. Hold your knife firmly, don’t apply pressure, and pull the blade slowly and smoothly through the fitting slot. Alternate sides of your blade as you continue stroking.
While shopping for an electric sharpener, go for one that has a dedicated slot for heavily damaged knives, such as the Chef’s Choice Trizor XV Knife Sharpener. Follow the manufacturer’s manual if you need to change the angle of your blade.
- The spring guides keep the knife steady, allowing for abrasion at a constant precise angle.
- Quickly repairs overly damaged blades through dedicated slots for aggressive grinding.
- The sharpener can narrow a 20-degree edge to a sharper 15 degrees edge
- Electric sharpeners feature multiple slots, each with a different grit coarseness for controlled sharpening.
- These sharpeners are not suitable for full bolster knives, and it results in uneven sharpening.
2. Using Manual Sharpeners
The abrasives on manual sharpeners are non-motorized wheels or V-shaped chambers. You pull your blade through while applying even pressure and maintaining a consistent angle.
- Contain guides to keep the knife steady as you pull through, resulting in even sharpening.
- They are compact and easy to store.
- Very good and sharpens knives fast.
- Able to sharpen full bolster knives.
- Cannot repair an overly damaged blade.
Read also: How To Sharpen A Machete
3. Sharpening Using A Whetstone
A whetstone is an easy-to-use sharpening tool and very beginner-friendly. They are cheaply available in your local store. You require a whetstone and water for lubrication. Procedure:
- Soak the whetstone in clean water for several minutes, and place it on a damp paper towel over a flat working top. The wet paper holds the stone in place.
- Decide your knife’s edge angle: Check the edge angle of the blade on the knife’s user manual. If you can’t find it, an angle of 15-20 degrees works well. Hold the knife at an angle, edge facing away from you, and the handle end on the stone. Place your other hand on the flat face of your blade to apply pressure on the knife. Stroke the blade length-wise to the tip on the rock in a circular manner while maintaining the edge angle. Repeat the stroking several times. Once burr form, turn the blade and stroke the other side. Continue stroking while turning sides until all the burr rubs off.
- Start stroking the blade on the whetstone’s coarse side, maintain the sharpening angle, and change sides when you achieve your desired sharpness. Aim to use the entire surface of the whetstone evenly to ensure no gorges form on some parts.
- After achieving an edge using the coarse grit side, flip your whetstone. Lubricate the fine grit side well with water, and run your knife at the same angle as before. Work on both sides until the blade’s sharpness gets fine-tuned.
- Your knife should now be sharp, clean before use.
- Very versatile and can be used to sharpen any kitchen knife.
- Can handle full bolster knives.
- Have two sides, course and fine grit, offering several levels of sharpening to a fine edge.
- Relatively cheap.
- Maintaining the knife at the required angle is challenging.
- It can take some effort and time to restore a very dull blade.
Other sharpening stone types you can use on your knife with the same procedure include natural sharpening stone, Ceramic stone, and Diamond stone. The three stones are more robust and durable than a whetstone and sharpen faster. The diamond stone is the best among the stones, but pricey.
4. Sharpen Using A File
Sharpening a kitchen knife with a file is easy and very effective. To keep the blade in place, press it against a wooden board, or hold it firmly with your non-dominant hand. With the knife in place, push the file over the edge while maintaining the correct edge angle. Apply medium pressure while pushing. After repeated pushing, the blade forms burr on the opposite side. Turn the knife over and repeat the angled pushing to the desired sharpness. For a fine edge, file both sides until no burr is left.
Be careful not to injure yourself while filing. Milling files give the best results.
5. Sharpening Using A Grinding Wheel
The grinding wheel is for experienced blade sharpeners only. Use water to cool the blade while sharpening. This sharpening method is very efficient in shaping initial edges and reforming badly damaged blades.
First, clear your working space of any distractions to create enough space for length-wise strokes of your knife. Be very keen while sharpening. Remember, a grinding wheel is very aggressive, and a slight loss of concentration may destroy the blade.
Run the knife length-wise over the grinding wheel while maintaining the edge angle. Repeat on the remaining side of the blade. Ten strokes on each should be enough.
Check also: How To Sharpen Serrated Knives
Sharpening Serrated Kitchen Knives
Sharpening serrated kitchen knives always require patience and concentration. The reason being, you sharpen serrations tooth by tooth. It takes time, but the results last for long. A high-quality serrated knife lasts years between sharpening sessions.
There are three popular sharpening tools for serrated knives, a ceramic honing rod, a triangle-shaped sharpening rod, and a DMT Serrated Knife Sharpener. Procedure:
- First, identify the bevels: Your blade is two-sided. The little angle-downs on the front side are the bevels. You need to sharpen the bevels only.
- Place your sharpening tool on the valley between the serration tips, starting on the handle side. Place your device at an angle equal to the slope. Gently slide your tool under medium pressure to sharpen. Rotating the rod while grinding will result in consistent sharpness.
- Continue grinding, and move to the next serration when you notice the formation of burr.
- Once you are done with all the serrations, remove the burr on the backside gently using a whetstone.
Manual sharpeners also sharpen serrated knives quickly, though not deep in the slopes like steel rods.
When it comes to having excellent chops and minces, a sharp knife is your only way out. Many knives come sharp and ready to go right out of the box but will dull eventually with continued use.
There are several sharpening tools available for your use, but pick the one you are comfortable using for good results. Don’t worry if you take longer to get a sharp edge at first, for, with more practice, you become a pro.
A knife is safer sharp than dull. And as novelist George Orwell wrote, the secret to a successful restaurant is a sharp knife.