It's Time to Get Sharp: How to Sharpen a Knife
Using a dull knife in the kitchen can be dangerous — much more than using a very sharp knife. A sharp knife ensures quick and even chopping, thus leading to even cooking and yummier food. A dull knife, on the other hand, can cause uneven cuts and more risk of slips and cuts.
Are you wondering how to sharpen a knife? Let us see some effective ways you can use to sharpen your kitchen knives and keep them in good shape.
Contrary to what many people believe, a honing rod doesn’t sharpen knives. Neither does it hone them in a true sense. It does not remove any metal from a knife’s edge. Instead, it works to realign curved edges. Traditional honing steels can do just that. Ceramic and diamond abrasive steels go a bit further and remove some material.
Steeling, as the process is known, can be done before or after every use to maintain the alignment of the edge. Doing so does make a difference in the cutting power of the knife.
To Hone Your Knife
- Hold the handle of your honing steel firmly with a comfortable grip, making sure your fingers are safe behind the butt of the rod to prevent hurting yourself.
- A safe position for beginners is the vertical hold, where the tip of the rod rests on the flat surface of a kitchen counter. If you are an advanced cook, you can try holding it in a position you see most chefs using.
- Angle the blade of your knife at around 20 degrees to the rod.
- With light pressure, drag the knife across the length of the rod.
- Repeat for the full length of the opposite side of the knife. Six to eight strokes per side would be enough to hone the knife.
When you feel that honing your knife is not helping with the sharpness, it is time to dig out your knife sharpener. For regular cooking at home, you can manage with one sharpening session every six months. In a professional setting, more frequent sharpening may be required — maybe once a week.
Here are a few tools that are commonly used for sharpening knives effectively:
Electric Knife Sharpeners
These sharpeners have motorized wheels that carry the abrasives used to sharpen knives. They are faster and easier to use compared to manual sharpeners and whetstones. They are designed to work with most types of knives with minimum user effort.
To sharpen your knife using an electric knife sharpener, switch it on and glide your knife through the suitable slot slowly. Repeat the process until your knife is sharp.
Manual Knife Sharpeners
Manual knife sharpeners have abrasives, usually carbide or ceramic, shaped into v-shaped slots or on non-motorized wheels.
These sharpeners are handy, cheap and do not require electricity to work. They are perfect for kitchen knives. They make you feel more in control of the sharpening process. They are, however, not suitable for serrated knives and those with wavy edges.
To sharpen your knife using these sharpeners, pull it through the slot with light and even pressure. You can use these pull-through sharpeners for sharpening or even for light maintenance.
Whetstones are favorites among many professionals, and for good reason. They do have a learning curve, but once you learn how to use them they’ll be perfect choices for getting that perfect edge on your favorite expensive knife. They feature different levels of coarseness for the desired sharpness. These can be used to sharpen most types of knives including serrated knives and large ones. They are relatively low-priced.
Whetstones must be soaked in water for around 10 minutes before use. Keep it submerged in water until no more bubbles are seen emerging from it.
To use it, place a soaked whetstone on damp kitchen towels spread on the counter to ensure it stays steady. Place it with the coarse side facing up. Hold the knife at a 20 degree angle over it and lightly drag one side of the knife against it. Repeat with the opposite side. If you feel the stone drying out, sprinkle some water on it. Once done, repeat the process on the fine side for the perfect edge.
A Few Workarounds
What about those times when you do not have a sharpener handy? Here are a few things around the house you can use for sharpening your knife without a sharpener. As much as they can work, they do not come with the safety features that knife sharpeners do. If you use them, do so with utmost care.
- The unglazed surface under a ceramic mug
- Emery board
- The back of another knife
- A flat river stone — use it like a whetstone
The Tomato Test
You now know how to sharpen a knife. You know how to hone a knife. But how do you tell whether your knife is sharp enough?
When it comes to your kitchen knife, the simplest way to tell is to check the ease of cutting vegetables. Cut a tomato using different parts of the blade to check if it is evenly sharp throughout.
Another common test is the paper test. Your knife is sharp if it can cut through a sheet of paper with a single stroke.
The Bottom Line
It is crucial to hone your knives every day or every time before you use them. Regular honing will demand a lesser need for sharpening the knives. Use any of the methods mentioned above to sharpen your knives occasionally.
Remember that sharp knives are safe knives. So stay safe! Store your knives in sleeves or a knife blocks to maintain the edge and protect your fingers too!