how to sharpen knives correctly

A sharp knife is an essential tool in any kitchen. Not only does it make your cutting and slicing tasks easier, but it also ensures safety by preventing accidents caused by dull blades. However, over time, knives tend to lose their sharpness due to regular use. That’s when knife sharpening comes into play. Learning how to sharpen knives correctly is a crucial skill for every cook or chef. In this article, we will explore the various techniques to sharpen knives and provide you with the best practices to maintain a sharp edge.

The Importance of Sharpening Knives

Sharpening your knives regularly is essential for several reasons. Firstly, a sharp knife is much safer to use than a dull one. When a knife is dull, it requires more force to cut through food, increasing the chances of slips and accidents. A sharp blade ensures precise cuts and reduces the risk of injuries.

Secondly, a sharp knife improves efficiency in the kitchen. When your knives are sharp, you can breeze through cutting tasks effortlessly. On the other hand, using a dull knife not only slows you down but also affects the quality of your food. A dull blade can crush delicate ingredients instead of slicing them cleanly.

Lastly, sharpening your knives prolongs their lifespan. Dull blades tend to wear down faster and may require frequent replacements. Properly maintained and sharpened knives can last a lifetime.

Understanding Knife Sharpening Techniques

Before we delve into the step-by-step process of sharpening knives correctly, it’s important to familiarize ourselves with the different techniques available:


One of the most traditional and effective methods of sharpening a knife is using a whetstone. This technique involves running the blade against the stone at the correct angle to remove the dull edges and create a sharp cutting edge.

Sharpening Steel

A sharpening steel, also known as a honing rod, is a long, cylindrical tool made of steel or ceramic. It is used to realign the blade’s edge and maintain sharpness between sharpenings.

Electric Knife Sharpener

Electric knife sharpeners are convenient and easy to use. They typically feature built-in sharpening guides and abrasive wheels to quickly and efficiently sharpen the knife’s edge.

How to Sharpen Knives Correctly

Now, let’s look at the step-by-step process of sharpening knives correctly using different techniques:

Sharpening with a Whetstone

Step 1: Prep the Whetstone – Place the whetstone on a stable surface and ensure it is adequately wet. Some stones require soaking in water beforehand, while others only need to be wetted with water.

Step 2: Find the Correct Angle – Determine the optimum angle for sharpening your specific knife. It is generally between 15 and 20 degrees. Holding the knife at the correct angle is crucial for a sharp edge.

Step 3: Begin Sharpening – Start by placing the knife’s heel against the stone at the desired angle. Apply consistent pressure and move the knife along the stone in a sweeping motion. Repeat this process on both sides of the blade, alternating between strokes until the desired sharpness is achieved.

Step 4: Test the Blade – After sharpening, it’s essential to test the blade’s sharpness. Carefully run the blade across a piece of paper or gently push it against your fingernail to check if it can glide through with ease.

Sharpening with a Sharpening Steel

Step 1: Grip the Steel – Hold the sharpening steel upright with the tip resting on a stable surface. Make sure to place it vertically, perpendicular to the table or countertop.

Step 2: Position the Knife – Hold the knife in your dominant hand and place the heel against the top of the sharpening steel. Ensure a 15 to 20-degree angle between the knife and the steel. Remember, the knife’s edge should face away from you.

Step 3: Start Honing – With a gentle sweeping motion, pull the knife down and across the length of the sharpening steel. Maintain the angle and repeat the process multiple times on both sides of the blade.

Step 4: Test the Blade – As with whetstone sharpening, it’s important to check the blade’s sharpness after honing. Perform a paper or fingernail test to ensure a sharp cutting edge.

Sharpening with an Electric Knife Sharpener

Step 1: Read the Instructions – Each electric knife sharpener may have its own set of instructions. It is essential to carefully read and understand the manufacturer’s guidelines before proceeding.

Step 2: Position the Knife – Place the knife into the designated sharpening slot or slot of your choice. Ensure that the blade is in full contact with the sharpening mechanism.

Step 3: Start the Sharpening Process – Turn on the electric sharpener and slowly move the knife through the designated slot. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended number of passes and be mindful not to apply excessive pressure.

Step 4: Check the Sharpness – After sharpening, perform a paper or fingernail test to determine the sharpness of the knife. If needed, repeat the process for optimal results.

Best Practices for Knife Sharpening

In addition to the specific techniques mentioned above, here are some best practices to keep in mind while sharpening knives:

Keep a Consistent Angle

Maintaining a consistent angle throughout the sharpening process is crucial for achieving a sharp edge. Use a guide or visual reference to ensure accuracy.

Avoid Applying Excessive Pressure

Applying too much pressure while sharpening can result in an uneven edge or damage to the blade. Use a light and controlled touch to achieve the desired sharpness.

Use Lubrication

Lubricating the whetstone with water or honing oil helps reduce friction and facilitates smoother sharpening. It also prevents the accumulation of metal particles on the stone.

Clean the Blade

Before sharpening, make sure the knife blade is clean and free from any debris or residual food particles. A clean blade ensures better sharpening results.

Regular Maintenance

Sharpen your knives regularly to maintain their sharpness. The frequency may vary depending on usage, but for most home cooks, sharpening every 3-6 months should be sufficient.

Sharpening Different Types of Knives

Different types of knives require slightly different approaches when it comes to sharpening. Here are some tips for sharpening specific types of knives:

Chef’s Knife

Chef’s knives are versatile and commonly used in the kitchen. When sharpening a chef’s knife, follow the general sharpening techniques mentioned earlier, keeping in mind the correct angle and number of passes.

Paring Knife

Paring knives are smaller with a narrow blade. The sharpening process remains the same, but since paring knives usually have a thinner edge, it is important to be extra careful while sharpening to avoid accidental damage.

Serrated Knife

Serrated knives require a different approach due to their unique edge. While the teeth of the serrated blade cannot be sharpened, the flat side of the knife can be honed using a sharpening steel or an electric knife sharpener. Simply follow the instructions provided specifically for serrated knives.

Common Mistakes to Avoid while Sharpening Knives

To ensure successful knife sharpening, it’s essential to avoid common mistakes that could result in undesirable outcomes. Here are some mistakes to avoid:

Using the Wrong Angle

Sharpening at the incorrect angle will not yield the desired results. It is important to determine the appropriate angle for your knife and ensure consistency throughout the sharpening process.

Applying Excessive Pressure

As mentioned earlier, applying too much pressure can lead to over-sharpening and cause uneven blade edges. Always maintain a light touch for optimal results.

Neglecting to Clean the Blade

A dirty blade can affect the sharpening process and result in less-than-desirable outcomes. Make sure to clean the blade before sharpening to achieve the best results.


Properly sharpening your knives is a vital skill for any home cook or chef. Knowing how to sharpen knives correctly not only ensures safety but also enhances the efficiency and precision of your cutting tasks. By understanding the different sharpening techniques, following best practices, and avoiding common mistakes, you can maintain the sharpness of your knives and extend their lifespan. So, gear up with the right tools and techniques, and enjoy the benefits of perfectly sharpened knives in your kitchen.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1 What is the importance of sharpening knives?
Properly sharpened knives ensure safety, improved efficiency, and prolong the lifespan of the blades.

.2 How often should I sharpen my knife?
The frequency of sharpening depends on usage, but in general, sharpening every 3-6 months is sufficient for most home cooks.

3 How can I tell if my knife is dull?
A dull knife will require more force to cut through food and may produce uneven or crushed cuts. It’s best to rely on the paper or fingernail test to determine the sharpness.

.4 Should I sharpen my own knives or hire a professional?
Sharpening your knives at home is a cost-effective option and allows you to maintain control over the process. However, if you lack confidence or prefer professional expertise, hiring a knife sharpening service is a viable choice.

.5 What are the different types of knife sharpening techniques?
The three main techniques are sharpening with a whetstone, sharpening with a sharpening steel, and sharpening with an electric knife sharpener..

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