There’s nothing quite as satisfying as cleanly slicing through a tomato (or similar stubborn food type). But what happens when your blade bluntly grinds to a halt after requiring extra force to cut through the skin? Knowing how often to sharpen your knives is key to keeping your utensils in top working condition.
The answer to this is rather straightforward, however, there are instances where your knife care may be slightly different – so make sure to read on.
Essentially, the average chef’s knife only needs to be sharpened a few times a year, with honing your knife in between. With this in mind, it’s useful to understand best practices to sharpen your knives, and have a basic understanding of the different methods for doing so.
Why Do You Need To Sharpen Your Kitchen Knife?
Besides the thrill that comes from a clean slice, it’s important to keep your knives sharp for safety reasons. A dull blade can lead to slippage, which becomes even more dangerous when you use additional force. And although the blade may be too blunt to cut through food – it can still hurt you.
From a technical cutting point of view, using a sharp knife allows you to cut your ingredients evenly. This, in turn, means that the ingredients will cook at an even rate.
When Should You Sharpen Your Knife?
It’s important to understand the difference between honing your knife and sharpening it. Honing is the act of pushing the edge of the knife back to the center and straightening the blade. Sharpening refers to the process of grinding and shaving the blade to produce a sharp edge.
The Importance Of Honing
Honing should be done after every 2-4 uses, or before (or after) every heavy use – such as cutting bones or joints. The regular practice of honing will ensure that your knife stays in good condition.
The general rule of thumb is that you only need to get your knife professionally sharpened every 6 – 12 months. This is dependent on whether you regularly hone your knife, and how well you care for it.
The Sharpness Test
There are various ways to test if it’s time to have your kitchen knife sharpened.
One of the easiest ways to check is to put the knife to paper. Fold a piece of paper in half, lay the blade against the top edge (at an angle), and gently slice outwards.
A sharp knife will slice cleanly through. If it doesn’t, try honing your knife. If it still doesn’t slice then it’s time for your knife to be sharpened.
Different Types Of Blades
In addition, it’s important to acknowledge that different knives are made from different materials, which require varied treatment. While hard steel will hold its hard edge longer than softer steel, they are more difficult to sharpen.
- Stainless steel – also known as carbon steel, these knives are often inexpensive and hold their shape well
- Damascus steel – these knives have pattern-welded blades and are very tough
- Ceramic – these blades are very hard and are able to retain their sharp ceramic edge for a longer time
- Titanium-nitride – gold in appearance, these knives are made from a hard ceramic material with a titanium nitride coating
Can You Sharpen Your Blade Too Much?
Every time that you have your kitchen blade sharpened, you remove bits of steel to create a new edge.
While there’s no hazardous risk to over-sharpening your knife, you are essentially decreasing the blade’s size. The abrasive process should therefore only be done when necessary.
Top Tips For Sharpening Your Kitchen Knives
Serious chefs will tell you that sharpening your knife is an art form – and they’re not lying. While it may not be rocket science to sharpen your knife, there is definitely a skill to doing it well.
Here are six tips to help you sharpen your knives in a professional and careful manner.
- Maintain a consistent angle. While a 20-degree angle to the surface of the blade is the recommended one, it’s more important to be consistent.
- Go easy on the pressure. Keep a light grip and gentle pressure on the knife. This will also make it easier to keep a constant angle.
- Be selective in your knife sharpening tool. Sharpening stones are very effective and we believe that they are the best route to go.
- If a sharpening stone is not your style, then you can also look into various manual and electronic sharpening tools.
- Take the time to read the instructions of your sharpening tool. Each stone and device has a set of instructions that are included for the benefit of your knife – take advantage of them!
- Test your knife after sharpening. Go back to the paper test and double-check that the job is done. Despite how tempting it may be, don’t test the sharpness on your body.
Tips To Keep Your Knife Sharp
Whether you pride yourself in your collection of kitchen knives, or you have a drawer of blades that “get the job done”, it’s important to keep them sharp. A dull blade is a dangerous one, and sharpening your knife takes time.
The following tips will keep your blade in good condition.
- Be selective about the backgrounds that you cut on. Avoid chopping and cutting on glass, stone, or metal. These materials blunt the blade and damage the knife. See our recommended cutting boards.
- Take the time to regularly hone your knife. This bends the blade back into place and prevents the knife from blunting unnecessarily.
- Hand-wash your knives. While the dishwasher is one of our best friends, it doesn’t have as healthy a relationship with knives. The detergent used in dishwashers is hard on the blade and dulls it over time.
- Dry and store the knife immediately after washing. Make sure that you carefully place your knife into a knife block or magnetic knife strip.
The good news is that you don’t need to sharpen your kitchen knives more than a couple of times a year. However, you do need to take regular care of your blades.
Make sure that you take the time to hone your knives regularly, and invest in a handy knife sharpening tool. At the end of the day, your time in the kitchen should be a joy, and a dull blade to the finger can quickly shatter the dream. These knife-sharpening habits will ensure continued happiness in the kitchen.
Pin it for later!
I’ve spent many years in the kitchen so I know how important it is to have good, sharp knives and tools to work with.