If you had to create a wish list for a new kitchen, one of the essential items must be a sharp knife. A genuinely sharp knife is the stuff of dreams, while a blunt knife can wreak havoc in the kitchen. Dull blades can make cutting a chore instead of a pleasure, and people who love cooking appreciate the efficiency of a sharp, clean knife.
They say any artisan is as good as their tools. Imagine painting a masterpiece without paint, building a house with broken bricks, or worse, a doctor performing your all-important surgery with a blunt scalpel. The mind boggles! If you are serious about your knives, it’s time to learn about sharpening them. It’s not as tricky as you might have thought. So, what is the best way to sharpen a knife?
Knives Need Maintenance
Before we get into telling you how to sharpen a knife, perhaps we need to explain one thing.
Like many kitchen items, knives need maintenance or renewal often. If you have paid a pretty penny for your knife, you’ll not want to be exchanging it any time soon, so the best thing to do when learning which blade suits your needs is to know when you should have to sharpen it. This knowledge could form part of the decision process when choosing a knife.
If you didn’t go through this stage and already have a drawer full of various knives, the best test is when the knife starts to feel dull, and there are a few practical tests you can use to confirm you are working with a blunt blade.
The Tomato and Paper Test
Try cutting a tomato; if the knife struggles against the skin of the tomato, it’s time to give the blade the attention it needs. Another favored test is to hold paper by hand and swipe the edge through the paper. You might find a clean-cut or find parts clean, and other parts of the paper are frayed and jaggy. This uneven cut means your knife is not evenly sharp along the knife shaft or spine.
If you are really into cooking, then spending a little more on a good quality blade will pay dividends in the long term. Some swear by purchasing cheaper knives and just replacing the knife to save the hassle.
Also read: The 6 Best Knife Steel: Supreme Review & Buying Guide
This action is probably not very environmentally friendly. Budget constraints could lead you to your preferred knife, but not all is lost; if you buy any knife, there will be a time to call in the sharpeners to get better results. Sharpening should be around two to three times a year for decent knives and more for less expensive blades.
It is important to note that blunt knives can cause injury in the kitchen, too much force can be applied and cause slippage. So, for safety reasons, if nothing else, keep a check on your kitchen knives.
How to Sharpen a Knife: The Most Used Methods
Now, it’s time to learn how to sharpen a knife. We will look at the 2 most commonly used methods of knife sharpening. After that, you should feel in a position to go ahead and decide which one is the best for you.
The type of knife will also dictate which kind of sharpener you’ll use, and more specialized knives might require more technical methods of sharpening. For instance, you probably won’t use the same method for both Ulu knives and utility knives.
It would be impossible to hone in on every technique here. Some blades offer a service where you can send the knife back to get sharpened by a master knife sharpener. Generally, though, two excellent ways work for most knives.
If you are unsure about these two methods, research your specialized knife to get the best sharpening apparatus for your knife.
The methods discussed here are the whetstone method and the electrical sharpener method. You might prefer one method over the other, but the whetstone method is gentler on the blades overall.
The Whetstone Method
The whetstone knife sharpener is probably the best route to go. They are not too expensive and only take a bit of practice before you feel comfortable using them. Once you do feel comfortable, there will be no stopping you.
They are not too difficult to get hold of either. Most online stores sell them as well as specialty kitchen supply stores. Once you have your Whetstone, they last for ages.
With a whetstone, you will start to learn there are different kinds of grits, and the color of the stone often displays the grit count, which makes it easier to use. They are oblong in style, and although some types vary generally, they will fit on top of each other and pack neatly away.
Coarse and Fine Grit
A whetstone will come with coarse and fine grit, each with its specific purpose. Sometimes the oblong-shaped whetstones will come together like different pieces, or they might come as one stone with different grits attached. Coarse grit on one side and a fine grit on the other.
The coarse grit is for sharpening and redefining your cutting edge, so it is essential to know how to hold the knife while running it along with the stone. The finer grit is for refining and polishing your finished result. While using coarse grit, you would hold your blade at a particular angle to get your desired outcome.
If your knife is only slightly dull or dull in places, you could use the finer grit to level it out.
How to Sharpen a Knife Using Whetstone
Step 1: Soak it Well in Water
The first thing you will need to do with your stones is make sure they are soaked well in water for at least half an hour. Some stones require oil in the mixture. Some will soak quicker, and this will depend on the grit. You can generally tell it is well saturated when the stone has a slight gurgle, and bubbles appear when pressed.
Step 2: Secure it Well Onto the Table
Once your stones are soaked, you will need to put a cloth down on the countertop to hold your stones in place. Some people prefer rubber matting, but the fabric will also absorb extra water as you go along.
Step 3: Keep a Jug of Water Handy
Once your stone is ready, make sure you have water on hand to splash the stone periodically. Moisture keeps it wet and ready for action. The water acts as a lubricant for the stone and protects the blade from damage.
Step 4: Start Sharpening
Hold the knife at a 20-degree angle; it can be lower, but it depends on the knife itself. Don’t hold it too high; you do not want to reshape the blade but sharpen it. Some swear by placing a few pennies under the blade’s spine to correct placement.
Once you get its hang, you will know which angle works for your knife. Holding the knife blade flat at the blade end with a few fingers, start to carve away at the stone as if you are peeling thin slices of the stone away.
You will begin to section by section. Most start at the base of the knife with 15 passes, then move to the midsection, but this depends on the length of your blade. The point is to take the edge in sections.
Step 5: Polish
Once you are satisfied with the knife edge, start to use the fine grit and polish your knife’s edge. You will use the same motions to polish the blade, and some kits come with a cloth to polish off any particles left behind. The knife should look like polished reflective steel once you are done.
If this sounds intimidating, don’t worry. All whetstones come with clear directions, which should help you along your knife sharpening journey.
Electrical and Handheld Sharpeners
Electrical sharpeners are pretty straightforward. They already have the stones attached to the sharpener. You can simply attach them to the countertop and get on with sharpening your blade.
To operate them, you would lower your blade into the sharpener and proceed with the task.
The only issue with electric sharpeners is you can do some damage by over-sharpening. This is something to be aware of when trying to sharpen expensive knives. There is a risk of damaging them when sharpened incorrectly.
Usually, the sharpener will have two sections, and you will place your knife into the coarse grit area first and then move to the polish stage after that. There are many designs on the market, including sizes, so your own needs will come into play when choosing the right one for you.
Also read: The 4 BEST Victorinox Kitchen Knives [Ultimate 2022 Review]
People who have paid a lot for expensive blades are nervous about electrical sharpeners, so they might prefer the stone sharpening method or a handheld device.
The handheld device works oppositely to the electrical device that fits onto the countertop. You will lower the blades onto the knife and proceed with sharpening. There are many types of handheld sharpeners, so the world is your oyster in terms of variety.
Is Home Sharpening OK?
As you can tell by now, sharpening your knives can take a bit of practice. This is a guide only, so knowing that most sharpeners will come with detailed directions might take some anxiety away. Yes, there could be times when your knife is over sharpened and even damaged, but practice and knowledge can protect your blade from any overuse or unfortunate products.
Also, make sure your blade is cleaned and polished after sharpening, as it is not a good idea to leave steel debris on your knife blade.
Does Price Make a Difference?
With the different sharpening ideas mentioned above, we have covered an array of prices. A whetstone is undoubtedly the least expensive option, so if you find yourself on a budget, then this is the one we would go for.
Also, keep in mind that a whetstone is going to outlive you. They really are that good and last for an eternity.
For the electric version, the only real difference when it comes to the price can be the variety of grits included in the device. Also, you may notice a slight difference in the speed at which the electric version can sharpen your knives.
We would suggest taking into consideration how often you plan on using the device before purchasing. Clearly, if you are a regular in the kitchen and want to preserve your knives as best you can, then investing in a quality electric sharpener makes sense.
But then, we would suggest potentially sending expensive knives back to the manufacturer rather than constantly sharpening them on your own. It reduces the chances of you ruining the blade, which would undoubtedly lead to you sending the knife back to the manufacturer.
So, the price may play a role in the quality of the sharpener, but it’s not the only thing you should take into consideration.
The Advantages of Sharpening Your Knife
Now that you have found the best way to sharpen a knife, let’s quickly run over the different advantages associated with knife sharpening. After all, you may still feel skeptical about doing it.
Advantage 1: It Prolongs the Life of the Knife
The first advantage is the obvious one, it prolongs the knife’s lifespan. Over time, the edge becomes blunt, and people tend to simply throw it away.
However, all you need to do is sharpen the edge, and suddenly the knife springs back into life.
Advantage 2: Preventing Accidents
We mentioned how so many accidents are caused by a knife slipping, so it makes sense that this is another advantage of sharpening. But let’s look at the reason why accidents can occur.
If a knife blade is blunt, then people start to use more force to get the knife to cut. If it’s sharp, then the weight of the blade should always be enough. However, as the blade loses its razor-sharp edge, people push down, and that’s where a loss of control can occur.
When you apply force, the knife can then slip. Unfortunately, while it may be struggling to cut a potato as crisply, even a blunt knife can have enough to cause some damage to your skin.
Advantage 3: It Continues to Work Well
We always look at our knives to make our life as easy as possible. The key is to ensure that we keep our knives as sharp as possible.
Sharpening your knives results in being able to complete your tasks as quickly as before. It can be very frustrating when you realize your knife is becoming blunt. It may even put you off using it, and that’s insane considering the money you invested in buying it.
But by sharpening the knife, you no longer have to worry about that. It’s always going to work just as you want.
It’s better to do your homework when purchasing a knife to understand what is required of you to keep the blades running smoothly. If you feel unnerved at home sharpening, find out if your knife has a service attached to it for regular sharpening yearly. Obviously, your knife will have to be sent away, which might not be convenient.
Keeping your blades nice and sharp enhances their performance and keeps you safe in the kitchen. Most mishaps occur because of a knife slipping, which is often caused by blunt blades. This can be avoided with the correct care.
Ultimately, the best way to sharpen a knife depends on what you want to achieve with it. Also, take the blade itself into account. It could stop you from unfortunately destroying what would otherwise be a wonderful knife.