Your definite guide to learning the art of blade sharpening
Whether you see it as an art form, a great little hobby, or a pesky task, sharpening your knives is not negotiable if you want to dish up impressive meals, it’s an absolute must.
I get it:
Attempting to sharpen your own blades is a seriously intimidating task if you don’t have a clue what you’re doing. But let me reassure you, it’s not just a “man’s job”, I’m a very feminine woman who just happens to love cooking, so I need to keep my knives super sharp. This means I HAVE to sharpen them, and I’ve gotten pretty good at it by the way, so if I can do it, then so can you!
If you ever use a knife, you should definitely sharpen it. Dull knives are not only useless, but they’re actually dangerous!
The best part about the whole ordeal comes when you can finally effortlessly slice a paper-thin slice of meat from a thick chunk. That’s when you can sit back and give yourself a pat on the shoulder.
But before you get too excited, let’s take a look at what you’ll need…
Different Knife Sharpening Methods or Tools:
Sharpening tools are available in their masses out there, which is why I totally get why it’s confusing to pick one.
Let’s clear one thing up:
Honing steels are used may be once or twice a year; to get your kitchen knives right back on track and remove any nicks on the edge. I like to use mine to repair worn edges, and I’d say I use it at least once a month because I just prefer the quick and easy process it requires to get the knife as sharp as I need it to be. Honing steels don’t actually sharpen; they just take care of little nicks on the blade and other imperfections. Diamond hones on the other hand are brilliant at sharpening knives, but in all honesty, they’re really nothing more than sharpeners in disguise.
Sharpening Stones – These stones are probably the most basic ways to sharpen knives and they’re also super versatile when it comes to what blades they will sharpen, happily grinding anything from pocket knives to machetes. I recommend using a whetstone if you opt for the stone method, because it’s just going to give you much better results.
I DO NOT recommend using knife sharpening tools. In my personal opinion, they’re a waste of money since I can’t use them to sharpen my fine edge blades or my Japanese knives without totally ruining the blades. I will show you one great sharpening tool, but PLEASE do not use these kinds of tools for your kitchen knives, at least not if you want to keep your knives in their best shape.
Okay so now that you know the two best knife sharpening methods, let me give you the scoop on how exactly to do it…
If you’re using a stone:
- The first thing you want to do is clean your knife with good 3-in-1 blade oil so that debris and dirt won’t get worked into the blade as you sharpen it.I like to use the oil that came with my Wusthof sharpening tool, but you can really use any oil you fancy.
- Prep your whetstone by placing it on some paper-towels and make sure you’re working on a sturdy cutting board or bench top. Next you’re going to want to apply enough honing oil to the coarse side of the stone and then let it sit for a while.I would happily recommend Norton Sharpening Stone Oil here:
- Once the coarse side of the stone has soaked for a few minutes you’re going to start sharpening. You’re going to want to hold the knife by its handle and lay it against the stone so that the face of the blade is flat against the stone before you raise the back of the blade somewhere between 15 and 20 degrees.YOU HAVE TO MAINTAIN YOUR ANGLE THROUGHOUT THE PROCESS TO GET RESULTSNext, you’ll place your other hand on the face of the blade (while please keeping your fingers AWAY from the edge) and then firmly push the knife away from you with both the hands.It’s best to pretend you’re trying to shave a thin layer off the top of the stone and move the knife as you would normally do to slice meat, working your way down the length of the blade.
I recommend 5 strokes on the one side before flipping it over to the other side of the knife, and you can repeat this 5 stroke routine about 4 times on each side of the blade.
- We’re not done yet. Now you’re going to flip the stone over to its fine-grade side and then oil it. Repeat the 5 stoke routine about 4 times on each side of the blade again on the fine-grade.
- You’ll know your knife is properly sharpened once the edge starts looking like a fine black line. If it reflects light it means you’ve sharpened it too heavily on one side. Once you’re happy with the results, just clean up your work space, and pat the whetstone dry with paper towels before storing it and you’re good to go.
If you’re using honing steel:
- Grab your honing steel firmly in your non-dominant hand and make sure your fingers are kept behind the guard at all times. Now hold the steel away from your body and place it at a 45 degree angle.
- Take hold of your knife with your dominant hand and then rest the heel of the blade at the base of the honing steel. Now you’re going to want to draw the knife away from you in long, smooth strokes to run across the entire length of the steel.
- Once you’re comfortable with how it feels, start alternating strokes on each side of the knife. If you’re not too sure what the rhythm should look like, have a look at the instructional video by celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay.
How To Sharpen Knife – Instructional Video by Chef Gordon Ramsay
Okay great, so by now you know how to do it. Before I go ahead and recommend some stones and honing steels, there are just some key things that I want you to remember when you’re sharpening your knives.
Tips for Knife Sharpening:
- Angle always matters, constant angle to be more exact
- Take it easy; rushing will only give you unwanted results. Don’t put too much pressure on the knife!
- Make sure you use oil ONLY for whetstones. Using honing oil on a stone that was designed to be used dry will destroy it.
- The best way to test blade sharpness is to cut through a sheet of paper. If it slices cleanly through, you’ve done an excellent job.
And that’s it for my knife sharpening lesson. The last thing I want to throw in here is the sharpening tools that I have personally used and would recommend at the drop of a hat.
The Best Sharpening Hones
Keep in mind that hones come in steel, diamond or ceramic variations.
- Steel is the oldest, most durable and most widely used material.
- Diamond hones are just knife sharpening tools in disguise, not real honing steels. They are very versatile and will sharpen any blade whether it’s German Chef Knives or the Japanese Santoku. Diamond hones are NOT suitable for regular use!
- Ceramic hones are a hybrid of sorts, mixing the sturdiness of steel with the super sharpening skills of the diamond hone. Ceramic hones ARE prone to break if you accidentally drop them, so just keep that in mind.
Here’s my top pick for each:
1. Wusthof Classic Honing Steel
With German no-stain steel, the Wusthof is reliable, durable and also happens to be quite affordable.
2. Wusthof 9 Inch Diamond Rod
Made with industrial diamonds, this hone is perfect for sharpening knives for everyday use.
3. Global 8 1/2 Inch Ceramic Sharpening Rod
Combining the best of both worlds, this hone works well for polishing the edge and restoring its sharpness.
4. Shun Combination Whetstone
To reshape and polish your blades, this whetstone comes with a fine (1000 grit) side and a super-fine (6000 grit) side. If you want a quality stone that will likely outlive you, this is the one to go for.
5. Messermeister Chantry Knife Sharpener
This tool does all the hard work for you; all you have to do is pull your knives through it. The sleek design looks great! Please note…these tools are NOT suitable for fine edge knives and Japanese knives.
For one last time…that’s a wrap! I sincerely hope you have enjoyed reading all about my great learning curve in the kitchen during the course of the articles I gave you, but the most important thing is that you should be able to kit out your kitchen with the best tools to start (or broaden) your cooking journey! Se la vie my friends. I will see you on the flip side once I’ve acquired some awesome new skills and info that I can share with you…