When should I sharpen my kitchen knives?
There is no guide as to when you should sharpen your knives, it depends on how frequently you are using them and what you are using them for. For example, a cleaver will blunt much quicker than a santoku knife if you are using the cleaver to cut through meat and bone and the santoku to chop vegetables.
It also depends on the type of knife you are using and the hardness of the steel. You will have to sharpen a softer steel more frequently but it is very easy to sharpen, whereas it will take more work to sharpen a harder steel but you will need to sharpen it less often.
For a chef’s knife with average use at home, we’d recommend sharpening your knife once every 2-3 months or once you can no longer cut through a tomato with ease. The more you use your knife the more comfortable you will get with knowing when it needs sharpening. However beware of sharpening your knife too often as this can reduce the life of your blade.
How do I sharpen my kitchen knives?
If you’re not entirely sure what you’re doing, it’s a good idea to take your knives to a professional to have them sharpened correctly. However, it is possible to sharpen knives at home using a variety of products - which we’ve gone into more detail below.
- Whetstones - whetstones are the best overall option if you have a wide range of different types of knives. They can be used to sharpen knives at any angle so can be used with both western and eastern style knives. You can get whetstones in different grits, we'd recommended starting with a lower grit to reshape and get the edge back to your knife, then finish with a higher grit for that super sharp edge. It can take some practice to get right but it's worth it for the final result.
- Sharpening wheels - Waterwheel sharpeners are essentially like sharpening on a whetstone, but the angle is already set for you. So it's great for beginners, or if you simply don't feel confident enough to get your angle right on a whetstone. It's very difficult to put even pressure on the knife as you pull it through, but it's important to keep the blade evenly sharpened. So don't put any undue pressure on the knife and just let the weight on the knife rest on the sharpener as it glides through.
- Pull through sharpeners - Pull-through sharpeners are made for European style knives. Don't use them with Eastern style knives as it can damage the sharpening edge. They are the easiest to use as the angle is already set and can also have a honing element to them, however they may not make your knife quite as sharp as a waterwheel will.
Please make sure you wash your knife after sharpening it as it can be covered in metal particles.
What products are best for sharpening my kitchen knives?
A combination stone is perfect if you're starting out using a whetstone. This one comes with two sides and two different grits.
Start by soaking the stone in water, then use the red side of the stone for the initial sharpening of your blade. Flip the stone over and finish off on the yellow side. This has a higher grit and will give your knife its silky smooth, razor sharp edge. Apply water to the stone throughout sharpening for the best results.
This waterwheel sharpener comes with two wheels. Similar to the whetstone they are two different grits. The white wheel offers a coarse sharpening whereas the prink is for finer sharpening. The only difference is the angle is set for you already with a waterwheel so it is easier to use.
The diamond steel side will remove a very small amount of the steel of your knife, so don't overuse it as it will shorten the life of your knife.
This 10cm stone is ideal for pocket-sized knives. For best results, always wet the stone and knife blade first. Hold the blade at a 20° angle to the surface of the stone, and sweep towards you along the whole length of the stone.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a honing steel?
Honing steels are great to use on a regular basis to just freshen up your knife. You can happily use it every time you use your knife without causing damage. It shouldn't be used with Japanese style knives, but are designed for European style knives(same as the pull through sharpener from De Buyer).
It won't be able to bring back an edge to your knife if it's very dull, so it should be used as a complement to a pull through sharpener or whetstone.
What is the difference between sharpening and honing my kitchen knife?
Sharpening is grinding the metal blade down, which, by definition, is removing tiny bits of the metal. It’s not damaging to the knife, it’s simply restoring the v-shaped edge of the knife.
Honing, by comparison, done with what’s called a steel (or sharpening steel) simply moves the almost microscopic tines of metal to be more in alignment so that V shape is more at a perfect angle.
Technically honing will never make a dull knife sharp. It will, however, take a knife that has been sharpened, and make it seem sharper since the tines will be better shaped.