There are lots of different types of kitchen knives, each with different uses. Whether you have a wide selection of quality knives in your kitchen, or simply own a basic cooks' or utility knife, each will need sharpening to keep it in good working order.
There are several types of kitchen knife sharpeners on the market, accompanied by varying advice, if you are in doubt as to whether your knife can be sharpened with a particular sharpener, always refer to your knife/sharpener instruction manual.
What to use to sharpen kitchen knives
Kitchen knives can be maintained with a steel and sharpened with a knife sharpener or a whetstone, depending on the type of knife.
How to sharpen a kitchen knife with a steel
One of the most common methods used to maintain a sharp kitchen knife is with a steel.
Known as a honing steel, this tool is not able to sharpen a blunt knife, but is a great way to re-align the edges of a knife in-between uses and maintain its sharpness.
To use a honing steel, hold the tool in one hand and the knife in the other, place the bottom of the knife against the heel of the steel, facing away from you. Turn the knife to a 20-degree angle and move across the steel, heel to heel, tip to tip.
How to sharpen a kitchen knife with a knife sharpener
Probably the simplest way to sharpen a kitchen knife at home is with a manual or electric knife sharpener, also sometimes referred to as a V-sharpener or handheld. Very little skill is needed to use this kind of knife sharpener, so it is an ideal addition to any kitchen.
This kind of knife sharpener usually has two sections, one fine blade to re-align/hone the knife and one course blade to sharpen the knife.
To sharpen a knife with a handheld knife sharpener, prep by lightly running the knife through the fine blade, then place the heel of the knife on the sharpening blade and pull through, applying a small amount of pressure. Finish by running the knife back through the fine honing side.
How to sharpen a kitchen knife with a whetstone
For the savvier, more confident individuals, using a whetstone is a brilliant way to sharpen kitchen knives that are becoming blunt. Most whetstones are double-sided, with a course grit on one side and a fine grit on the opposite side.
To sharpen a knife with a whetstone, secure it to your kitchen surface, course side up. With the knife handle in hand, place the blade of the knife on the whetstone at a 20-degree angle. Slide the knife, tip to heel across the whetstone at a continuous 20-degree angle until you reach your desired sharpness. Do this on both sides of the knife and proceed to sharpen using the fine grit side of the whetstone.
Sharpening a kitchen knife with a whetstone takes a lot of skill, so it is best to practice with an old knife you no longer need, and always follow the instructions on your particular tool.
Getting kitchen knives professionally sharpened
If you do not own a knife sharpener, or do not feel confident in your knife-sharpening abilities, you can opt to get your knives sharpened professionally. For professional knife sharpening, just like with at-home knife sharpening, it is not advised to wait until knives are dull, because this can be dangerous for the cook. Depending on the quality and sharpness of your knives, for a home cook, they should be professionally sharpened approximately every 6 to 12 months.
How often to sharpen kitchen knives at home
In order to keep your kitchen knives in the best possible condition, it is important keep them sharp. To make the most of your investment, kitchen knives should be honed with a steel prior to or after each use to keep them in good working order and ensure they stay sharp.
Ideally, kitchen knives should be properly sharpened every three to four months using an appropriate sharpening tool. However, if you are a home cook who does not use knives to excess, they will last a lot longer without the need for sharpening. In this case it is best to look out for the signs your knives show when they need some TLC.
How to tell if a kitchen knife needs sharpening
With regular use, it is normal for kitchen knives to become blunt, and the more you use a knife, the faster this will happen. It’s best to keep an eye on the sharpness of your kitchen knives, when they stop slicing as easily, or you feel resistance when chopping, it could be time to sharpen your knives. A quick and efficient test to tell if your knife is sharp enough is to take a ripe tomato and glide your knife along the top of it without applying any pressure. If your knife cuts into the skin, it is sharp enough, however, if it does not, it’s time to sharpen it.