How To Sharpen Kitchen Knives
by HexClad Cookware
Sharpening your knives is an integral part of maintaining your kitchen. As a result, it should be in the same vein as washing your dishes or seasoning your pans. It’s a necessary task to keep your cookware strong — regardless of whether you’re a home cook or a professional.
The benefits of sharpening your knife are twofold. Not only do you get more precise cuts in the short term, but you also lengthen the lifespan of your tools.
Maybe you’ve avoided the sharpening process in the past because you thought it seemed too difficult, or you just didn’t feel like bothering with a dull knife. Either way, it’s time to get those chef’s knives back to razor-sharp and show your cutting board who’s boss.
Today, we’re going to teach you how to sharpen a knife and give you a few tips and tricks to keep your knives sharper for longer.
What Are the Types of Knife Sharpeners?
There’s some debate over what the best knife sharpener is, but the truth is that all of the options are good choices — just get what works for you and your space.
There are two main types of knife sharpening tools on the market, both of which have their own merits.
Whatever sharpening method you choose for yourself, just make sure to use it carefully and intentionally. Every time you sharpen your knife, it creates a new edge — sharpening your knife carelessly could cause you to damage the knife in a way that can’t be fixed and could lead to you getting hurt.
Tabletop sharpeners are the most readily available option for sharpening a knife. They’re straightforward to use and pretty compact, so they’re easy to store in between uses. The most noteworthy difference is that your knife’s edge won’t last as long with table sharpener systems as it would with whetstone sharpenings.
Tabletop sharpeners are great for keeping your knife sharp and blade straight, but you will find yourself having to use them more often. Nevertheless, this is a great system to keep in your kitchen, even if it does become a backup option. Both manual sharpeners and electric knife sharpeners are available.
That being said, you should be careful as to which types of knives you put through these machines. Higher-quality knives will require more professional methods to keep the integrity and functionality of the blade, so using the wrong method could damage them irreparably.
Whetstones, also known as sharpening stones or water stones, are the preferred method for those high-quality, expensive knives. A whetstone is a rectangular block that looks similar to a brick in size and shape. All you have to do is put it down on the counter, and it’s ready to use.
Many whetstones are meant to be soaked in water for about five to 10 minutes before use, but you’ll want to check with the specific brand to make sure you do so properly.
It’s a common misconception that the stone was named due to soaking it in water, but “whet” is just a traditional way of saying “sharpen.”
Is One Tool Better Than the Other?
While a tabletop sharpener is fine, you will want to take heed when using one. It’s a great option in a pinch or as a maintenance technique, but take it with a grain of salt. Many traditional knives, especially those with a hefty price tag, are designed and manufactured to be sharpened by a whetstone.
As we said, it’s ultimately your call to decide what tool you are comfortable using. Just keep in mind that although a tabletop sharpener from a reputable source can work well, you will need to do your homework to make sure you find the best tool for the job.
How Do You Use a Knife Sharpener?
You’ll be glad to find out that neither type of knife sharpener is hard to use. With just a little work, you can get a lot of reward — in the form of kitchen tools with a really sharp edge.
While the whetstone takes the cake for precision and professionalism, there are many quality systems out there for tabletop options. Just be sure to do your research and opt for whichever method will best complement the blade edges you have.
Hone Before Sharpening
If you’ve been to a restaurant with an open kitchen or watched some episodes of MasterChef, then you’ve probably seen chefs honing their knives before using them. Many people confuse this technique with actual sharpening, but honing cutlery and sharpening cutlery are quite different.
Honing your knives will keep the cutting edge in the center of the blade, ensuring it stays straight and exact. To hone, you run the knife against the honing steel or honing rod, alternating from one side to the next with each swipe.
Hold the honing steel so that the blunt end is on the counter, and slide your knife down the sharpening steel at a 20-degree angle. Switch to the other side of the blade with each swipe so that both sides get equal time. You will also want to pull the knife in as you slide it down.
While sharpening will remove chips from a dull blade and get it cutting veggies paper-thin, it can’t do that job right if the blade itself is wonky. Speaking of, here’s our guide on how to best sharpen your knives.
Pull the Knife Through the Sharpener Several Times
Understandably, how exactly you sharpen your knife will depend on the technique and tools you’re using.
If you’re using a whetstone, run the blade of the knife down the stone at a 20-degree angle slowly and carefully. You will need to repeat the process a few times. This repetition is well worth it, though, since it both sharpens and straightens your blade.
To sharpen your knife using a tabletop sharpener, slide the blade through the slot on the coarse side first, then the fine side. You’ll start with the knife facing away, then pull it through the sharpener toward you. After only a few times running it through, your knife blade will be cutting as clean as ever.
While the motions and methods of each have some similarities, you will have to adjust slightly between the two to achieve the best results.
Wipe and Dry the Knife
Your knife will end up with residue from the sharpener, no matter which method you choose. If you employ the whetstone method, your knife will also be wet.
Make sure to pat your knife dry immediately after sharpening it to keep any moisture or debris from settling into the steel and compromising its integrity.
Re-Hone the Knife
Once the knife is dry and free of any sharpening dust, you will want to hone the knife once more to ensure that it’s perfectly centered and ready for the big leagues. It will probably only take a few swipes, but you should still repeat this step just in case.
Plus, you’ll get to feel like a pro chef and impress your friends while you do it.
How Do You Keep a Knife Sharp?
Now that you’re ready to get those knives sharp like new again, you don’t want to cause any unnecessary wear and tear going forward.
Here are some simple tips and tricks to keep that blade standing the test of time.
Keep Your Knife Away From Other Metals
One of the easiest but most important steps you can take to keep your knives in good condition is to keep them away from other metals in your kitchen. Metal utensils interact just fine with our HexClad Hybrid Pans, leaving them spotless.
However, those metal utensils aren’t great for the blade of your knives. Knives are strong, but so are utensils. If they’re stored together over time, those other metals can bump into your blade and eventually damage it. This causes small chips that can throw off the knife's center.
The best thing you can do for your knives is keep them in a knife block or on a magnetic wooden block. Place your block elsewhere in the kitchen and store your knives away from anything that could tarnish them.
Don’t Put Knives in the Dishwasher
Even though knife blades are strong enough to withstand the heat of the water, the motion of the dishwasher can cause your knife to move and shift around while it’s washing.
From there, chips on your knife are nearly inevitable. The prolonged exposure to heat and moisture can also cause rust to set into your blade, which is a real pain to get rid of.
Keep Knives Dry
Because moisture can cause the blade to rust, it’s best to hand wash your knives and dry them with a kitchen towel. Even the smallest droplets of lingering water can lead to long-term issues with your knives, so keep them clean and dry.
The Best Blades for Your Kitchen
Now that you know how to take care of your knives, you need something worth caring for. HexClad Japanese Damascus steel knives are the perfect companion to help you slice, dice, chop, and everything in between. Keep these tips and tricks handy, and your knives will last you for a lifetime.