Tips for Sharpening Your Kitchen Knives

Have you ever tried to cut steak with a butter knife? That Sisyphean feeling—of endless effort, without ever getting to the other side—is what it can feel like to cut using a blade that’s not sharp enough for the job it’s doing. It’s incredibly frustrating and tedious to cut with a dull knife; you might as well just rip into that steak with your teeth! (Please forgive us for saying that, Miss Manners.)

It’s important to keep your kitchen knives sharp, both to maintain their durability over the years and to prevent safety hazards. Dull knives require more exertion of effort, which can result in slippage and injuries. Additionally, sharp knives produce even cuts, improving cooking performance.

Reduce risks and keep your knives at peak performance by following these kitchen knife–sharpening tips.

Hone often. Knife honing happens more regularly than knife sharpening—on about a weekly basis, as opposed to every few months for sharpening. Honing entails using a honing rod—a long, thin steel rod—to straighten the blade’s edge without wearing it down. No sharpening occurs, but having the blade in the right alignment will help keep it fresh. You can see how to use a honing rod here, with master bladesmith Bob Kramer. Though Gordon Ramsay’s style looks cool, we recommend following the process in the video for maximum control.

Sharpen regularly, but less often. There are many different methods for knife sharpening, including whetstones, electric knife sharpeners, and water stones. Electric knife sharpeners are the easiest to use, but they tend to have a higher price point, and they could run the risk of chipping away at your blade with their abrasives, particularly when using a coarse grind. If you go the electric route, look for a sharpener that has coarse, fine, and nonmotorized steel options.

Here at Schmidt Brothers, we’re fans of the simple sharpening stone, which is effective, long-lasting, and usable for a range of kitchen knives. Before you use a sharpening stone, run it under water to reduce friction. Place it on a damp towel to hold it in place, and then begin to sharpen. This video shows you how, including angles and directions, starting at 1:40. (Don’t worry about creating the woodblock he uses in the video.)

Consider a professional knife-sharpening service. For an especially comprehensive job, consider occasionally taking your knives to a professional. A knife-sharpening professional may offer such services as sharpening the blade on a slow-moving wetstone, polishing with a leather honing wheel or strop, and chip or tip repairs.

Here are a few more knife-sharpening tips to keep in mind:

  • Don’t forget to sharpen both sides of the blade.
  • We don’t recommend washing your kitchen knives in a dishwasher, since the detergent can often be abrasive, resulting in a gradual dulling of the blade. Instead, hand-wash them with warm water and a mild (not harsh) detergent.
Prevent contact with other kitchen items—which could have a dulling effect over time—by storing your knives in a magnetic knife block or on a magnetic wall bar.