Proper Knife Care: The Best Way to Sharpen Your Kitchen Knives

November 20, 2013

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Don’t you hate it when people try to tell you, “You’re more likely to cut yourself with a dull knife than a sharp knife”? You just want to smack them, I bet. That doesn’t make sense, right? How can a dull knife cut you worse than a sharp one? It seems so obvious that sharp things cut better than dull things. Duh.

Well, those people are right. Let me break it down for ya. Sure, sharp knives cut through things easier than dull ones, including your flesh. But what a dull knife doesn’t allow you is control. A lot of things a cook needs to cut are naturally round. If you’re cutting the end of an onion with a sharp knife, it takes very little effort and the knife moves straight downward, where you intend for it to go. But a dull knife won’t slice through the skin as easily, so you have to push harder. When you start pushing really hard, you don’t have as much control. The pressure can cause the onion to slide out from under the knife and from there your fingers are fair game. Using sharp knives, along with proper cutting techniques (which I’ll go over some day) is the best way to ensure a safe kitchen with minimal injuries.

First off, I know that sharpening your own knives isn’t for everyone. If you would rather not deal with it, then Google “knife sharpener” plus your zip code and you’ll find a range of services in your area, always cheaper than buying a new knife. But if you’re looking to sharpen your own knives, hopefully this post will give you the confidence you need (it’s super easy). Plus, with the money you save on sharpening services or replacing cheap knives, you can afford to get that nice, high-quality knife you’ve been eyeing.

First thing to note – this:

is NOT a knife sharpener. It’s called a honing steel. As you use a knife, the microscopic edge gets bent out of alignment. This means that you can have a sharp knife that won’t cut much, simply because the edge is warped a bit. By honing your knife briefly once or twice a week, you can dramatically lengthen the amount of time between actual sharpenings. But it’s important to note that no amount of honing will sharpen a legitimately dull blade.

There are lots of products available for sharpening, good and bad. Take this, for example. Mental note, never buy a product with “jiffy” in the name (unless it’s popcorn). In my opinion, cheap sharpeners can end up doing more damage to your blade than anything, and are best to avoid. There are really nice electric sharpeners out there, but in order to get one that won’t destroy your blade over time you could end up spending quite a bit of dough. That’s why, all things considered, the whetstone wins me over, hands down.

I’ve had a Shun sharpening stone since 2010 and have loved it. Works amazingly. But earlier this month, my pals at Wusthof sent me one of their Tri Stone sharpeners, and I’ve found a couple bonuses to this system. First, it has 3 sides, compared to the two-sided Shun. While 3 is not automatically better than 2, the coarse side on the Tri Stone is much more coarse than the Shun, which makes the sharpening go faster. Secondly, it costs $30 less than the Shun. $50 to keep those knives nice and sharp? Psh, no brainer. It also looks pretty cool, though I don’t find the little bottle particularly useful. You need a lot more water than that, so I just fill up a bowl and keep it close by.

Using a whetstone, you can sharpen a knife in only a couple minutes, there’s no electricity required, and it’s a fraction of the cost you’d pay for a decent electric one. And if you don’t believe me when I say using one of these is extremely easy and not intimidating in the slightest, I’ve created a quick video to demonstrate. Video, commence:

So those are the basics of sharpening. Hopefully this provides you with the confidence you need to splurge on some better kitchen knives. Because honestly, no matter how well you take care of your knives, they will eventually become dull. There’s no way to avoid it. So instead of dealing with dull knives or resorting to buying cheap sets and replacing them every year or so, having them sharpened or sharpening them yourself will lengthen their lifespan, allowing you to have great cutlery while saving a lot of money in the long run.

Note – While Wüsthof did send me some of their products, they did so without expectation and did not pay me to evangelize their name. Long before my relationship with Wüsthof I was buying their knives and I’ve been a long-time fan of their cutlery. The opinions I share about them are genuine, and they are just a great company that I talk about because they deliver the highest quality, consistently.

What do you think?

  1. viagra says:

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  2. emily s says:

    Thank you so much for all of your advice! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it!

  3. emily s says:

    It’s an 8 inch Wusthof chef’s knife. Its incredibly dull and I find myself choosing any other knife other then that one (including ones that I have to wash instead). I’ve tried using the whetstone on it, but its still incredibly dull.

    • I sharpen all of my Wusthof knives with a whetstone, but if your knife is as dull as it sounds, the whetstone probably isn’t enough. It sounds like it just needs a completely new edge created, and that can only be done professionally. If there isn’t anyone local that can do it, there are mail-in services you could look into. I Googled “mail-in knife sharpening service” and found a bunch of results, this being one:

      Odd website design aside, their prices look reasonable and they have a quick turnaround. I don’t have any experience with them so I obviously can’t recommend them for sure, but I would suggest looking into them and services like them. Including shipping you could get your knife sharpened for around $20-30, which isn’t bad.

      Good luck and I hope this helps!

  4. emily s says:

    So I’ve tried googling to find someone to sharpen my knives…but there is no one local to do it. I’ve done some with the whetstone but I have one knife that needs professional help. What should I do? Do the electric ones work? What do you recommend?

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