The Best Ways to Sharpen Knives

Updated February 21, 2017

Knowing how to sharpen knives is one of the first skills cooks and chefs learn. Working with a dull knife is frustrating, time-consuming and damaging to the food's presentation. Make it a regular habit to sharpen your knives. Many knife sets come with a sharpening steel tool so that the knives can be conveniently sharpened. Other options include a sharpening stone and an electric knife sharpener.

Sharpening Steel

The sharpening steel tool is a long, narrow-rounded poll whose surface is ridged longitudinally. When sharpening a knife, the knife is held in the hand you are most comfortable with, while the sharpening steel is held in the other hand.

While some professionals sharpen a knife with the sharp side pointing down or toward them, for most people it is better (and safer) to sharpen a knife with the sharp side pointing away. Make sure no one is standing near you as you sharpen the knife.

Hold the sharpening steel at an upward angle or horizontally pointing away from you. Lay the tip of the knife onto the tool, starting at its base at a 20- to 30-degree angle. Push the knife's sharp side across and forward, over the tool. Lift the knife over the tool, so that the tool is now in front of the knife. Pull the other side of the sharp edge down and over the tool. Lift and repeat until the knife is sharpened. Rinse, dry and store the knife until ready to use.

Sharpening Stone

Using a sharpening stone is one of the best--and oldest--ways to sharpen a knife. Stones are specifically selected and sold to sharpen knives, yet almost any stone or abrasive surface, such as concrete, can be used to sharpen a knife.

The most common and typically most preferred sharpening stones are those have a coarse and fine surface, and that must be moistened prior to use. Once the stone is moistened, one side of the knife's blade is laid onto the stone, then, with a little pressure, is pushed across the stone, alternating the sides. This is continued until the blade is evenly sharpened. Then the knife and stone are rinsed clean and allowed to dry.

Electric Knife Sharpener

Electric knife sharpeners offer the convenience of having a machine do the work for you. Electric knife sharpeners were commonly sold as a part of an electric can opener. These machines contained stone wheels that spun once the lever was pushed down. The knives were then passed through the slit in one direction, and flipped to sharpen the other side.

Knife sharpening services are also offered to have knives professionally sharpened. Some businesses even make house calls to businesses and homes.

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About the Author

Naima Manal's articles on health, diet, nutrition, alternative medicine, education, parenting, crafts, travel, home and garden and home improvement have appeared on various websites. Manal received her Bachelor of Science in biology/pre-medical studies from Molloy College in 1994 and has been a freelance writer, teacher and homeschooling mom since 1993.