If you’ve spent any time in the kitchen, you’re surely aware that a good knife or two is key to success. You don’t have to have a pricey set of knives or an expensive knife sharpener to get along well in the kitchen, but you do need to keep the blades you have sharp and in tip-top shape. Many seasoned chefs will tell you that you run a greater risk of cutting yourself with a dull knife than you do with a sharp knife. So, when should you sharpen your kitchen knives? And what is the difference between honing and sharpening? Read on to find out what chefs recommend when it comes to sharpening and honing.
Right to the point, for regular home use, you should sharpen a chef’s knife two to three times a year. However, you should hone the edge with sharpening steel once or twice a week. It’s that simple. Also, factors such as how much you use the knife, the types of food you cut, and the knife’s quality all play into how often you may need to sharpen yours. If you’re a home cook who uses their knife once or twice a week for chopping vegetables, you may not need to sharpen your knife more than a few times a year. If you’re an everyday home chef who uses their knife for everything from meats to veggies, you may need to sharpen every 12 weeks or so.
Honing is done with a sharpening steel, and the process moves the tiny tines of metal on your blade into alignment so that your knife is in a V-shape at a perfect angle. Sharpening is grinding the metal blade down, which means tiny bits of metal are removed in the process. Sharpening does not damage the knife; it just restores the V-shaped edge of the knife. Ultimately, honing won’t make a dull knife sharp, but it will make a sharpened knife seem sharper.
As a general rule, you should hone your knife every two to three times you use it. But, don’t hone your knife if it isn’t sharp already. If you’ve just sharpened your knife, you already know it is sharp. If not, you can gently rub your finger against the blade to feel the edge. If you’re not comfortable with the finger test, try to slice a piece of paper with your knife. If it cuts through easily, your knife is sharp. If it doesn’t, it is time to sharpen and then hone your knife. Once your knife is sharp, it only takes a few swipes on the steel to hone it properly. You don’t want to overdo it — over-honing wears out the tines and eventually damages your blade.
The best method for sharpening chef knives is to use a whetstone with two different grits. A whetstone is a sharpening stone used to sharpen a blade. There are different grit levels with whetstones, but all you need is one heavy grit and one light grit. Start with the heavy grit first and then switch to the lighter grit when the blade starts to feel sharp. You may not know what a sharp edge feels like just yet, but with some repetition, you’ll get to know your knives and how the blade feels. Once your knife is sharpened, a few strokes on the honing steel and you’ll be ready to start chopping. Keep your knife honed, and when you feel it getting dull, repeat the process.
- Wash your knives with a small amount of soap and warm water by hand. Putting knives in the dishwasher can damage the blade and handle while also causing the knife to dull faster due to the pressure and heat inside a dishwasher.
- Always wash your knives after sharpening them, and rinse and dry your stones.
- Store your knives in a knife block or on a magnetic strip so they are easy to access yet kept in a safe place.
- The cheaper the knife, the weaker the steel, which means the blade will lose its edge faster and may need to be sharpened more often.
With this starter guide, you should have everything you need to make sure your knives get — and stay — sharp. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the difference you’ll feel while cooking — and your knives will thank you too!
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