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Too Much Sharpening Can Actually Damage Your Knives

·3-min read
Photo credit: vjotov - Getty Images
Photo credit: vjotov - Getty Images

Having really good knives is an important step in so many recipes, so taking care of your cutlery is an absolute must. If you have a pricey knife block sitting on your counter, you want to ensure all of your knives are in the best shape to get the chopping, cubing, and slicing done for all of your meals. Besides making sure you store your knives correctly as to not dull the blades even more, there's a lot you could be doing to give your knives that extra attention. Knife sharpening is one of them, so here's your quick and dirty guide to everything you need to know about knife sharpening.

How often should I be sharpening my knives?

The general rule of thumb is to make sure you sharpen your knives at least once a year. This frequency can change depending on how often you using your knives or what you're cutting with them as some items might make them dull out quicker than others. You should be honing your knifes every two-to-four uses, but you should seriously sharpen them one to two times per year.

What is honing?

If you're new to knife-sharpening, you might be getting actual sharpening confused with a process known as honing. Many knife sets come with a honing rod included, but if not, you can purchase one alone online or in stores. They typically look like a metal rod attached to an easy-to-grip handle and they help to straighten the knife's edge to get smooth cuts every time. The process of honing doesn't damage a blade at all so it can be done more frequently than sharpening.

To hone your knives, hold the honing steel vertically with the tip resting securely on a surface, then press the bottom of the knife's blade against the rod until you reach the tip. Make sure you get both sides of the blade and then you're set to go.

What are the options for knife-sharpening?

To sharpen your knives properly, you can use either of two methods: a whetstone or a knife sharpener. Whetstones are a block-like tool and knife sharpeners are electronic appliances that work when plugged in.

What is the difference between whetstones and knife sharpeners?

Whetstones are block-shaped tools that sometimes need to be soaked in water before every use, so make sure you're reading the directions before going forward with your sharpening. For those that need to be soaked, up to 10 minutes submerged in water should be good.

Once that's done, drag the knife against the whetstone at an angle a few times on each side. Many whetstones have a coarse-grind side and a fine-grind side—the coarse side is best for really dull blades and the fine-grind is best for people who hone their knives often. Iron Chef Morimoto has a special trick that he uses to ensure a knife is sharpening well: put some marker ink on the blade and if it gets removed with every swipe across the whetstone you're doing it correctly.

An electronic knife sharpener typically has a multi-step process that labels each slot of the appliance with a number so you know what order to pull your knives through. Most will only have a coarse or fine sharpening slot, but sometimes knife sharpeners are labeled by what type of knife you are sharpening (serrated versus Japanese, etc).

It's suggested that for pricier knives, sharpening with a whetstone is the best way to keep the integrity of the blade's edge and is the better option for more expensive knives.

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