Technique - Knife Sharpening (Guest Post)

Posting every day  has been quite rewarding for me because not only do I get to share information with you but I often learn a lot myself. However, sometimes it's hard to keep it up, especially since I get quite busy. I will be away this weekend at a conference so I asked my good friend Jimmy, another food fanatic, to write me a guest blog. He's got some great knowledge to share with you, and if you ever want to post something as a guest, please email me so that I can get your words out there! Thanks Jimmy!

Any cook will tell you that the knife is the most important tool in the kitchen, but keeping it in top condition can be tricky if you don't have the right tools. Dull knives are dangerous because it takes more effort to use, which makes it easier to slip and cut yourself, so sharpening and honing your knife every few times you use it will keep the blade razor sharp.  There are two kitchen tools that will keep your knife sharp: a sharpening steel (sometimes called a honing steel) and a knife sharpener.

One misconception is that a sharpening steel sharpens the edge of the knife, but actually, it hones the blade. After using the knife a few times, the edge starts to bend sideways. By using a sharpening steel every time you use your knife, you can reset the edge back to the center and create a sharper blade. Most knife sets come with a sharpening steel, but if you want to buy one separately, you should look for one that has a comfortable handle and is approximately 12 inches long.

To use the sharpening steel, hold the steel with your less dominant hand as if you are about to stab something. Stand the steel upright on a stable surface, such as a cutting board, and bring the base of the blade to the base of the steel. Hold it parallel to each other with the edge of the knife pointing away from the handle of the steel. Then, make an angle of approximately 15-30 degrees.

Draw the knife down and away from the steel, making sure to hone all parts of the blade. Repeat this process at least 8 times for each side of the blade.

If you haven't used the sharpening steel in a while, the edge may bend too far into the side of the knife, so a sharpening steel won't be able to bend it back into place. This is where you take out your knife sharpener and create a new edge for the knife. My favorite sharpener is the Accusharp 001 Knife Sharpener, which sells for around $10 on It's cheap, easy to use, and creates a razor-sharp blade every time. To use it, hold your knife with the edge pointing up. Place the sharpener at the base of the blade and draw it across the length with just a slight pressure. Repeat a few more times to get a sharper blade.

Other manual sharpeners I've used don't work quite as well because they don't take as much metal off the blade as the Accusharp does.  There are also electric knife sharpeners on the market, but I haven't used any of them. They're obviously much more expensive, and if you don't abuse your knife too much, you really don't need to go electric.

On the subject of knife abuse, here are some quick tips on what NOT to do with your knives:
  • When chopping/mincing, it's convenient to gather food into a pile by scraping the knife against the cutting board. If you choose to do this, be careful about the angle at which you scrape your board with your knife. Never go over 45 degrees because the edge of the knife can bend too far back.
  • Don't use glass cutting boards; they'll  dull your knife much more quickly than bamboo, wood, or plastic cutting boards.
  • Never leave knives in the sink or dishwasher/drainer. The knife may come in contact with other knives or metal utensils.
  • NEVER leave knives in your utensil drawer unprotected. Store your knives in a wood block, knife case, or magnetic strip.
Lastly, to test the sharpness of the blade, hold up a piece of paper and cut a small slit at the top with the knife. Then, let the weight of the knife cut through the paper. If the cut is clean, then your knife is very sharp. A dull blade will not cut through the paper without effort.

Hopefully, you learned something new about knives from this post! I want to thank Minerva for letting me contribute to her wonderful blog. Keep up the good work, Minerva, and I hope to post again soon!



  1. Here are two videos I made to illustrate the paper test and how to hone a knife.