A Quick Guide to Sharpening Kitchen Knives at Home

by - 9:18 AM

Keeping your knives sharp at home is crucially important to make sure that your knives don’t slip while you’re using them.

According to Kitchen Knives: “A dull knife requires the user to exert more force, which not only causes damage to the food, but can also lead to the knife slipping and some nasty injuries.”

On the other hand, a nice, sharp knife will cleanly cut through your ingredients, so we’re going to take a quick look at how to sharpen knives at home.

Using a Sharpening Steel

Sharpening steels are the large metal rods that you may have seen pro-chefs using on TV and they usually come with a knife set when you buy them.

Technically though, a steel doesn’t sharpen a knife, but actually hones it. This basically means that the edges of the knife are pushed back to the centre and straightened out, rather than actually shaving off some of the edge, which is what sharpening actually is.

It’s not vital that you properly understand the difference between honing and sharpening, but you can check out this post from Kitchn to learn more.

So how do you use a sharpening steel? Firstly, you need to make sure that you’re holding it properly, with the tip firmly planted on your counter.

Start off by holding the heel of your knife against the tip of the steel, pointing slightly upwards at a 15-degree angle.

Maintaining that 15-degree angle, slide the blade down the steel while pulling the knife towards you, keeping the middle of the blade in contact with the middle of the steel.

Using a Knife Sharpener

If the knife is really dull, then you’ll probably have to actually sharpen it as opposed to honing it.

You can either take it to have it done professionally or buy yourself an electric or manual sharpener to use at home.

Electric Sharpener

Electric knife sharpeners are very easy to use, containing motorised wheels which spin against the blade and sharpen it down.

Each sharpener will come with its own instructions, but generally speaking, once it’s turned on you need to hold your knife securely but lightly and pull it through the slots slowly, being sure not to press down too hard.

Then you just need to swap over and do the other side until you’re satisfied with the sharpness of the knife!

Most sharpeners will have a few different slots to use, depending on the extent of damage to the knife.

Manual Sharpener

Manual sharpeners are very similar to electric versions, but the obvious difference is that the sharpening wheels aren’t motorised, or instead of wheels they’ll have a V-shaped chamber which you need to manually pull the knife through.

These sharpeners will be more affordable than the electric versions as well as being a lot smaller, making them easier to store away when you’re not using them.

It’s up to you whether you use an electric or manual sharpener, but this post from On the Sharp Side gives quite a handy rundown of the pros and cons of each.


One other method you could use is a whetstone. Whilst this is usually only used by professional chefs, because it can be tricky to master, the results can be great when done right!

If you do use a whetstone, it’s a good idea to place something underneath it, like some wet paper towels, to make sure that it stays in place.

Once it’s set up, you want to hold the knife facing away from you at an angle of about 20 degrees.

With one hand on the blade, place your other hand on the middle of the flat side of the stone and draw the blade down the stone in a circular motion.

Make sure to keep the blade at a constant angle, until the tip runs off the edge of the block, and repeat the process as many times as needed before sharpening the other side. 

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