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Food

How To Sharpen A Knife At Home

For an essential cooking tool, blades are often overlooked—but keeping them in tip-top shape can not only make food prep easier but prevent kitchen accidents as well.
three knifes sit point-down in a piece of papaya, red cabbage, and a leekProduced by Aimee Nishitoba; Photo, Christie Vuong; Prop styling, Nicole Billark.

Be honest: When was the last time you sharpened your knives? For an essential cooking tool, knife blades are often overlooked—yet keeping them in tip-top shape can not only make food prep easier but can prevent kitchen accidents as well. We asked Ann MacDonald, director of product at Victorinox, for tips on knife sharpening at home.

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How to hone a knife

Let’s clear up two common misconceptions about that ridged metal stick you often see TV chefs scraping a knife against in balletic, mid-air strokes. First, they’re called honing steels, not sharpeners—that’s because they realign a blade’s edge, which can get bent with repeated chopping against a cutting board.

Second, it’s safer and more precise for the average home cook not to hone a knife mid-air. Try this knife sharpening technique instead:

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How To Sharpen A Knife At HomeIllustration, Carmen Jabier.

1. Hold steel tip-point down with your non-dominant hand.

2. Place the bottom of the blade, sharp side down, at a 15-degree angle against the steel.

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3. Slowly pull the knife toward you in a downward, curved motion; repeat on other side. Do this 2-3 times.

 

 

 

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Knife Sharpening 101: How to Sharpen a Knife

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Sharpening a knife involves removing steel from either side of the blade to create a new knife edge. Most knives can be sharpened at home with a sharpening tool—it looks like a little clip, and you drag the blade through it a few times—but there are two types of blades worth taking to a professional: serrated ones, because of their scalloped edges, and kitchen shears.

Victorinox Knife Sharpener, $61

a rounded Victorinox knife shapener made of plasic and ceramic

How to Tell the Difference

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“If you’re a professional chef, you’ll hone most days,” says MacDonald, “but for the home chef, every month is fine.” Sharpening, meanwhile, should be done about twice a year—or every 300 uses. MacDonald likes to use the “tomato test”: If you have to rely more on pressure than the blade to cut through the skin of one, your blade needs honing.

If honing doesn’t help, it’s time to pull out the sharpener.

Shelf-Care

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Cleaning: Soap and a soft sponge are your best bets for cleaning knives, says MacDonald. Scrubby and metal sponges can scratch, and while stainless steel is technically dishwasher-safe, all that rattling around leaves blades prone to chipping.

Drying: Wipe knives with a soft towel and store them right away. Don’t leave them lingering in the sink—especially if they’ve been used to cut something acidic such as tomatoes or lemons.

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Storage: While a knife block is a counter­top classic, protective plastic envelopes and a wall-mounted magnetic strip are safe, space-friendly options, too. The only thing MacDonald says not to do: leave knives buck-naked in a cutlery drawer, which can lead to chipping and sliced fingers. Especially after you've practiced expert-level knife sharpening.

How many—and what kind of—knives do you actually need?

Even if you cook often, you don’t need a full, multi-piece knife block. If you’re starting from scratch, here are the three essential types of knives worth investing in.

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Chef's Knife:  Between slicing, dicing and chopping—general meat and vegetable prep—this is the workhorse of the kitchen. “The standard size is 8 inches,” says MacDonald, “but people with smaller hands or who like a lighter knife can opt for 6.”

How To Sharpen A Knife At Home

Victorinox Swiss Classic 8-Inch Chef Knife, $77


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Paring Knife: This 2- to 4-inch blade handles intricate cuts, from peels to herbs to garlic.

How To Sharpen A Knife At Home

Wusthof 3.5-Inch Paring Knife, $117

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Serrated Bread Knife: While the name suggests its function, a serrated knife is for more than just bread. “Use it on things with a hard exterior and soft interior that you don’t want to squish,” says MacDonald, such as tomatoes.

How To Sharpen A Knife At Home

Kilne Serrated Bread Knife, $60


While the product in this piece has been independently chosen by our editors, this article contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.

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