Knife Skills: Keeping Your Knife Sharp

Knife Skills: Keeping Your Knife Sharp

Emma Christensen
Aug 25, 2008

Once you've gone to all the trouble of sharpening your knife, the next step is keeping that way! This is easy to do and only takes a few seconds. Here's how...

As you use your knife, the sharp edge will gradually start to curl under. When you sharpen your knife on a steel, you're actually just straightening the edge back out again. (This is as opposed to sharpening your knife on a whetstone, where metal is being removed to form a sharper edge.)

To hone a knife, you need a steel. This is a tapered foot-long rod of metal with a guard at one end--not unlike a Medieval dagger. These steels are readily available at most kitchen supply stores.

There are several different ways you can hold the steel and sharpen your knife. Every chef has their own particular preference!

We think the easiest way to begin is by holding the steel in front of you with the tip pointed straight down. Rest the point on the counter top.

Hold the knife in your right hand and place the heel of your knife at the top right of the steel, just below the guard. Tilt the knife until it forms a roughly 20-degree angle with the steel. If you're left handed, mirror these instructions on the left.

Maintaining this angle, draw your knife back across the steel all the way to the tip, ending at the bottom of the steel. This is a swinging motion with your whole arm, not your wrist, and your elbow should end up pulled behind you.

Repeat on the other side, and then repeat a few times on both sides until your knife is sharp again. You should do this at least once a week to keep the edge straight, and more often if you cook frequently.

If you're worried about keeping the 20-degree angle, try thinking about it in terms of keeping the edge of the blade in contact with the steel. See how the knife is slightly more angled right along the edge? You want that slight edge to stay against the steel the whole time.

This might sound easier said than done, but try it a few times and you'll get the hang of it!

Related: Knife Skills: How to Hold Your Knife

(Images: Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)

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