There are few things you can experience in the kitchen worse than trying to cut with a dull knife. With a sharp knife, preparing meals that involve slicing lots of ingredients can be downright FUN, creating fast, clean slices that look great and cook evenly. With a dull knife, preparing anything in the kitchen feels like an absolute chore, as you mash the guts out of your once beautiful tomato and turn it into a wet, red mess. It is safe to say that given the option, anyone would choose a sharp-edged blade over a dull one, but it seems to us that very few people actually take the time and care necessary to keep their knives looking and cutting their best.
What makes this tragedy even more alarming is that keeping your knives in proper working order truly is not very difficult, and not time-consuming at all. While we personally recommend bringing your nicest knives to a professional knife sharpener once every 2-3 years, you can keep your knife edges slicing like new if you simply learn to “hone” your knives around once per week.
Honing vs. Sharpening
We recommend that everyone who owns a set of knives and who wants to keep them slicing effectively should invest in a honing steel rod like this one, which is the tool that we are going to teach you how to use in this guide. While your honing rod does not technically create a new edge on your knife, it does have the ability to re-balance and adjust your current edge to get it working its best. You only want to have your knives sharpened on rare occasion, because using a whetstone or diamond stone to create a fresh edge actually removes steel from the knife, which shortens the knife’s lifespan (if you don’t want to get your knives sharpened by a professional, and you want to tackle the sharpening process yourself, you can learn more about whetstone sharpening here).
Honing, on the other hand, does not shear steel from your blade (it only gets your blade back into proper balance and alignment) and, therefore, can be done as frequently as you would like. So, now that you have your honing rod and your favorite knife in hand, we can tell you how to hone your knife properly.
Honing Your Knife
- Hold the steel rod out horizontally with your non-knife hand, and place the heel of the blade against the base of the steel rod.
- Drag the knife across the steel, maintaining a 15 – 20 degree angle until the tip of the knife meets the tip of the steel rod. Then do the same exact method on the other side of the knife. Repeat this process roughly 8 times on each side of your knife for best results.
If you would like a quick visual representation of the method we just outlined, watch this short and informative tutorial with Gordon Ramsay, as he shows just how easy it is to keep your knives like new for a long time:
How to Sharpen a Knife
If you’re interested in taking a crack at sharpening your own knives and you don’t wish to get them taken care of professionally or try out the fairly involved whetstone method, you can always look into purchasing a dedicated knife sharpening tool. Just remember, while they will keep your knives sharp, if you use them too often you will shorten the life of your blade, so only use them sparingly– when your blade remains dull, even after honing.
Best Knife Sharpeners
#3 Smith’s PP1 Pocket Pal Multifunction Sharpener
#2 PriorityChef Knife Sharpener
#1 Work Sharp WSKTS Knife and Tool Sharpener
Editor’s Note: A sharp knife is a safe knife. When your blade is sharp, you can predict how it will slice, and it will never slip off of what you’re cutting. A dull knife can actually lead to more finger cuts due to slips and a general lack of control over the blade.