How to Properly Sharpen Kitchen Knives Using a Sharpening Steel

There is a common misconception about knives. It’s not about a fancy brand or a nice design, it’s about the blade. A properly sharpened knife can completely change the outcome of foods. It should require little effort from the chef and should be a simple tool where their skills and training come alive.

Why You Should Keep Your Knives Properly Sharpened

Dull knives are a chef’s biggest enemy. Not only do they make cutting more difficult, but it can require more force and give the chef a higher chance of slipping and missing the mark and possibly causing injury. Sharp knives will produce evenly cut and properly cut foods at a quick and even rate.

Even the best knives will dull over time, but that’s not an issue. Keeping them sharp is simple and can completely change the outcome of your food, cooking time, and overall prep. Below, we’ve outlined a simple step by step routine to help you keep your knives sharp and ready for even the busiest days.

How to Properly Sharpen a Kitchen Knife Using a Sharpening Steel

There are many sharpening tools and devices that can help you restore even the dullest of blades. For this example, we are going to dive into how to sharpen knives using a sharpening steel. First identify that you have a “sharpening steel” like a Diamond steel rod. Other steel rods are only meant for honing. These will not sharpen the blade! They will smooth out minor imperfections that occur to the knife between major cuts and hone it back to sharp. This will last until the knife becomes dull and a honing steel will be ineffective.   Many chefs can easily access this tool and it can help keep knives sharp for years on end.

Step 1: Positioning the Steel Sharpener

To accurately and safely operate the steel sharpener, take hold of the handle with your non-dominant hand. Point the opposite end into the surface you are working on and push down with force to ensure that it is stable and will not move. You will hold the steel sharpener in this position for the entirety of the sharpening process. 

Step 2: Holding & Positioning the Knife

Holding and positioning properly will ensure that you are making the most out of the steel sharpener. To operate this with the utmost care, grip the handle of the knife securely with all fingers wrapped around it. Keep all fingers tucked around the knife and do not rest your index finger on top of the blade.

This will help you have a strong grip as you move the blade up and down the steel rod with force.

Step 3: Sharpening the Knife

Now that both hands are ready and holding their items steadily, it’s time to sharpen your knife. This will happen in a tilted, swinging motion. Maintain pressure with your non-dominant hand to keep the steel rod in place, but now, you will take the knife and position it at a 15º angle with one side of the blade of the knife lightly touching the top of the steel rod.

In sweeping motion, as if you were lighting a match, gently move the blade down the length of the steel rod. Then, before you reach the countertop, bring the blade back up to the top of the handle, but let the other side of the blade touch the steel rod. Repeat the sweeping motion down.

You will sweep and alternate back and forth until you reach the desired results.

Step 4: Testing Your Sharpened Knife

Now, if this is your first time sharpening a knife, you might want to run some tests along the way to make sure that you are getting the best results.

One of the best and most common tests that a chef can run is cutting a piece of paper. Put the blade to the paper-test to ensure that it is sharp enough. To accomplish this, hold a folded piece of newspaper by one end with your non-dominant hand. Then, lay the blade against the top edge of the paper angled slightly outward. Let the knife fall cleanly into the paper. If the knife slices cleanly, your knife is sharp enough. If your knife does not cut the paper cleanly, it’s time to keep sharpening.

Other Notable Knife Sharpening Tools

Professional knife sharpening tools have advanced throughout the years. Today, there are many other notable knife sharpening tools that can help extend the lifespan of any knife and keep them strong and durable.

Diamond Steel and Honing Steel knife sharpeners are made with modern materials that make the sharpening process much more efficient. Diamond and honing rods are normally used casually between heavy uses to lengthen the duration of the sharpness before the knife needs to be put to the stone or grinder. Crafted in the same manner as stainless steel sharpeners, these newer models give a grittier surface that sharpens knives in less pass throughs.

Speciality Knives

If you have an expensive or decorative knives, using stainless steel sharpeners may not be the best option. Often, chefs use a tri-tone sharpening system that involves using a coarse, medium, and fine stone to properly sharpen knives. This can be a very time-consuming process, but can help keep the integrity of decorative knives.

Daily Use Knives

Automatic pull sharpeners are a great option for quick and easy sharpening. For your daily knives that are used for a variety of tasks. These are inexpensive devices that can quickly give knives a new life at a moment’s notice. These handy devices and are truly the best solution for dull knives.

Investing in the Right Tools

Did you know that Chefs’ Toys started as a knife sharpening business? Since 1988, we have worked with chefs from all over southern California to help them restore greatness to their most used tools. Today, we have become relied on for much more than that. We proudly offer knife sharpening tools to accompany some of the most state-of-the-art appliances and tools for chefs to make the best commercial kitchens possible. Reach out to us today to get started.