Every few months, you'll notice that your chef's knife has a harder time yielding perfectly thin slices and precise dices. You might even find your knifework is slipping—literally. And aside from being annoying to cut with, a dull knife can be seriously dangerous. To keep your fingers (and your dinner) in good shape, you'll want to learn how sharpen a kitchen knife by using a whetstone or a sharpener, and maintain that edge by honing it with a steel rod.
The Difference Between Sharpening and Honing
You've likely seen someone using a honing rod to "sharpen" a knife. But the steel rod doesn't actually sharpen your knife—it just straightens out the cutting edge on the blade to allow for smoother, safer cuts. Sharpening your knife, on the other hand, actually, well, sharpens it. So yes, you need to do both. Hone your knife weekly—every time you use your knife, if you'd like—and sharpen your knife every few months, or at least every year (depending on how often you use it, and how soon you notice dulling that honing doesn't really improve).
1. How to Sharpen With a Whetstone
Our favorite way to sharpen a blade is to use a whetstone—a rectangular block that works almost like sandpaper, helping to straighten and refine the cutting edge on the blade as you slide the knife across it. Most whetstones are designed to be soaked in water before every use, so check the manufacturer's instructions to be sure. (Fun fact: Whetstones aren't actually named for the fact that most are used wet—"whet" is actually just an old word for "sharpen").
If your whetstone needs to be soaked, submerge it in water until it's completely saturated and there are no bubbles coming out of it, 5 to10 minutes. To use it, hold the knife at a 20-degree angle against the whetstone, and gently drag each side of the knife against it a few times. Most whetstones have both a "coarse-grind side" and a "fine-grind side"—start with the coarse side if your knife is especially dull, then repeat the process on the fine-grind side.
If you already sharpen your knife yearly and hone it regularly, you can go straight to the fine-grind side. If the whetstone seems to be drying out as you use it, just rub some more water on it and continue on.
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2. How to Sharpen with a Knife Sharpener
This tool is a quick-fix solution for a dull knife—just press the blade of the knife into the coarse side, pull in in towards you a few times, then move on to the fine side. Learning how to use a knife sharpener may come in handy in a pinch, but it's not the best possible solution.
The real concern is that these sharpening tools might not be great for your knife—so consider this method for sharpening less-pricey knives, and stick to using a whetstone when sharpening your fancy Japanese chef's knife.
3. How to maintain a knife edge with honing
Now that you've sharpened your knife, use a honing steel weekly to keep the knife's edge perfectly straight (don't worry about damaging your blade with frequent honing—the process doesn't wear down your knife like sharpening does).
Instead of making a show of holding the steel in the air and dramatically sliding the knife against it, hold a honing steel vertically, with the tip resting on a work surface and the handle gripped firmly in one hand. Press the bottom of the knife’s blade (the thickest part) against the honing steel and, working at a 15-20 degree angle, pull the knife down and towards you. Follow through to the tip of the blade. Keeping the knife in the same hand, repeat the motion on the other side of the steel, reversing the angle of the blade against the honing steel.
Store 'em right
Once you've gone through the trouble to sharpen and hone your knives, make sure you store them so that they stay pristine for longer. We've got lots of ideas for storage, from knife blocks to wall strips and drawer docks, to ensure your sharpening efforts aren't for naught.
This article was first published on https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/how-to-sharpen-a-knife-and-hone-it-the-right-way-article