Every chef, whether classically trained or self taught, understands the importance of keeping their kitchen knives sharp. A sharp knife not only makes food prep cleaner and faster, but also safer. A sharp knife is smoother at cutting, which means it is much less likely to slip and cause injury. And if you were to accidentally cut yourself anyway, doing so with a dull knife causes a more mangled, more painful, and often deeper wound than a sharp knife would.
You know your knives are getting dull when they begin mutilating food or are unable to easily slice through a sheet of paper. When this happens, it’s time to hone (sharpen) the blade.
Many chefs find using a honing rod or stone effective for sharpening their knives. But I personally prefer the precision and ease of an electric knife sharpener—especially since I’m an avid cook and need to sharpen my knives often. My go-to knife sharpener is one made by Kitchen IQ—the Angle Adjust Adjustable Electric Knife Sharpener. I like this sharpener because it has a coarse diamond slot and a fine ceramic slot–both with interlocking wheels that sharpen both sides of the blade simultaneously according to the individual knife’s angle. It also has a manual sharpener on the side for serrated knives.
Once you have sharpened your knife, abide by the following tips to ensure that your knife stays sharp and performs at its best.
- Don’t use the blade to scoop up food. Scraping the knife along the cutting board to scoop up food to add to the pot looks cool and is often done on cooking shows, but it’s bad for the blade. Opt to use a food scraper instead or use the spine of the knife.
- Clean your knives properly. Hand wash your knives with warm water and a mild dish soap. Never run your knife through the dishwasher as this speeds up the dulling of the blade.
- Store your knives correctly. Keep them in a sheath, knife block, or on a magnetic strip. Do not simply toss them in a drawer as this causes the blades to rub against other knives, thereby dulling them, plus presents a safety hazard when reaching in for a knife.
- Put your knives carefully onto a magnetic strip. If you store your knives on a magnetic strip, put the knife on the strip spine first, not blade first. This prevents the force of the magnet from slamming against the knife’s sharp edge.
- Cut correctly. Knives are designed to slice, not chop. Using safe, proper technique will not only cut your food faster, but also prevent your knives from dulling.
- Use a cutting board. Never cut anything on your countertops or on any surface other than a cutting board designed specifically for cutting food. If at all possible, use wooden cutting boards as they are gentler on the blade than plastic ones, and never use glass cutting boards.
- Never cut frozen food. Although cutting meat while it is partially frozen might make for easier, neater cutting, it also dulls your knives more quickly.
- Sharpen your blades often. The best way to keep your knives sharp is by sharpening them. When I worked in a professional kitchen, someone would come in about once a week to sharpen our knives for us. So I have used this as a basis for how often I sharpen my knives. Since I now cook about half as long as I did when working professionally, I’ll sharpen my knives about once every 2 weeks (or as needed if they’re exhibiting signs of being dull) using my Kitchen IQ Angle Adjust electric sharpener.