How Often Should You Sharpen Your Knives?

By: Bob's Red Mill | June 14 2021

Knife skills are essential, especially if you spend a lot of time in the kitchen. If you want to ensure that your food is sliced and diced to perfection, then it's time to invest in a good set of knives. Because quality knives are generally a bit more pricey than your standard set, knowing how to care for them properly plays a crucial role in extending their lifetime use. With regular sharpening and honing, a quality knife can last over a decade. 

However, as easy as it is to know how to sharpen kitchen knives, incorrect sharpening can quickly damage your beloved kitchen knife. Because the basics of knife sharpening can get confusing, we've created this guide on how often you should sharpen your knives. Keep reading to discover how to ensure that your blades continue to perform their best.

How to Clean Your Knives

Before sharpening your knives, you want to be certain that each blade has been cleaned properly. While it may be tempting to add your knives to the dishwasher with other used utensils, the pressure and heat applied throughout the cycle can damage the knife blade and handle, causing it to dull faster. To keep your knives from being damaged, we recommend washing them by hand. Just a bit of soap and warm water are needed to wipe foods off blades without harming them. And when cleaned promptly, minimal scrubbing is required.

Sharpening a Chef's Knife

Female chef sharpening knife

When discussing knife sharpening, one of the questions we commonly get is, "how often should a chef's knife be sharpened?" A chef's knife is one of the most versatile kitchen knives. It features a broad and sharp blade that can be used for various kitchen tasks ranging from cutting meat to dicing vegetables and slicing herbs. Because of its many uses, a chef's knife is used more often than other kitchen knives. This being so, you may think that it requires sharpening more often as well—this is not exactly true. To properly maintain the blade sharpness, a chef's knife does not need to be sharpened more than a few times a year. Because of the size and the quality of the blade, these knives will remain sharp for longer than most.

Another way to preserve the sharpness of your knife is to hone it regularly. Honing your chef's knife once or twice a week will ensure that the knife’s edge remains straight and that your food is cut correctly. Of course, these are just general recommendations. 

The amount you sharpen your chef's knife yearly largely depends on how often you use it and what you're using it for. If you're using it to chop veggies a few times a week, it will remain sharp for a lengthy period. However, if you're using it daily to cut meats and poultry, you'll want to increase the sharpening to every three months. When sharpening any kind of knife, it's important to remember that you should only do so if the blade needs it. If your knife feels sharp and is cutting through foods with ease, avoid oversharpening it.

Sharpening vs. Honing

If your knife set came with a steel rod, you might be quick to think that it came with its own sharpening device. Though often confusing, the rod that comes with your knife set isn't a sharpening tool at all. Known as a honing rod, this tool is used to straighten a knife's blade, allowing for a smoother, more even cut. While this does help your knife perform better, it doesn't sharpen the blade. 

To keep your knives in tip-top shape, you will want to hone and sharpen them regularly. A sharpening device removes tiny bits of the metal on the knife. When done correctly, this is not damaging and instead works to restore the v-shaped edge of the blade. On the other hand, honing does not grind the metal down but instead moves the bits of metal to be more aligned. Honing can't sharpen a cook’s knife with a dull blade, but it can make an already sharp knife seem sharper by better shaping it.

How Often Should You Hone a Knife?

Unlike sharpening, honing does not remove pieces from the knife and instead works to realign the tines of a sharpened blade, helping it cut better and feel sharper. Because of this, it should be performed more frequently than sharpening. In general, honing should be done every two to three times a knife is used. Though honing can be done repeatedly without damaging your blade, a knife does not need to be honed every time you use it. For most at-home chefs, once or twice a week is enough.

Myths of Honing

Honing Will Sharpen Your Knives

Honing only works on an already sharp knife and does not make it sharper. Honing will not work on a dull knife.

The More Honing, the Better

Only hone your knife if it is sharp. If your knife is not sharp, you'll want to sharpen it before you hone it. Only a few swipes on the steel rod are needed to properly hone a knife, any more than that can wear out the knife's tines.

The Best Knife Sharpening Method

Knife sharpening with whetstone sharpener

There are several different ways that you can sharpen a knife. For at-home cooks that wish to keep their knives in pristine condition, we recommend using two different types of whetstone: one with fine grit and another with heavy grit. When using both types, begin with the heavy grit and switch to the fine once your knife starts to feel sharp. 

That being said, the type of knife sharpening tool you use is based on your preferences. Here's a quick overview of the most common devices. 

  • Whetstone/water stone
  • Diamond stone
  • Electric knife sharpener
  • Manual knife sharpener

Using a Whetstone to Sharpen Knives

Whetstones are a highly effective way to sharpen knives, and when used correctly, they will keep your blade sharp for an extended period. Depending on the frequency that you use your knife, a whetstone should be used about 2-3 times a year. 

This amount may change if you actively use your knife to cut thicker foods like meat and poultry. Knives used daily to cut through these foods may need to be sharpened an additional time or two per year. Professional chef's knives require more frequent sharpening and most actively use a whetstone a few times a month.

Do You Wash a Knife After Sharpening it?

If your knife was clean before sharpening it, you might have heard that you do not need to rewash it after sharpening—this is a myth. A knife should always be washed after it has been sharpened. 

Why? After sharpening your knife, you must remove any grime or particles that may have been on the sharpening stone. A mixture of simple dish soap and a scrubbing brush is an excellent way to wash a knife and help remove any leftover debris safely. Each time you sharpen or hone your blade, remember to wash it well and avoid contact with your hand.

Can You Sharpen a Cheap Knife?

Kitchen knife

Many of us at-home cooks have a mixture of quality and cheap knives in the knife drawer. This is entirely normal! As you continue your cooking journey, you may be tempted to purchase more quality utensils, or you may find that the cheap knives you're already using get the job done fine. If that's the case, you're probably wondering if cheap knives can be sharpened in the same way that expensive ones can—the answer is yes! 

An inexpensive blade can be sharpened just as a costly chef’s knife would. While the cheap knife will sharpen, it's important to note that it will lose that sharp edge faster than a more quality knife would because it's made of weaker steel. Because of this, cheap knives need to be sharpened more frequently, depending on how often you use them.

What's the Difference Between a Cheap and an Expensive Knife?

The main difference between a cheap and an expensive knife is the quality and hardness of the steel used to create the knife blade. Cheaper knives made with softer steel commonly lose their sharp edges quicker and the tines break off easily, which may end up clogging up your sharpening tool. This being so, you must care for every quality of the knife and keep it sharp, as a dull knife is much more dangerous than a sharp one. 

If you're using cheap knives on your sharpening stone, you'll want to scrub your stone with a soft-bristled brush each time you use it. This will help de-clog your stone and ensure that this debris doesn't get passed on to other knives. 

Now that you better understand how and when to sharpen your knives, it's time to restore your frequently used utensils to their maximum ability. If you're new to knife sharpening, don't panic. After just a few tries, sharpening and honing your knives will quickly become part of your monthly kitchen routine. From everyone at Bob's Red Mill, we wish you the best on your cooking journey.

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