Kitchen Knife Sharpening Guide: In-Depth Walkthrough

Sharpening knives is chef’s skills 101 and it’s a good sign that you wondered about this article because you’re about to learn everything there is to know about sharpening knives.

A sharp knife is a good knife and a dull knife is a recipe for catastrophe, at least when thinking about efficiency, safety, and the joy of cooking. So it’s clear that a knife needs to be sharp.

There are many ways to sharpen a knife and the far easiest way is to do it with an electrical sharpener. You can also use a honing steel or honing rod depending on which one you want to call it, you can also use a regular sharpener, and finally, you can sharpen it with a whetstone (Can You Take a Sharpening Stone On a Plane?). Any of these ways will get the job done more than fine so the question that is left is, which one do you prefer?

Well, you don’t need to know it just yet because from below you can see each way and then you can make a decision about which way would be the best for you.

P.S. You should always be sure that the knife is dull before sharpening. For example, try and hold a piece of paper in the air and effortlessly try to cut it with a knife, if it doesn’t cut it or has major struggles then it is time to sharpen the knife. Oversharpening just will wear out the blade but more on that later. Let’s get started with the sharpener!

How To Sharpen Kitchen Knives With A Sharpener

1. Coarse The Blade For Extremely Dull Blades

When you look at your sharpener, there should be two slots where you can place your knife. One says ”coarse” and one says ”fine”. If nothing is written then check the specific sharpeners manual and see which slot it is.

2. Pull The Blade 3-6 Times

Pull the blade with a little pressure from the whole blade’s length 3 – 6 times. Coursing is done to really blunt blades because it will take a little bit of steel off so it can be fined later. Course 3 times if the blade is somewhat dull and 6 if it’s really dull.

3. Pull Correctly

There is a certain way to pull it through so don’t just carelessly pull it in a similar line, but try to follow the blade’s form and slowly pull it a little up when your way to the tip of the blade.

4. Use Fine Slot

Ok, now that coursing is done it’s time for fine. In this step don’t use as much pressure but only run it carefully through 2-4 times so the micro feathers get fined away.

5. Wash The Knife

After fining the blade, you will need to rinse it and wipe it with a towel so the micro feathers won’t get to the ingredients that you are about to cut. It’s really important to remember the washing.

6. Maintaining

Now that the sharpening process is done, the neglecting shouldn’t start. You should use the fine slot after every two hours of cutting so if you’re working in a kitchen, don’t be afraid to use it daily because it doesn’t take steel off the blade.

Check out the video below and see how it’s done.

Sharpening with a Good Sharpener is a piece of cake but let’s move grandpa out of the way and see what the modern electric sharpener has to offer! By the way, you should get an electric sharpener if you have more quality knives because they will do a better job faster and efficiently.

How To Sharpen Kitchen Knives With Electric Sharpener

1. Coarse The Blade

In electric sharpeners, there are usually 3 slots where you can insert your blade. The first step is to place your knife in slot 1 to coarse the blade. Coursing will get rid of a poor steel layer of the blade so be sure that your knife is dull before using the coarse slot. With electric sharpeners, you won’t need to worry about angles but just pull the knife through 3-4 times from each side.

2. Refine The Blade

Slot number 2 is for refining the blade so simply replicate the process from the coarsing phase, however only pull the blade through two times per side.

3. Hone The Blade

Slot number 3 is made for the final touch of the sharpening process so run the blade through slot 3 one time on each side and the blade is now razor-sharp.

4. Rise The Blade

After sharpening your knife, you should rinse it under cold water and carefully wipe it dry so the micro feathers which are tiny metal dust will get removed and won’t end up to your ingredients (Is Your Kitchen Knife Magnetic?) (Is Your Kitchen Knife Magnetic?).

5. Maintenance

Feel free to use slot number 3 daily especially if you work in a restaurant’s kitchen cook a lot at home because it won’t take any steel layers off the blade.

Electric sharpeners are essential if you have dozens of knives to sharpen, so for commercial use you should definitely get a Good Electric Sharpener.

By the way, check out this helpful video below to see how to sharpen a knife with an electric sharpener.

Now that we know the way around Electric Sharpeners, let’s take a step towards a more interesting way and see how to hone kitchen knives with a honing steel.

How To Hone Kitchen Knives With Rod

1. Grip The Honing Rod

Start by taking a firm but comfortable grip from the honing rod. Important thing to remember in this step is to not hold it like a sword or something that you are scared to use, on the contrary, give it a small slide when you slide the blade across it. Another thing to keep in mind is that always place your fingers only on the handle, don’t place them on the rod because that could end in a bad injury.

2 Proper Angle

The trick for the perfect outcome is to hold the honing steel at a 15-degree angle between the blade and the steel and slide the blade down the length of the honing rod in a sweeping motion. Do it in a way that the blade goes from the start all the way to the tip.

3 Keep The Motion

Now that you know how to slide the blade do it again with 5 times on each side and your blade should be more than honed.

Using a honing rod on your knife doesn’t actually sharpen it when it is often mistaken as such. It does the same effect that the ”fine” slot does in the sharpeners so feel free to use a Quality Honing Rod daily in order to keep your blade sharp longer.

See the quick video below on how to use a honing rod.

Honing a blade with honing steel is one of my favorites for sure, however sharpening kitchen knives with a whetstone is surely as exciting, if not even more. Let’s see how it’s done.

How To Sharpen Kitchen Knives With Whetstone

1. Soak The Whetstone

The first step in sharpening a kitchen knife with a whetstone is to submerge it into water. You will notice small bubbles coming out of the stone so keep it submerged for approximately 5 minutes and it is ready for use.

2. Start With The Low Grit Stone

When using a whetstone, there are two different stones on both sides. The lower the grit, the more efficient and rough it will be on the knife. In this example we use a stone that has

1000 and 6000 grit stones one.

Place your blade to the stone that haves lower grits and adjust it to a 15-degree angle. Start sliding it away from you with a small amount of pressure. Repeat this process 12 – 15 times aside then do it again with the other side. Make sure that you slide the whole blade’s length.

3. Feel The Blade

After sliding the blade 12 – 15 times on both sides, feel the blade carefully and see if it is sharp enough, if not, give it 5 extra slides per side and if it’s sharp enough move to the next phase.

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4. Turn Over The Whetstone

Now that your knife is sharpened, it’s time to use the side with higher grits. This has a similar effect as the ”fine” slot in the sharpeners we talked about before. Also, pour a small amount of water on the new side and wipe it wet completely.

5. Start With The High Grit

Start sliding the blade on the higher grit in the same way at the same angle as you did with the lower grit in phase two. However, 10 – 12 slides aside are enough at this point.

6. Wash The Blade

Now your blade should be extremely sharp but you will need to rinse the blade with clean water to ensure that the micro feathers we talked about before getting washed away.

Watch the helpful video below and see how it’s done.

Well, that was exciting for sure! A Quality Whetstone will always be fun to use and it will get extremely good results as well. Whetstones truly have enchanted me!

How To Keep Kitchen Knives Sharp Longer

There are many ways in addition to these honing and sharpening methods we talked about above. Let’s take a look at what other useful ways you can include into your life to ensure that your kitchen knives will be sharp for a long time.

Kitchen Knife Blade Guard

A blade guard Is a wise decision if you are traveling somewhere, or even if the blade is just sitting in a drawer. This will ensure that even the slightest bump won’t scratch the blade and in the worst case, a bump in the right angle can chop a piece off the blade.

Magnetic Knife Holder

A magnetic knife holder will come super handy if you have multiple knives and especially in commercial kitchen spaces where you will need a knife all the time. Placing a kitchen to the knife block will greatly dull the knife if you repeatedly place and remove knives from the block.

Right Cutting Surface

A wooden cutting board is far superior to a plastic one when considering the blade’s edge. Wood will treat the blade better which will result in less strain on the edge.

What Is The Best Thing To Sharpen A Knife With

Now that we are familiar with the four main ways on how to sharpen a kitchen knife, I should answer the question considering what is the best thing to sharpen a knife with. And the answer really depends on the preference however, I’ll explain further why one of the 3 is the best.

The electric sharpener is the best sharpener to sharpen a knife within a commercial kitchen, because it is the easiest and fastest way, with the most reliable outcome. Therefore you don’t lose valuable time that you could focus on more important matters.

This is only a general opinion and if you’re working in a more easy-going restaurant, you can bet that I as well would sharpen my knives with a whetstone because it’s more fun and it haves a better feel to it.

How Often Should You Sharpen Kitchen Knives

There are many factors that determine how often should you sharpen knives such as the quality and material of the knife, how often do you use it, and what you are cutting with it.

In short, a great rule of thumb is that in-home use you should sharpen a knife a couple of times a year, and restaurant knives should be sharpened once every couple of months. However, you should hone the edges with honing steel in order to keep the edges sharper for longer periods of time.

Can You Sharpen Knives Too Much

Yes, you can definitely sharpen knives too much. Every time a knife is sharpened, it removes a small layer of steel with it so the more you sharpen, the more your knife fades away. However, you would need to sharpen your knife every other day for years to see the effect but it is good to know that you shouldn’t sharpen knives too much.

How Can You Sharpen Kitchen Knives At Home

You can sharpen kitchen knives with the four ways shown above, however those three ways certainly arent the only ways, just the most professional ones. I’ll tell you a neat trick that you can use in every home!

Sharpening Kitchen Knives With A Mug

Yes, you heard correctly. You can sharpen a kitchen knife with a mug, however, it needs to have an unglazed ceramic bottom in order for this to work. Luckily most mugs have that.

Here’s how it works.

1. First, find a coffee mug with an unglazed ceramic bottom.

2. Place the mug upside down and place your knife at a 25° degree angle to the rim

3. When the knife is placed at the right angle, slide your knife with a little pressure towards one direction and then a similar amount to the other direction.

4. Voilà, your knife is sharper than before, give it a try!

Tip: Check this quick video on how to do it and learn faster with visual education!

Can You Sharpen Cheap Kitchen Knives

Yes, you can and yes you should. Sharpening a cheap knife is a smart idea because nevertheless, a dull knife is more dangerous due to the dull blade where you need much more pressure to cut which will result in much higher slipping chances.

However, depending on the knife’s material and sharpening methods it might be hard to get it too sharp, and even harder to keep it sharp but you absolutely can sharpen cheap kitchen knives!


This article became a little more comprehensive than initially thought, which is quite good actually and I can only assume that you got more help from this article this way.

Sharpening a knife can be a bit of a learning curve, especially with the honing rod and whetstone but practice makes a master and I have no doubt that you will master the art of knife sharpening in no time!

Feel free to leave a comment if you got value from this post, have tips that you would like to share, or tell a story about your kitchen knife sharpening experiences and let’s talk about them! Keep it sharp and watch your fingers!

Omar Abdalla

I’m the owner of JRS. While I love writing about food, I also enjoy peaceful and relaxed cookouts at home.

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