How to Use a Knife Sharpener and why you should have one

Knives are some of the staple tools that you'll find in any kitchen.

But plenty of cooks don't know how to use knife sharpeners correctly or why they would even bother keeping the edges of these cooking blades sharp in the first place.

Sharp knife cutting steak
A sharp knife provides better performance across the board.

Let's go over how to use a knife sharpener and why it makes all the difference in the world.

Why Sharp Knives are Essential
It’s always advisable to keep your knives sharp. Granted, dull knives can still be used for day-to-day cutting in most cases, but sharp knives provide better performance across the board.

For one, sharp knives are much easier to use. Cutting through a variety of items with sharp knives is easier on your wrists and helps you prepare meals faster compared to dull blades.

Furthermore, sharp knives last a lot longer than dull ones. They maintain their edges better over the long term. But perhaps most importantly, sharp knives are ironically safer than dull knives.

This is because sharp knives require less pressure to cut into food, so there’s less of a chance of a knife slipping and causing an injury.

Even without mentioning all these benefits, one can probably relate to his or her own experience working with dull knives and how frustrating it was.

They can throw away the cheap, dull knives and buy ones, but that’s both expensive and environmentally unsustainable in the long term.

Every knife owners should invest in at least one type of knife sharpener to keep their blades’ edges well-maintained at the minimal cost while minimizing waste.

How to Use a Knife Sharpener

There are a few different ways you can use knife sharpeners depending on their type and mechanics.

Sharpening Stones

This is the oldest way to sharpen a knife (or any kind of blade, for that matter). A sharpening stone or whetstone is a specific block of sharpening material that allows you to sharpen your knife edge when you drag it along its surface.

Using a whetstone is a lot easier than you might think. All you have to do is hold your knife at a particular angle (your knife’s user guide might even have several angles for you to choose from), then drag it across a whetstone’s surface.

You flip the knife to the other side and repeat a few times. This motion “pulls” the metal edge of the knife back up into a proper wedge shape.

Knife Sharpening Systems

These are small mechanical devices that include a whetstone, which is usually smaller compared to the ones used separately, like those mentioned above.

These systems also come with clamps that you can keep your knife in place and adjust the angle for optimal sharpening. This method is better for smaller knives, given the small size of most of these systems.

Sharpening your knife this way follows the exact same principles as you would with a regular whetstone. The clamp tilts the knife to one of the preset angles, and you drag the edge along the sharpening surface until it’s to your liking.

Pull-Through Sharpeners

These sharpeners are hand-held devices that have various slots for sharpening and a firm-grip handle. Some pull-through sharpeners feature only a slot of tungsten carbide blades or rods coated with diamond dust.

More advanced versions, such as the Chef’s Sharpener from Cubikook (go to link), meanwhile, include both of these plus a slot made of fine diamond dust or ceramic for polishing.

You place your knife into one of the slots, which has a grinding surface perfectly angled for a knife blade.

All you have to do is pull the knife blade through the grinding slot a few times and the edge should be razor-sharp.

Chef's knife sharpener
A pull-through sharpener features sharpening slots with different abrasive levels.

Electric Sharpener

These machines are arguably the easiest to use. Similar to pull-through sharpeners, they also feature sharpening slots on their surfaces, with the addition of automatic rotating sharpening materials on the inside of each slot.

You turn the machine on, place your knife into one of the slots, and pull it back while the grinders do all of the hard work for you.

Conclusion

In short, using a knife sharpener is a simple yet important kitchen task with some devices or techniques offering more conveniences than others.

Regardless, everyone should teach themselves how to use a knife sharpener adequately to better preserve their knives and enjoy a better cutting performance.

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