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It’s easy to overlook the importance of a precisely sharpened knife. But all it takes is one frustrating encounter with (what was supposed to be) a perfectly-sliced tomato to convince you that sharp, well-maintained knives can change your kitchen experience for the best - and give you brand-new confidence in your kitchen abilities.
The wide range of available knife sharpeners and suggested best practices can get a little overwhelming (handheld or electronic? What type of stone?), so we’ve created a definitive guide to caring for your blades and selecting the best sharpener for your knife collection.
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Let’s start with basics: What is a knife sharpener?
Simply put, a knife sharpener is a tool designed to hone the dulled edges of a knife or blade, increasing its precision and sharpness. Sharpening can be accomplished one of two ways: either by removing material from the blade or straightening (truing) the edge. There are several different types of knife sharpeners you could find in a kitchen, ranging from simple handheld steel and sharpening stones to expensive electric sharpeners, which come fully equipped with spinning belts and grinding wheels. The key to success with any of these methods is keeping a consistent blade angle during the sharpening process.
At its essence, a knife sharpener increases the performance of your kitchen knives and improves precision to keep your fingertips safe.
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Why is sharpening a blade important?
The single most important reason to keep your knives sharp is an obvious one: your physical safety and wellbeing. A dull knife blade forces you to put more pressure on the object you’re cutting, making it far easier for the blade to slip and cut your finger or, at best, mash your delicate tomato to a pulp.
A sharp knife allows you to work much more quickly and precisely, saving valuable prep time and reducing food waste through incorrectly-cut meat and produce. Plus, there’s nothing more stressful than having to redo prep work as your dinner guests arrive; a sharp knife allows you to skip the redos and chop, dice, and filet.
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How to pick a blade sharpener
Knife sharpeners come in many shapes and sizes. each sharpener is best suited for specific purposes. electric sharpeners are an excellent option if you want to take the guesswork out of knife sharpening. turn it on and draw your blade through the slots; the spinning stones inside will efficiently sharpen your blade. electric sharpeners can be a little bulky, and are often the most expensive knife-sharpening option.
A handheld sharpener works well to simplify the sharpening process for kitchen knives. though handheld sharpeners don’t always offer the variety of an electric knife sharpener, they’re packable, portable, and easy to use. their mechanism is simple: they usually consist of 2 small carbide or ceramic edges that cross each other and quickly remove material from the blade. Most use one of two methods: you either draw the knife through the sharpener as it rests on a flat surface, or you rest the knife on its back (blade facing up) and draw the sharpener along its length.
A sharpening stone is a classic and dependable tool that’ll get your knives back to razor-sharp status. Slowly scrape the blade from one side of the stone to the opposite, being sure to hold the blade at the correct angle (an acute one). Stones come in different materials and sizes to best fit your needs. Finer stones are best for knives, while coarser stones work well to shape up garden tools and axes. Even a small, coarse sharpening stone can effectively and easily sharpen a large blade like an axe or lawnmower blade.
A sharpening steel actually works to realign the edges of a blade that may deform or curl, which can happen frequently with use. A sharpening steel works more to straighten the blade, rather than removing much material from it. Chefs will use this tool frequently either before use or right after to keep their blades in top condition with each slice.
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How To Sharpen Knives & Barebones Blades
There’s nothing more frustrating than preparing for a day of yard work only to realize your tools are dull and rusted from last season. No need to rush to the store: you can sharpen your garden tools at home with a little elbow grease.
Many items in your garden tool arsenal can be easily sharpened with the Puck Sharpener. Use this with implements like the Japanese Weeding Hoe, the Spade Hand Trowel, and the Garden Shears. Use a light hand on each of these tools – sharpening is beneficial, but it’s rarely necessary for these tools to have a fine knife-sharp blade. In fact, this can make the blades of larger tools (like shovels and axes) brittle and breakable.
To sharpen your Garden Scissors (or any scissors, really), you can use the Puck Sharpener or the Blademedic Sharpener. When using a blade sharpener with scissors, slide each blade through the sharpener with the scissors slightly squeezed shut, like you’re lightly cutting a piece of paper.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you sharpen a serrated blade?
Yes, you can! Always check if your knife sharpener works for serrated knives. It should be clearly labeled on the package or sales page. Using your regular knife sharpener on a serrated blade can harm your knife, so sharpen with care!
How often should I sharpen my knives?
Depending on the frequency of your use, you should sharpen your knives 3-4 times a year. Use your best judgment - if your knife blade is dull and no longer performing well, it’s time to sharpen! Remember, the longer you wait and the duller your knife, the more effort and time it takes to revive the edge. Professionals find a quick and frequent sharpening will keep their tools cutting smoothly.
Can I sharpen a knife with a curved blade?
Yes! Knives with curved blades can be sharpened using the same techniques as a regular straight knife - though your knife will benefit from being sharpened with a curved sharpening stone.
Does knife sharpening damage the blade of my knife?
It’s true - the point of sharpening your knife is to remove a little bit of dull metal from the blade, revealing a new, sharper blade underneath. This doesn’t damage your knife. It’s actually the best way to care for your blade and maintain it for many years.
Can I sharpen ceramic knives with a knife sharpener?
Ceramic knife blades are far more brittle compared to your steel knives. If you put too much pressure on a ceramic blade by way of a knife sharpener, it could easily cause the blade to snap. Some electric knife sharpeners can sharpen ceramic knives, but it’s best to check with the individual manufacturer before trying it out. It may be best to send your ceramic knives away for professional sharpening.