How Often Should I Sharpen My Knives? A Guide to Keeping Your Kitchen Knives Sharp.
At least three or four times a year. Maybe.
Sharp knives make all the difference in the kitchen. A dull blade makes cooking and food preparation tasks more challenging and can even be dangerous. It can be difficult to know how often you should sharpen your knives to keep them performing at their best. In this article, we will explore the factors that influence the frequency of knife sharpening and offer some tips on how to keep your blades sharp.
Factors That Influence Knife Sharpening Frequency
Nothing in life is ever simple. You might need to sharpen your knife once a month. You might be able to sharpen just once a year. How often you personally need to sharpen your knife depends on the knife and how you’re using it.
The biggest factor is how often you use your knives. If you use your knives daily, you will need to sharpen them more frequently than if you only use them occasionally. The same goes for if you’re preparing a lot of food for large groups, or just cooking a small dinner for one.
The type of blade material will impact how often you need to sharpen your knives. Harder blades typically hold their edge longer than softer blades. Some knife steels are formulated to be very wear resistant. They will hold an edge for a long time but are more difficult to sharpen.
Type of Cutting Task
The type of cutting task will affect the frequency of sharpening. If you are using your knives for heavy-duty tasks such as chopping through bones, you will need to sharpen them more frequently than if you are using them for lighter tasks such as slicing vegetables.
All else being equal, a knife with an acute bevel angle is more susceptible to damage than a knife with a larger bevel angle. Likewise, a knife edge with a hollow grind is more delicate than if it had a convex grind. Knowing what angle your knife bevels are and what kind of grind they have will help you be aware of how often your knife might need sharpening.
When to Sharpen Your Knives
Sharpening your kitchen knives is an essential part of cooking. We all understand that after preparing a meal, dishes need to be washed and surfaces have to be cleaned. Maintaining one of the most important tools in your kitchen is just as important. You wouldn't cook with a dirty saucepan, yet many households continue to use blunt knives.
The best way to determine when it's time to sharpen your knives is to pay attention to their performance. Most good knives will dull very gradually, it can be hard to notice a drop in performance. Kitchen knives don’t go dull overnight. Thousands of cuts contribute to your knife becoming dull. Eventually, you can end up using a dull knife without realizing it. There are four simple signs that can help you realize your knife is dull. If you notice any of these signs, you very likely need to sharpen your kitchen knife.
#1 You Have to Saw Your Food
A sharp knife can push or slice through most fruits, vegetables, and meats. However, a dull knife will require a sawing action to compensate for the lack of sharpness. Imagine someone filleting a fish or trimming a piece of meat. A sharp knife can make the cut in one pass and will leave a very clean cut. A dull knife requires more pressure and a sawing motion to compensate for the lack of sharpness. This is often the first sign that your knife is dull.
#2 Your Knife Crushes Your Food
A sharp knife cleanly cuts fruits, vegetables, and meats. A dull knife requires more force and crushes the food. The most obvious example is a tomato. If you gently push down on a tomato with a sharp knife, it will cleanly cut through. If you push a dull knife through a tomato, it doesn’t cut very well and crushes it. To get a dull knife to cut, you have to push harder, and this squeezes out the juice of a tomato. Cutting a whole tomato with a dull knife will create a mess. This is the same for other foods, however the tomato is the most obvious test of a dull knife.
#3 You Have to Use the Tip of Your Knife
While there are plenty of good reasons to use the tip, such as coring a tomato, most cuts use more than just the tip. By using the point of the knife, you can force the tip to cut when the main edge of the blade won’t cut. One example is trying to break the skin of a tomato. If the blade of your knife slides right over the skin, you have to start the cut by using the point. Remember pressure is a measure of force and area. By using a small area of the knife tip, you can increase the pressure on the area you’re cutting, allowing a duller knife to start the cut. Using the tip or point is inefficient, sometimes dangerous, and often wrong.
#4 You Need to Use Two Hands to Cut
A sharp knife requires very little force to cut. Using one hand to provide downward pressure is more than adequate. If you notice that you’re using your off-hand to add extra pressure to the knife's spine, you likely have a dull edge. This action is particularly dangerous when you let your finger grip the spine or side of the knife. It is too easy to let your fingers creep down toward the cutting edge and that is just unsafe. The exception to this is if you’re using an open palm on the spine of the knife for chopping nuts, the second hand is simply used for control, not extra pressure.
If you notice any of these 4 signs, your knife is dull and needs to be sharpened.