How to Sharpen a Steak Knife: Quick Guide

For steak lovers, there is nothing like slicing into a thick, juicy steak straight from the grill or pan. Unfortunately, if your steak knife is dull, that pleasure can quickly turn into frustration as the dull knife tears the steak apart instead of slicing it.

Steak knives come with edges which are:

  • Serrated
  • Straight
  • Hollow Ground

Hollow ground knives have small indentations, or air pockets, above the knife's edge. The air pockets prevent food from sticking to the knife and allow the user to cut thinner slices.

Sharpening steak knives with serrated edges can be challenging. However, we will look at how to sharpen a steak knife whether the edge is serrated, straight or hollow, so you will be able to slice into a juicy steak the next time it is served.

1. Select a Knife Sharpener

Before you can sharpen your knives, you need to have a knife sharpener. There are three basic types:

  • Sharpening steel or rod
  • Sharpening stones or whetstone
  • Electric knife sharpeners

If you own a nice set of chef knives, then the set may have come with a sharpening steel. However, you can also buy one separately just like you can any other types of sharpeners.

Most department stores or kitchen supply stores will sell a variety of sharpeners, including all of those listed above.

2. Gather Supplies

Before you begin sharpening your blades, collect these supplies to keep the counters or table top free from metal burrs.

  • Newspaper
  • A soft, dry cloth
  • Mineral Oil
  • Glass of water

The oil or water is for sharpening knives with whetstones to keep from damaging the stone. Almost any type of oil can be used with the stone, but mineral oil is inexpensive and easy to find as it is sold at most pharmacies.

3. Sharpening a Serrated Knife

SerratedBreadKnife - How to Sharpen a Steak Knife: Quick Guide

Photo by M Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Although a sharp straight edge knife is better for cutting a steak, serrated knives stay sharper longer. However, since their edges can change during the sharpening process, they should only be sharpened when you notice they are dull.

Before beginning, place newspaper over the counter or table top where you’re working to catch the minute metal shavings that will fall off while sharpening the blades.

To learn how to sharpen a steak knife with a serrated edge, you should know which type of sharpener to use. A handheld knife sharpener works better for serrated edges than electric sharpeners because the serrations need to be sharpened individually.

So, the best tool to use would be a sharpening rod that fits between the serrations. Some knife manufacturers recommend rods made from ceramic, but there are metal ones as well.

If you look at both sides of the knife, you will notice one side of the blade angles down slightly before the serrated edge. The blade is known as a beveled edge blade, and it is the only side on which a serrated knife should be sharpened.

When sharpening the steak knife, hold the rod so it is perpendicular to the beveled edge and so the rod fits into the serration. Work over the newspaper, so any shavings or burrs will fall onto it, making clean up easier.

Lightly move the knife along the serrations. Stop after a few strokes to check the other side of the knife for metal burrs.

Move your thumb carefully over the edge to feel for tiny, sharp metal pieces, which are the burrs. If you feel them, move onto the next set of serrations.

After sharpening each serration, lightly move each side of the knife over the sharpening tool a few times to remove the burrs. Once the burrs are gone, rinse the knife blade on both sides with water and dry it a clean cloth to remove any dirt or metal shavings sticking to it.

Once the knife is clean, it will be ready for use.

4. Sharpening Straight Edge Knives

Straight edge knives dull more quickly than serrated knives, but they are better at cutting through the steak on your plate.

You can sharpen a straight edge knife with a sharpening rod, a whetstone or an electric sharpener to get a sharp edge.

Using a Sharpening Rod

Spread some newspaper over your work surface to catch metal shavings which may come off while you’re sharpening the blade.

sharpen steak knife 02 - How to Sharpen a Steak Knife: Quick Guide

Photo by SteveRaubenstine

To use a sharpening rod to make a straight edge knife sharper, hold the point of the rod against the newspaper. With your dominant hand, hold the knife so the back of the blade, which is nearest the handle, is held crossways against the rod close to the rod’s tip.

Hold the knife at approximately a 22 ½ degree angle as you pull the knife back toward you along the entire length of the rod. The angle doesn’t have to be precise, but it is easy to figure out if you remember half of 90 degrees is 45 and half of 45 degrees is 22 ½ degrees

Repeat this motion ten times as you pull the edge of the blade along the sharpening rod each time. Then, turn the knife over, so the other side rests against the sharpening rod and do ten more strokes on that side.

After sharpening the edges, rinse the metal shavings from the blade and dry it with a soft, clean cloth.

Using a Whetstone

A whetstone, or sharpening stone, is a square or rectangular stone for sharpening knives. You can find them in most department or hardware stores.

sharpen steak knife 03 - How to Sharpen a Steak Knife: Quick Guide

Photo by qimono

One side of the stone will be coarse for grinding away any rough spots on the blade. The other side has a fine texture which sharpens and polishes the edge.

To protect the stone, it should be wet when using it. You can use oil, such as mineral oil, or soak the stone for five to 10 minutes in cool water.

Place the wet stone on a non-slip surface, such as on a dry cloth on your work surface. Have a glass of water nearby as you will need to wet the stone while sharpening the steak knives.

Starting with the coarse side of the stone, put the tip of the knife against the stone. You will move the edge of the blade back and forth (toward and then away from you) while holding the knife at a 15 to 20- degree angle.

Using light pressure, pull the blade toward you, sliding it along the entire stone while moving the blade from the tip to the base of the handle. Repeat this several times until you begin to see an edge develop on the blade.

Turn the blade over and move the edge of it back and forth along the stone to sharpen it. Repeat this as many times as you need to sharpen the edge.

As the stone begins to dry, pour some water on it to keep the stone moist while you're working.

Turn the whetstone over to the fine side and move the blade’s edge across it two to three times to remove metal burrs. You should now have a sharp steak knife.

Rinse the knife’s blade under hot water and wipe it with a clean, soft cloth to dry it. Also, rinse the whetstone to remove any metal shavings and grime.

Using an Electric Sharpener

An electric sharpener is fairly easy to use and much faster than hand sharpening a straight-edge knife.

A knife sharpener will have slots in which to insert the knife blade. The blade sets between grinding wheels that sharpen the knife.

When the sharpener is plugged in, inserting the knife blade will activate the wheels. Insert the knife's blade starting at the base, which is closest to the handle, and pull the knife straight back.

If the tip of the knife is sharp, then be sure to move the knife, so the tip gets sharp too. Both edges of the knife will get sharp the same time.

Repeat two to three times to ensure a sharp edge of the blade. Then, rinse the knife and use a clean cloth to dry the blade.

5. Sharpening Hollow Ground Knives

A hollow ground blade has bevels on both sides because it has a concave shape along the edge. The shape helps to produce a very sharp blade which many people like, but others do not because it can be more difficult to sharpen.

The best way to sharpen a hollow ground steak knife is with an electric sharpener specifically for hollow ground knives. If you attempt to sharpen it flat on a whetstone or sharpening steel, then it will eventually wear done and become a “V” shaped blade.

There are slots on the knife sharpener in which to insert the knife to sharpen both edges. The slots will contain a grinding wheel on either side of the blade’s edge since it is a hollow ground knife.

Starting at the base, slowly pull the knife back towards you while keeping the blade straight. Follow along with the edge of the entire blade, so the tip also gets sharp.

Run it through the sharpener three or four times before examining the blade for sharpness. If you’re satisfied with the edge, rinse off the blade and wipe it with a clean cloth to dry it.

6. Test the Sharpness

After grinding each knife blade, you should test the sharpness before moving onto the next steak knife.

While there are several ways to test the sharpness of a knife, we are going to use those that do not inflict bodily harm and draw blood.

The first, and most commonly used, method for testing a knife's sharpness is to try cutting paper. If you can slice through a sheet of paper with little effort, the knife is sharp.

Another version of this is to try to cut through the page of a magazine. Magazines are glossy, so it is harder for a knife blade to catch and slice through their pages.

If your steak knife can slice through a magazine page, then it is very sharp.

The last method of testing a knife blade for sharpness is cutting an onion. The skin of an onion is thin and slippery, so if your steak knife can effortlessly cut through the onion, then it is sharp enough for most uses.

7. Storing Sharp Knives

Once you learn how to sharpen a steak knife, you will want them to stay sharp for as long as possible. By properly handling them, the edges will stay sharp, and the knives will remain nice for a very long time.

If you bought a knife set which included a storage block and steak knives, then store your knives in the block.

For knives without a storage block, you can purchase a magnetic strip and attach it to the wall near your work area or near the stove. The metal knives will attach to the magnetic strip and hang there until you need them again.

If you prefer to store knives out of the sight of little ones, you can purchase a drawer insert with slots of different sizes for your knives. The insert will keep the knives separate to prevent damaging or chipping the sharp edges.

If you have small children, childproof the knife drawer so they cannot open it. Also, store the knife block out of reach so they cannot reach any of the knives.

Although it is sometimes a time-consuming task, keeping your steak knives sharp will make eating your favorite steak enjoyable again. Now that you know how to sharpen a steak knife, you shouldn’t ever have to tear through meat to eat it.

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