How to sharpen knives like a professional chef

If you’ve never sliced something with a truly sharp knife, it’s a revelation, turning an arduous task into a pleasure. We called upon the nation’s expert knife makers, knife-store owners, and the ultimate knife evangelists—chefs—for their razor-sharp advice on caring for the most important tools in your kitchen. Here’s what you need to start living on the edge.

1. Learn to hone.

Paul Morton

 (iStock)

Honing aligns the knife’s edge between sharpenings, straightening the “teeth” of the blade. It’s like flossing: an annoying preventive measure that you nonetheless should be doing regularly. How often do you need to hone? Pretty much after every heavy use. Plan to sharpen (or visit a professional) every few months. We took a lesson from legendary knife maker Bob Kramer to learn his technique:

1. Hold the honing rod tip down against a cutting board. Place the heel (back) of the blade edge against the honing rod at a 10 to 15 degree angle at the top of the rod.

2. Applying steady pressure (imagine you’re slicing through thick bacon) and maintaining a consistent angle, sweep the blade down the rod and toward you, ending with the tip of the knife just above the cutting board.

3. Make several passes on each side, reducing pressure as you go to keep the edge even on both sides.

2. Use right sharpening rod.

 (Danny Kim)

The Mac 8 ½” White Ceramic Honing Rod ($25) is tough enough to work on any knife—unlike some steel honing rods, which may be too soft.

3. Protect the blades.

 (Danny Kim)

If you’re traveling with your knives or just prefer that they live in a drawer, protect them with wooden saya covers (from $13), available in many sizes.

4. Use the right board.

 (Danny Kim)

An end-grain (as opposed to edge-grain) cutting board recovers more easily under knife pressure. We’re partial to the ones from Brooklyn Butcher Blocks.

Check out more important knife sharpening and protecting tips.

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