Some readers of my last post about how to tell if a knife is sharp now need to know how to sharpen a kitchen knife.

In my inherited kitchen there were lots of knives of all shapes and sizes and I soon discovered that none of them felt particularly sharp and the light test proved it. While I had seen TV chefs and Tim nonchalantly rubbing a knife against a sharpening steel while talking I just knew that they had spent years practicing and I had to find an easier way.

Tools that didn’t work

I tried a couple of devices that claimed you just need do pull the knife through a groove a couple of times and it becomes sharp like magic. Sounded good to me. The problem is that they either didn’t work and/or they took off pieces of metal which didn’t seem right.  So I did what anyone else would do.  I threw away all of the old knives and bought a new set of knives and a sharpening steel. The new knives gave me a benchmark of what a sharp knife is really like and the difference that it made. The challenge was then keeping them sharp.

How to use a steel to sharpen a kitchen knife

After a bit of research and testing I found the easy way for us newbie knife sharpeners. It involves keeping the steel still and only moving the knife. The first step is it get an old tea towel, fold it over a couple of times and put it on the work top. This will stop the steel from moving or damaging the worktop and also collect anything rubbed off the knife.

Now put the base of the steel in the centre of the tea towel and hold it vertical without moving.  With your other hand pick up an old knife (while you are learning) and try to work out what a 22.5 degrees angle looks like. The easy way is to estimate a 45 degree angle then half it, near enough will do.  Now hold the knife against the steel with the end nearest the handle at the very top. Try to maintain that 22.5 degree angle and pull the knife down and along the steel to the very tip of the knife.  Don’t pull the knife back up the steel or you risk damaging the edge. Once you have got the hang of it try doing it three times on each side of the sharp edge of the knife.  (You might find it easier to change the hand holding the steel when doing the other edge of the knife). Then do the bright light test to spot any burrs or imperfections.  If you can see anything bad just repeat the process.

Success is when your knives feel as sharp as when they were new.