The worst kitchen advice you’ll always get: don’t sharpen your own knives

Don't try to sharpen your knives by yourself. You'll ruin them! Send them out to be sharpened by a professional. Box them up and send them out!

Oh, really?

What are you supposed to cook with while your knives are gone? Turnaround time can be a week. What do you do, order takeout all that time? Or buy two sets of all the knives you need the most?

Good knives cost good money. Sending them out to be sharpened adds to the cost. Sharpening services typically charge by the inch — $1.50 to $1.75 is typical. Then there are handling fees. And then there's shipping. Bends and broken tips cost more, by the way. Some charge $3; some as much as $11 to work these out.

So, considering all these factors you need to put together, what will it cost to sharpen your knives, total? Looks to me like it's a big pain in the neck to figure it out. Should I go measure all the steel in my kitchen so I can give you an estimate? I could, but I think I'd rather swallow cold thistles. if you don't mind.

Well, at least you'll always have sharp knives if you leave it to the pros.

Ahem!

No, you won't.

You will put off sending them out for sharpening for as long as you possibly can stand it. You'll remember what a fuss and expense it was. You're going to want to milk that last sharpening session for as loooong as you can. And you'll want your money's worth. You're not going to spend all that money to send sharp knives to the knife sharpeners, are you? Of course not. Make 'em earn those greenbacks. It costs the same, anyway.

That is, considering that you ever get around to ever sending them out to get sharpened in the first place.

I know plenty of people who won't sharpen their own knives. because they believe what they've read in otherwise reputable foodie tomes. They send them out for sharpening. Or, much more precisely — they will send them out for sharpening. One of these days. Someday. Maybe. Two years later — oh what the heck, we'll just get a new set of knives. We might as well, for what it would cost to get them sharpened again.

I think maybe once I met someone who actually has sent out their knives to get sharpened.

“How often?” I asked.

They turned red and looked down. “Not often enough,” they admitted. I think maybe they did it once or twice. Years ago.

So listen up, this is all you need. 

Not a tire-sized grinding wheel where the sparks fly, not a whetstone. Not a long metal rod. All you need is…

A two-stage knife sharpener. Not electrically powered.

When you use a motorized knife sharpener, you can ruin your knife in a millisecond. All it takes is for your attention to wander for an instant while you let the knife slip into the wrong angle, or push down too hard into the sharpening surfaces, or hold the knife too long in one spot. If you're using an electric knife sharpener incorrectly, you could wear through and make a weak spot or grind away the edge so that it's not a smooth line. You could nick the blade, or bend the blade. You could wreck an expensive blade for good.

An ideal, easy tool to sharpen your own knife quickly is something like the Zulay Knife Sharpener, less than $20 at Amazon. This little gadget has a slot that you just pull the knife through a few times. The blade rubs against some gritty stones and it gets sharper. It has a second slot where the stones are smoother. You pull the blade through those next, to make a fine edge.

How often? How about every time you're about to use them. Just give them a couple of pulls.

Why pay some stranger to make your knives super sharp once in a while, and then suffer in between times as they become progressively dull and blunt, and cooking consequently becomes both more dangerous and less fun.

Instead, get a couple of really good knives and a knife sharpener you like. And have super sharp knives every single cut.

Anyone whose hands are strong and steady enough to use a knife for cooking tasks will also have the strength and dexterity needed to handle the job of using one of these knife sharpeners. 

So in case you're worried you're not dexterous enough to learn to sharpen your own knives, don't be. The modern design of the double slot sharpener is ergonomic, safe, and close to foolproof. Of course, you do need to be careful. Because you are holding a knife.

 

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