Not only are sharp knives truly a pleasure to use, but they are faster and safer than dull knives.
Using the right grit to sharpen a knife gives you the best cutting edge, and prolongs the life of the knife. However, there is no single correct grit for every knife and every situation.
Here is how to figure out the correct grit for your sharpening needs.
For Damaged Knives With Chipped Edges
For a chipped or damaged knife, you would sharpen with a grit of less than 1000.
A very coarse sharpening stone, with a grit of 250, removes a lot of blade material, and can help you quickly repair a damaged blade or create a new bevel angle.
For Very Dull, But Undamaged Knives
For knives that are simply dull, choose a grit between 1000 and 1500. This grit will restore a cutting edge without removing too much material during sharpening.
For Finishing a Sharpened Knife
After basic sharpening, move on to a finer grit of about 4000. This finer grit goes beyond simply sharpening, to restore a polished cutting edge.
This grit is a good choice for polishing a cutting edge without impairing the durability of the blade. Most knives used for meat should not be sharpened past about 4000.
For a Perfectly Polished Knife
Some knives need to be finished to a perfect razor sharpness.
These edges are necessary for perfectly slicing delicate ingredients like seafood, and are ideal on a fillet knife, but won’t be needed for every knife in your kitchen.
For a polished, razor-sharp, mirror finish, use a polishing stone with a very fine grit of between 6000 to 8000.
For Sharpening Serrated Knives
Sharpening serrated knives should be done regularly, like sharpening the rest of your knives, but serrated knives require different tools and techniques than sharpening flat edge knives.
While you can use flat edge stones and steels to sharpen serrated knives, and it will restore a cutting edge and make the knife sharper, over time this method will simply grind off the serration altogether and leave you with a flat edge.
To sharpen a serrated knife, you need a conical steel. The unique cone shape will fit into the teeth of a serrated blade, no matter how narrow the teeth are, and using a steel allows you to maintain the special, one-sided bevel angle of a serrated blade.
Keep in mind that the teeth on a serrated blade will wear differently depending on what you use the knife for.
For example, in a serrated blade that is most often used for cutting bread or steak, the knife is used in a back-and-forth, sawing motion that wears both sides of the teeth equally.
However, if you are using a serrated knife for slicing fruits that have a thick skin and tender fruit, like tomatoes, peaches, and the like, then most of the cutting action of the blade will be on the inside of the teeth, because delicate fruits are usually sliced with a pulling motion.
Unlike flat-edged knives, a serrated blade may get more wear on one side of the teeth than the other, depending on how it is used.
Best Grit for All-purpose Kitchen Use
For home cooks who want knives that are functional and effective, without a lot of bother and fuss, a medium-grit sharpener of 1000 to 1500 will do just fine for most purposes.
A medium grit sharpener like this takes slightly more time to restore a good edge on a dull knife, so if you have only one medium grit stone, you should sharpen your knives slightly more frequently and not let them get very dull.
However, for most people deciding between spending a little time more often to keep a good edge on your knives, or spending a longer time, less frequently to sharpen with two stones, a rough grit and a medium grit, it makes more sense to simply choose a single stone and sharpen more often.
Most home cooks will also want a conical ceramic steel for sharpening serrated knives and maintaining a good edge on bread knives and steak knives, and experts agree that (so far) these manual tools work better than electric knife sharpeners for serrated blades.
And, over time, most home cooks using a sharpening stone will also need a flattening stone.
A sharpening stone will eventually become worn and develop a slight curve, which can impair sharpening of a flat-edge blade.
A flattening stone will restore the flatness of a sharpening stone. Maintaining your sharpening stone itself is the best way to maintain the edge of your knives.