What’s the Best Angle to Sharpen a Knife Effectively?


A dull knife can make cooking a dull chore. Besides making food prep difficult, a dull knife is dangerous because it becomes more prone to slipping and missing its mark. Alongside that, when food is cut unevenly, it usually doesn’t cook well. 


There are dozens of devices and methods that help in sharpening a knife; some simple, some more complicated. Different knives have different angles. The smaller the angle, the sharper the blade, and the more difficult it is to maintain that edge. If you want more performance from your knife, you can fine-tune the bevel angle to meet the specific needs of your knife. The bevel is the ground angle and shape of the blade’s edge. Depending on what it’s made of and how it’s ground, it can dictate the type of knife you have.


To improve your kitchen skills and make cooking easier and more pleasurable, keep reading to know how to effectively sharpen a kitchen knife according to the angle.



Does your knife need sharpening?

First off, you want to know if the knife actually needs sharpening. By time, any knife will eventually become dull due to regular usage. It might not show to the naked eye, but dulled knives will be chewed up. A knife might be sharp, but for best cutting, it has to be sharp enough. You can put the knife to the test using a newspaper or regular printing paper that is smooth and not creased. Hold the paper up and lay the blade against the top edge at an angle and slice outward. You can also try the tomato test and if your knife slices the skin of a tomato easily, it’s sharp. If you can slice through a tomato without having to see your way through or poke a starter hole with the tip, you have a sharp edge that’s ready for food prep. If it still fails, it needs steeling and sharpening.

What is a sharpening steel?

Most knife sets have a metal rod sold with the set for steeling. Steeling doesn’t sharpen an edge; it straightens it. When you sweep the blade alongside the steel, it realigns the edge. When doing this motion, make sure to maintain between 20 and 30-degree angles between the blade and the steel. To know how to use the steel, you can follow these instructions:


First, start by planting the rod vertically on a cutting board over the counter. You should place the heel of the blade (near the handle) against the tip of the steel and have the knife tip slightly pointing upwards. Rest the end of the steel on a cutting board for safer and more accurate steeling. If properly sharpened, the 20-degree angle will work well for most knives.


While maintaining light pressure and a 20-degree angle between the blade and the steel, slide the knife down the length of the steel in sweeping motions. Hold the knife crossways against the steel with the back of the blade, touching the steel. Pull the knife backward, toward you, so that you start with most of the blade in front of the steel. Remember that 90 degrees is a right angle, and 45 degrees is half of that. So 22.5 degrees is just half of that. 


Finish up this motion by passing the tip of the blade over the bottom of the steel, then repeat on the other side of the blade. Four or five strokes on each side of the blade will do and should realign the edge.

When do you need a knife sharpener?

If the knife is extremely dull, it means you would have to remove a rather large amount of steel to get it sharp again. The steeling method will not be able to remove all that. So the choices you would have with very dull knives would either be to use a whetstone, an electric or manual sharpener, or have your knives sent to professionals to sharpen.  


If you’ve only heard about them, you might think it’s called a ‘wet’ stone, but it has nothing to do with being wet. It’s just a type of stone used to sharpen metal objects. You can buy a two-sided whetstone with a coarse grit on one side and a fine grit on the other. Start using the coarse side; ten strokes on each side of the blade, and keep it at around a 20 degree angle. Then flip the stone over and give the knife the same treatment on the fine-grit side. It takes practice to master the motion and you need to hold the knife at the correct angle to ensure a proper edge.


Another option is to use an electric or manual knife sharpener to get all your kitchen knives fully functioning again. 

Electric sharpeners

Electrical sharpeners are the simplest and easiest equipment to use for knives. With electric sharpeners, the abrasives are on motor-powered wheels that spin against the blade. 


Holding your knife securely, but lightly, turn on the sharpener. You don’t have to apply much pressure as the machine does the work for you. Then pull the knife through the desired slots slowly and smoothly. Switch sides for sharpening both sides of your knife. Like with any other item that has too many buying options, you should make use of an online guide to buying knife sharpeners to find the best one that suits your kitchen needs. Any knife sharpener will take off some metal from the knife each time you grind it, but the best sharpeners may have options for sharpening, such as coarse, fine, and a non-motorized steel. This means you can just polish up a slightly dull knife instead of giving it an intense grinding with the coarse slot, so you needn’t worry about metal loss.

Manual sharpeners

Manual knife sharpeners give the user better control over the angle and consistency. This is important because the angle you use will be different depending on the type of knife you’re sharpening. 

Professional knife sharpeners

If all else fails, chances are your knives have been abused to an extreme point that they need a pro’s touch to restore the edge.


Recommended angles: Depending on what the knife is used for, here are some recommended sharpening angles:


  • Chef, kitchen, carving and small knives: 17-25 degree angle

  • Machete: 30-35 degree.

  • Fillet, pairing, sushi, and most Japanese cutlery: 12-17 degrees.

  • Hunting, pocket and sporting knives: 25-30 degrees.

The sharper, the safer

In the right hands, the sharper the knife the safer it will be when handling food. You’ll be amazed at how a well-sharpened knife can perform food prep, carving, slicing and peeling, making these tasks less tedious. Take care of your knives by protecting them with some nifty knife guards that you can purchase individually to cover knives before storing them in the drawer. Also, hand wash your cutting knives rather than putting them in a dishwasher so they will last longer.