How to Sharpen a Japanese Knife? A Beginner’s Guide to Achieving Razor-Sharp Blades
If you’re a home cook or professional chef who loves using Japanese knives in your kitchen, then you know how important it is to keep them sharp. A sharp knife not only makes cutting tasks easier and faster, but it also lowers the risk of injury. Sharpening a Japanese knife, on the other hand, can be intimidating if you’re unfamiliar with the process. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through step-by-step how to sharpen a Japanese knife, so you can keep it in tip-top shape and enjoy effortless slicing and dicing in the kitchen.
Why do you require a razor-sharp Japanese knife?
A dull knife is an absolute no-no in the kitchen for several reasons:
Safety: Using a sharpened knife will significantly reduce your risk of tripping over food and hurting yourself.
Yield: A dull knife will reduce your yield and increase the amount of food waste you produce.
Efficient: You can cut food much more quickly with a sharp knife blade.
Aesthetics: A sharp edge is required for excellent food presentation, especially if the food is raw.
Food quality: Vegetables and herbs oxidize much more quickly when the blade is dull. Your food will lose moisture if the knife is not sharp.
Why is it necessary to sharpen a Japanese knife?
Sharpening a Japanese knife is essential to maintain its functionality and ensure safe and efficient cutting jobs.
Over time, blades can dull and lose their sharpness from regular use, which can make it difficult to cut food, lead to damage, and even cause injury.
Knife sharpening restores sharpness and maintains the knife edge, allowing the knife to perform at its best. A sharp knife also requires less force to cut, lowering the risk of slips and cuts.
In general, regular sharpening of Japanese knives is essential to maintain their longevity and ensure optimum performance.
When Should You Sharpen Your Kitchen Knife?
The majority of traditional chefs won’t think about sharpening the knife until it is visibly blunt. Precious Japanese kitchen knives should ideally be sharpened while they still have some degree of sharpness. Although it may seem illogical, there is a practical logic to this. You won’t need to spend much time getting the knife back to its original sharpness if it is still fairly sharp. You will need more time and effort to get the knife back to its original shape if you wait until it is too dull to start sharpening it. Every few days, the double-bevel kitchen knives will require professional sharpening.
The paper test can be used to determine whether your knife is too dull. The knife is sufficiently sharp and doesn’t need to be sharpened right now if it can easily cut through paper without catching and tearing it. If, on the other hand, you’re slicing a piece of paper and it crumples under the knife, it’s likely that the knife is dull or needs to be sharpened.
Learn the Various Knife Parts’ Names
What do you need to prepare before doing knife sharpening work?
- The knife.
- Whetstones (There are three types of whetstones: rough, medium, and finishing).
- A vessel in which to immerse the whetstones.
- A towel or other cloth (Use a clean cloth that you don’t mind getting dirty as the cloth is spread out under the whetstone to keep it from slipping while being used).
Note: The whetstone should be submerged in water in a bucket or other food storage container and left to soak. When the stone stops bubbling after 5 to 10 minutes, the preparation is finished. Spread out a wet cloth underneath the whetstone to keep it from slipping while sharpening the knife.
3 ways to sharpen your Japanese knives
The Whetstone Method
Always get your whetstone ready before beginning the sharpening process. Soak a medium or coarse grit whetstone in water for 15 minutes. If you have a whetstone with fine grit, all you need to do is wash it by hand in water.
Place the whetstone’s coarse side up on a damp tea towel, wet cloth, or rubberized shelf liner to keep it stable while sharpening. You can buy a stone base for your sharpening stone so that your knuckles have somewhere to rest.
Position your thumb on the flat of the blade and your index finger on the spine of the knife. You should hold the handle with your remaining three fingers. Start with the knife tip and press the edge of the blade against the whetstone with your left hand’s two fingers.
Place your shoulders parallel to the whetstones and maintain a relaxed upper body. Holding your knife firmly, begin sharpening by pushing the edge of the blade against the whetstone. As you advance, apply pressure; as you reach the starting position on the whetstone, release pressure.
Carry on in the same manner, keeping the blade near the whetstone’s edge. Sharpen your knife slowly and evenly until you detect a burr along the entire edge of the blade. When you come across a burr, flip your knife over and repeat the process on the other side.
Finish by taking the blade that has been sharpened and honing it with a sharpening steel or honing steel. Cleanse your knife after rinsing.
The bevel of your knives should always be considered before sharpening Western knives.
Using a Honing Rod
Your blade may only require a honing rod to become razor-sharp once more. It takes much less time to hon with a rod than to sharpen a knife, and the blade will not lose any metal.
With your left hand, hold the honing rod and point the tip down so it rests on a clean cutting board. With your free hand, press the blade against the rod, pointing the heel of the knife toward the steel. Pull the knife backward while maintaining a flat blade.
When sharpening, the blade should be tilted at a 22.5 angle. Maintain the same angle, and carefully slide the cutting edge in your direction while sharpening it by skimming it down the steel pole. Once you have covered the entire length of the blade, keep doing this.
Flip the knife over and sharpen the opposite side of the blade until the edge is shiny.
Can You Sharpen Japanese Knives With a Honing Rod?
It is ‘forbidden’ in Japanese culture to use a honing rod to sharpen a Japanese knife. When your knife is in bad shape, it’s a good idea to sharpen it quickly.
When time is of the essence, many honing rods have a quick abrasive edge that allows you to quickly sharpen the side of the blade.
Most Japanese knives, on the other hand, are made of hard steel, whereas honing roads are designed for softer steel knives, such as Western knives. As a result, sharpening knives with a honing rod, particularly a diamond hone, maybe a bad idea.
Electric Sharpeners Method
The simplest way to get a sharp blade is with an electric knife sharpener. Before you start, make sure the entire blade side fits through the sharpener and is at the proper angle to produce a better outcome.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using an electric or manual sharpener.
Switch on the sharpener while maintaining a light hand and a firm grip on your knife. Holding the knife with the cutting edge inside is all that is necessary. There is no need to use a lot of force because the electric knife sharpener will take care of everything. Slowly advance the blade’s tip through the knife sharpener.
Repeat the process on the opposite side of the knife to ensure the other edge has the same sharpness.
Can You Sharpen A Japanese Blade With An Electric Sharpener?
Using an electric sharpener on a Japanese blade has advantages. The blade will always be maintained at the proper angle with an electric sharpener, and using one is simple and stress-free.
Nevertheless, using it on your priceless Japanese blades comes with a risk. A single mistake could remove too much metal from the edge of your blade.
What is the most effective technique for Japanese knife sharpening?
A sushi chef’s best and most valued friend is a Japanese knife. Maintaining a nicely sharpened blade will not only significantly improve the quality of the food, but it will also ensure your safety and preserve the knife’s quality.
The whetstone is the best tool to use when honing a Japanese blade. However, if you proceed carefully, using the other methods on this list is possible.
Japanese knife sharpening video tutorial:
Important Considerations for Knife Sharpening
There are a few crucial factors to keep in mind when sharpening your Japanese knife to ensure a successful process:
Angle: When sharpening your knife, it’s crucial to maintain the proper angle. It’s important to use a sharpening stone with the proper angle for your knife because Japanese knives tend to have a sharper angle than Western knives.
Pressure: The key to getting the desired sharpness out of your knife when sharpening it is to use the proper pressure. Too much pressure can damage the blade, while too little pressure may result in insufficient sharpness.
Technique: The sharpening method you choose can affect the outcome. Consistency is key throughout the process, whether you move in a straight line or a circle.
Lubrication: Applying lubricants to sharpening stones, such as water or oil, can help lessen friction and safeguard the blade from harm.Upkeep: To guarantee consistent results, your sharpening stone needs to be regularly maintained. For a smooth surface, keep your stone clean after each use and flatten it occasionally.
You can make sure that you are sharpening your Japanese knife correctly and getting the desired results by keeping these factors in mind.
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Japanese knives: are they simpler to sharpen?
The majority of Japanese kitchen knives are made from steel with HRC hardness ratings of 60 or higher. The main advantages of such steels are better edge retention, a thinner blade profile, less weight, and, contrary to popular belief, they are easier to sharpen than knives made of softer steels.
How frequently should a Japanese knife be sharpened?
Depending on how frequently it is used, a Japanese knife may require sharpening. Knives need to be sharpened on a whetstone at least once every month to ensure proper upkeep and care. Once it becomes challenging to maintain, the blade needs to be sharpened.
Which angle should Japanese knives be sharpened at?
The quick answer is to sharpen meat cleavers at 25o on each side, Western knives at 20o, and Japanese knives at 15o.
Can you sharpen Japanese knives with a Tormek?
As you undoubtedly already know, using a water whetstone is the best way to keep a knife made of Super Blue High Carbon Steel sharp. First stage: #1000 grit; finishing stage: #3000–10000 grit. You can use Tormek if the hollow grind is suitable for you.
Is wet or dry sharpening of knives preferable?
Myth: Because using a sharpening stone dry removes more metal than using one wet, it works more quickly. FACT: Don’t equate conflict with advancement. When using a knife sharpening stone, increase your effort with each stroke by adding a little water or oil.
Japanese blades are extremely sharp, so why?
Two varieties of tamahagane are used in the construction of katanas: high-carbon, which is very hard and allows for the creation of an extremely sharp edge, and low-carbon, which is very tough and promotes shock absorption. A sword made solely of one type of steel or the other would quickly corrode or become too brittle.
Is it acceptable to sharpen knives on a daily basis?
Sharpen your knives every two weeks or so, depending on how frequently you use them. Knives that you use frequently should be sharpened, but you are in charge of doing so for knives that you only use occasionally.
Should you sharpen a Japanese knife on both sides?
We advise sharpening your Japanese knife on a single side at a 10-15 degree angle. Japanese knives frequently have two bevels, so the other side of the blade will also need to be sharpened in this manner.
In short, “How to sharpen Japanese knife” is a frequently asked question because sharpening a Japanese knife is an essential skill that every chef, home cook, or anyone who uses a Japanese knife should learn. When it comes to cutting, chopping, and slicing, a sharp knife is not only safer but also more efficient and precise. Sharpening a Japanese knife may appear difficult at first, but with the right tools, techniques, and practice, it can become a simple and rewarding process.
Remember to assess your knife’s condition, choose the right sharpening tool, and consider the angle, pressure, technique, lubrication, and maintenance when sharpening your Japanese knife. By following these steps, you can keep your knife sharp, prolong its life, and elevate your culinary skills in the kitchen. So, pick up your sharpening stone, and start honing your knife like a pro!