You can’t have a dull knife in the kitchen, especially when cutting meat. How are you supposed to do your work if your tools of the trade don’t work? You simply can’t. In that case, this post can help by teaching you how to sharpen a butcher knife like a pro.
But before that, what exactly is a butcher knife?
What is a Butcher Knife?
A butcher knife is exactly what its name suggests. It is often a large blade, used for butchering or simply put – cutting meat. It has a broad edge and is usually slightly curved. This shape and size are what helps it quickly cut through large pieces of meat. You definitely can’t do that with a blunt knife.
Blunt knives need more pressure when you use them, whether it is to cut or chop meat. Moreover, they are dangerous to work with. It can cause injuries if you have to be more forceful with your knife, which means keeping it sharp is necessary. A sharp butcher knife will ensure you can cut meat or anything with precision.
There are several ways you can keep your butcher knife razor-sharp. They all look like a simple task but may lead to blade damage if done incorrectly. It can also have a negative impact on how your butcher knife is used. But don’t worry, this article will show you how to sharpen a butcher knife like a pro.
What You’ll Need
First, get the following tools:
- Water or oil
- Your butcher knife
Once you have all these, you can start sharpening your blade.
You can use various tools to sharpen a knife, but a stone is the only proper and efficient way for you to do this. Stones like whetstone and Waterstone is simpler and more effective, especially for a butcher knife. You can also use sandpaper, which is known to also work well. A tabletop sharpener, however, is a bit doubtful.
On the other hand, a honing rod or steel is not ideal for sharpening. It works mostly for touching up since it does not remove material from the knife. On that note, a whetstone is the best option for sharpening your blade. You can try the alternatives but that depends on knife usage, particularly on how dull it has become.
What Grit to Use?
If you’re new to sharpening knives and don’t know what grit is, then you could end up damaging your cooking tools. The grit number indicated on the side of the stone refers to the abrasive particles’ grit size. More specifically, it tells the particles’ spatial density. The lower the grit size, the rougher the surface of the stone is.
Knowing the grit sizes will help you choose the right stone in polishing your butcher knife.
- Coarse - #1000 or less: This is the grit size ideal for damaged kitchen knives. If your butcher knife has chips and nicks or too dull, then you should start to sharpen it using a stone with #1000 or less grit size. This stone will smooth out your blade if it’s still salvageable. Take note, though, that its abrasiveness can damage your knife even more if you use too much pressure.
- Medium – #1000 - #3000: This grit size is the go-to sharpening stone when your blade doesn’t have too many kinks that need smoothening out. If you simply want your butcher knife to regain its edge, then you can start with this. It is less coarse and more appropriate for regular sharpening. A whetstone with this grit size can give your knife your designed razor sharpness.
- Finishing - #4000 - #8000: This grit size is suited if you want your blade to have a superfine edge. However, it’s probably best to go only as far as #5000 to #6000 if it’s a butcher knife. The #8000 grit size will likely leave your blade bendable when it cuts through bone, muscle, and sinew. If it’s a blade for cutting fruits and vegetables, then it’s okay to use as far as the #8000 grit.
Sharpening Using Whetstone
Some whetstones are available with two different sides – one coarse/medium and one fine. It’s best to get a stone like this for convenience. Once you have your stone, you can start sharpening your butcher knife by following the steps below.
- Submerge the stone in water until you cannot see air bubbles coming from it. You can also use oil, but remember you can’t use water again to an oiled whetstone.
- Using your primary hand, hold your butcher knife firmly with the blade down. Secure the flat of the blade by holding it with your thumb. Place the knife at a 45-degree angle to the stone’s center. Keep the blade tilted from the whetstone at 15-degree.
- While you hold the blade at the position mentioned above, move the knife back and forth from the tip. Apply pressure on the tip of the blade using your other hand.
- After this, check if the blade has burrs on the back. If there is, that means you are removing metal from the knife and doing well in sharpening it.
- Continue sharpening the blade from the tip to the heel. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until the whole back edge has burrs.
- Now, turn the blade over, facing away from you. Keep it still at a 45-degree angle, tilted at 15-degree.
- Remove the burrs by lightly moving the back of the blade from tip to heel. Check it regularly to see that all burrs are removed.
- Move to the finer side of the stone and refine the edge by repeating the process.
Now, that’s how to sharpen a butcher knife. If you want, you can test your newly sharpened blade by the paper test. If your butcher knife smoothly goes through the paper, then you’ve done well. You can polish it and keep the sharpness for a long time using a honing steel. With proper maintenance, your knife should cut through meat, bones, and sinew without problems.