As a beginner, using freehand knife sharpening on your chef knife requires a bit of skill. But knowing how to sharpen a chef knife before attempting it makes the process a lot safer and easier.  We can’t stress it enough the essence of having a sharp knife as a chef. A sharp knife makes the whole food preparation process a breeze. A chef knife makes handling delicate foods like fish, shrimps, skinning, and removing fat, amongst many other food processes, easier. In this review, we would teach you how to sharpen the best sashimi and chef knives.

How to Sharpen a Chef Knife – Step by Step Guide in 2020

Sharpen kitchen knives in five easy steps using freehand on a whetstone.

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Step 1: Wet the Whetstone

The first thing you want to do is wet the whetstone you would use to sharpen the knife. Check the grit on the whetstone you’re getting for optimal results. For that razor sharpness, ensure you get a whetstone with the right grit. Whetstone within the range 4000 and 8000 are perfect for giving you that razor sharpness. A whetstone within the range of 1000 to 3000 is perfect for sharpening dull knives, but it doesn’t give it that razor sharpness. So, if you have a two-faced whetstone with a different grit on each side, use the rougher side to sharpen your knife first and then finish with the whetstone’s smoother side. In all, place the whetstone over a bowl of water so that you can continuously keep wetting the stone and your knife as you sharpen.

Step 2: Have a Good Grip on the Knife

Before you start to sharpen knives on freehand, you must have a good grip on the knife. Place your middle finger at the knife’s neck just so that it doesn’t cross over to the blade. Fold in your middle finger, ring finger, and pinky finger to have a snug fit on the knife’s handle. Then allow your index finger to rest on the knife’s blade, so you have a balanced grip. It would be best if you had this position while you sharpen because it enables you to apply adequate pressure on the blade as you sharpen. Moreover, the angle matters a lot when sharpening the knife, and with this grip, you can easily adjust the angle.

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Step 3: Angle Matters

As we said, the angle you are sharpening your knife matters a lot. As a beginner, we recommend sharpening knives at least at a 45 degrees angle. Now, this angle does not necessarily need to be precisely 45 degrees; it could be 15 degrees, 30 degrees, but not greater than 45 degrees. Aim to place your knife almost as flat or horizontal as you can to the whetstone. You can also flow with how the knife feels when you sharpen it. You can try placing the blade completely flat on the whetstone, then lifting it 1 mm or 2 mm above the whetstone, slide the knife towards you. Sharpening your knife at a closer angle to 90 degrees isn’t recommended because it would cause more of your knife to be filled away.

Step 4: Sharpen the Knife

Most Japanese kitchen knives were honed at an angle of 13 to 15 degrees, while European chef knives were sharpened at 15 to 18 degrees. However, it would be best to look for an angle as close to the factory honing as possible. So, having a good grip on your knife, and a perfectly wet whetstone and knife, make your first pass. A complete pass is when you move the blade from the bottom to the tip on the whetstone. Even when sharpening the best chef knife, you need to pass the knife several times before it gets sharpened.

Step 5: Test the Sharpness

Tests the sharpness of the knife before you end the sharpening process. There are several ways you can test the sharpness of the knife, but the easiest way you can try is the paper test. You can also try cutting a piece of tomato with the knife. If the blade easily dices through the tomato without squashing it, then you’re all set. To use the paper test, hold out a piece of paper, and cut it with the knife. If the blade cuts through the paper with ease, then you’re all set.


In summary, knowing how to sharpen a chef knife is like the fundamental skill every kitchen enthusiast should know. However, there are other kitchen knife sharpeners you can use like the honing steel. But the best way to sharpen a knife is using the whetstone because it is freehand and gives you the flexibility to sharpen your knife just how you want it. Although it requires a bit of practice before you get the hang of it, it is worth every time spent learning the skill. 

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