Can You Sharpen Stainless Steel Steak Knives?

If you have recently acquired a set of stainless steel steak knives, we’re sure you enjoy using them. They make slicing any cut of meat a breeze. But with repeated use, they may get dull and not cut as well as they used to. Now you’d like to know: can you sharpen stainless steel steak knives?

Stainless steel steak knives are not too difficult to sharpen as long as they are straight-edged, in which case standard knife-sharpening techniques apply. Using a honing rod helps maintain the edge of serrated knives. But eventually, you must sharpen them, and this is extremely difficult.

can you sharpen stainless steel steak knives

It’s not enough to get an answer that you can sharpen stainless steel steak knives. You also need to know how to carry out this operation so you do not damage your precious blades. 

We will show you the best method to sharpen them, no matter the shape of their cutting edge, and give you tips. Let’s take a look.

Why You Need To Sharpen Stainless Steel Steak Knives

The short answer to whether you can sharpen stainless steel steak knives is that you can and must. However, you must use special techniques to have them respond nicely to your sharpening tools.

You need to sharpen stainless steel knives more often than carbon steel knives because of the chemistry of the alloys. 

Carbon steel rusts, so you must be careful in looking after it and remove moisture quickly. However, it is harder and less wear-resistant than stainless steel, which means it holds an edge well and responds quickly to sharpening. 

For this reason, carbon steel knives are the choice of professional chefs.

Stainless steel, on the other hand, is far more forgiving of moisture sitting on the blade because the chromium it contains prevents it from rusting (hence the name stainless). But the presence of chromium in stainless steel makes it softer so that it doesn’t hold an edge as well as carbon steel. 

Moreover, it is wear-resistant and does not respond rapidly to sharpening stones.

You should note that this is a generalization, and some stainless steels, such as R2 and SG2, are extremely hard. But you will not find steak knives made of one of these alloys. 

Either way, you must use the right tools and techniques to sharpen your stainless steel steak knives. 

The shape of the blade’s edge also determines what method you should use – it will be different for a serrated blade than a straight-edged one.

How To Sharpen Straight-Edged Stainless Steel Steak Knives

If you are using straight-edged steak knives, you know that they come with certain advantages for your steak. But you also know that they go dull quickly. However, sharpening them is not too difficult.

To sharpen them, grind on a whetstone, a stone block lubricated with water or oil. Finish by honing it on a strop. 

The grinding process involves using whetstones of different levels of coarseness (like sandpaper, this is called grit, and a higher number indicates a finer stone). 

Using The Right Sandpaper

Begin with a coarse grit stone, move to a medium grit stone, then to a fine grit stone, and finally to a very fine grit stone if required. 

Depending on how much you need to change the blade geometry (the cutting edge angle), you may wish to skip starting with a coarse grit stone. Don’t remove more material than required to keep your knives sharp, as you will make them wear out faster.

To grind on a whetstone, hold your knife at a 20 to 25-degree angle from the stone with the blade at a right angle to the stone’s length, and draw your knife across several times. Although this bevel (edge angle) is not necessarily what your blades were made with, these are good general angles that should serve.

When To Stop Sharpening?

To figure out when you should stop grinding, look for the formation of a “burr” of steel. This word refers to the incredibly tiny accumulation of steel that forms along the knife edge as you grind. 

You can feel it but not see it. However, if you wipe a paper towel over it, you will see the fibers it catches. You will only feel it on one side.

The presence of a burr means that you have fully apexed your steel knife blade, so the two bevels meet precisely, creating a sharp edge. 

When you have a burr, make one very light pass on the finest grit stone at the same angle to remove some of the accumulated steel. Test whether you have removed some of the burrs, and make a few more passes with delicate pressure so as not to form a burr on the other side.

Do a couple of very light back-and-forth passes on either side to smooth the steel out more. 

Then run the knife over a leather strop a few times to remove the last of the burr. Now your knife is sharp.

How To Sharpen Serrated Stainless Steel Steak Knives

Although purists argue against using serrated steak knives, that is what many of us have in our kitchens. If you have them, you know they do not blunt rapidly. However, they will eventually dull, making them a nightmare to sharpen.

To sharpen your serrated steak knives, hone them with a ceramic honing rod (sharpening rod). To use it, find the beveled side of your serrated knife – this is the side you’ll be sharpening.

Run the sharpening rod through each space between the serrations (the gullets). 

Run it toward the cutting edge, holding it at the correct bevel (typically somewhere between 13 and 17 degrees, although it will be the same as a straight-edged knife if the blade has a straight-edged portion.

When running the sharpening rod through the groove, use several short strokes, pushing toward the spine and rotating the rod for an even grind. 

Rods are typically tapered – do not push past the point where the diameter is the same as the gullet to avoid enlarging it. 

Repeat this process until you’ve sharpened all the gullets, which the formation of burrs will indicate.

Remove the burrs on the flat side by running the blade along a whetstone and finishing with a strop.

Sharpen any straight-edged portions as for a straight-edged knife.

For knives with V-shaped gullets, use a triangle-shaped sharpener and rock it back and forth in the gullets. 

You should note that this technique is not genuinely sharpening your serrated knives. Instead, it maintains the edge, so you won’t need to sharpen. 

While you can sharpen serrated knives, you will need specialist tools such as files and honing picks to sharpen each tooth individually. 

Doing so is almost certainly beyond your ability, and you should contact a professional service that does serrated blades (not all do).

How To Keep Your Stainless Steel Steak Knives Sharp

Once you have put a nice edge on your stainless steel steak knives, you do not want all your hard work undone in a matter of minutes. But that is precisely what will happen if you put them through a dishwasher. 

The action of the machine dulls and chips the blade – stick to hand washing your knives instead.

Avoid pull-through knife sharpeners. They may look like they will make the job easier and require less knowledge than a whetstone, but they will wreck your blade and probably not do a decent job of sharpening your knives.

Use a honing steel to hone the blade from time to time. This tool aligns the edge and smooths out any tiny irregularities. Doing so is an essential part of maintenance.

Final Word

Not only can you sharpen stainless steel steak knives, but due to the nature of this type of steel, you will have to from time to time. 

Now you know the best technique for sharpening and maintaining the edge of your steak knives, which will make for a better dining experience!

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