FAQ: "What angle should I sharpen my kitchen knife?"

17th Dec 2014

Question: "What angle should I sharpen my kitchen knife?"

The simple answer to this question is this:

  • European Knives - Tough & Durable: Built like tanks, most European knives have thick homogeneous blades with bolsters that extend from the spine of the blade to the heel. These knives can withstand the trials and tribulations of most commercial kitchens. Generally these are sharpened more obtusely than their Eastern counterparts. Recommended angle: 30° inclusive
  • Japanese Knives - Acute Is King: These knives are the Ferrari, Lamborghini and Pagani's of the knife world. Finely crafted and highly tuned, Japanese knives are often forged and crafted from best carbon steels available  by craftsmen who having knifemaking in their blood. At the sacrifice of edge toughness, these knives are forged to high Rockwell in order to create the finest edges possible. Recommended angle: < 20° inclusive

In theory, when sharpening your kitchen knives you should sharpen the blade to the lowest possible angle that the steel can support while still being able to perform the task at hand. By changing the edge angle you can balance how the fineness of your cuts with the durability of your edge. For example, to finely mince garlic a very acute edge would be ideal, yet this same edge would perform disastrously if used to shell a lobster -- but with an alteration of the edge the same knife could be used for both tasks. This would not be ideal if you had a knife such as a Japanese sashimi yanagi-ba, but this concept can be applied planning the angle of your edge.