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This is how to sharpen a serrated knife the right way

This fearsome blade needs a little extra love

Knife blades closeup

In every good set of kitchen knives, there is one particular blade that most people both love and hate. We love it for its ability to flawlessly slice through foods like crusty baguettes and plump, ripened tomatoes. Its jagged edge gives us smooth cuts through otherwise tricky-to-slice ingredients, all while appearing rather fierce in the process. But this knife can be desperately infuriating in its trickiness to sharpen. This is the serrated knife – a fiercely toothy blade with a saw-like edge.

Serrated knives come in all sizes for a variety of kitchen tasks. Their toothy edge is perfect for many culinary uses, allowing for crisp, clean cuts without tearing or squashing the ingredient’s often tender interior.

But when it comes to maintaining this rather fearsome blade, things can get a bit tricky. Unlike the smooth, even surface that most blades provide, the serrated edge of these knives requires a slightly different sharpening process. While many modern electric knife sharpeners feature a serrated knife slot, these aren’t often the most precise and can actually damage your blade if you aren’t especially careful. While it does take a bit more time and some patience, the most effective way of sharpening a serrated knife is with a ceramic honing rod.

How to sharpen a serrated knife

Man slicing bread
Drazen/Adobe Stock

Before beginning the sharpening process, be sure to start with a clean, dry knife, a prepared whetstone (or sandpaper), and a towel for wiping your blade.

  1. Find the beveled side: Every serrated knife has a flat side and a beveled side. The beveled side reveals a slight angle on the side where the blade has been carved to form the serrated edge, which you will be sharpening.
  2. Sharpen: Using extreme caution, place the rod flat against the angle of the beveled edge, then run the rod through the dip toward the cutting edge. Repeat this process with every dip in the blade’s edge.
  3. Clean: Tiny pieces of metal will collect on the flat side of the knife as it is sharpened. These are best removed with a whetstone or, more easily, with fine-grit sandpaper. Wipe the blade with a dry towel and store your knife properly.

Serrated knife tips:

  • Because there aren’t any shortcuts in sharpening a serrated knife, fewer serrations are easier to maintain. When purchasing your knife, you may consider finding one with fewer serrations for both ease of sharpening and cleaning.
  • Most knives become dull not from slicing and chopping food but because of their constant contact with your cutting board. Because of the way serrated knives are used, they seldom run along the cutting board’s surface and, therefore, remain sharper for longer. Because of the more delicate design of the serrated knife, though, it can’t withstand constant sharpening. Try to sharpen only when the knife is getting noticeably duller.

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Lindsay Parrill
Lindsay is a graduate of California Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu, San Francisco, from where she holds a degree in…
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