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How to Sharpen a Serrated Knife: All You Need to Know

A serrated knife is an essential tool for any kitchen. Like any other knife, it becomes dull with continuous use and needs regular and proper sharpening. A dull serrated knife affects the performance and efficiency of the blade and puts one at risk of injury.

The best way to sharpen a serrated knife is to use a honing rod or ceramic file. To sharpen a serrated knife, gently drag the honing rod across each serrated edge, focusing on the tip and base of each serration until you feel a burr. Proceed with a smoother honing rod to achieve a polished and sharp serrated knife.

This article will discuss several methods on how to sharpen a serrated knife properly. It will also explain how serrated knives get dull and how to properly take care of the knives.

What is a serrated knife?

Serrated blade knife

A serrated knife is a type of kitchen knife with teeth-like blade indentation, also known as serrations. The knife’s edge is ideal for cutting through foods with tough exteriors and soft interiors such as bread. A serrated knife uses the same principle as a saw whereby the serrations or teeth break the surface of the food allowing a clean cut through.

Serrated knives are also known as bread knives that measure between 8-9 inches. Serrated knives cut better because the toothlike edges provide a superior grip on fibrous, thick, and hard foods. The thin serrations ensure smooth penetration through foods without the tearing or shredding that can happen with a straight-edge blade.

How does a serrated knife gets dull?

A serrated knife becomes dull as a result of continued use attached to the natural degradation process. The teeth of the blade gradually bend, chip, and corrode with time, rendering them unable to cut through food effectively.

Below are some reasons why a serrated knife gets dull:

  • The cutting surface/board is too hard: One of the key factors in caring for a serrated knife. Using your serrated knife on hard surfaces, such as glass or marble, will cause the blade to be dull faster than when used on softer surfaces like wood boards or plastic.
  • Using excess pressure when cutting: Putting too much pressure on a serrated knife will inhibit the blade’s ability to glide through food and eventually lead to dullness.
  • Cutting through tough foods: Cutting through hard foods puts excess pressure on the teeth. The pressure will eventually cause the serrations to bend, break or dull with continued use.
  • Poor sharpening techniques: If you hone or sharpen your serrated knife improperly, the angle can be too steep to cut through food effectively. In turn, the blade will pull and tear at the item you’re cutting.

How to sharpen a serrated knife

Sharpening a serrated knife is different from sharpening a straight-edged blade. There are various sharpening tools and processes involved in bringing a serrated blade back to optimal performance. You can use different sharpening techniques, from manual to machine-assisted, depending on the condition of your knife.

Some of the methods of sharpening a serrated knife include:

  • Honing rod
  • Rat tail sharpener
  • Electric knife sharpener

Sharpening a serrated knife using a honing rod

sharpening with a honing rod
Source: knowitinfo

A honing rod is the best tool to use when sharpening a serrated knife. Using the honing rod will re-align each tooth back to its original form. A honing rod provides the desired surface to apply even pressure on the serrations without damaging the material.

Follow the steps below to use a honing rod on your serrated knife:

  1. Use a ceramic/diamond honing rod. Regular steel rod can’t achieve a sharpening result, but only straighten the edge of your blade. 
  2. Identify the proper size of the honing rod by checking the size of your knife’s teeth. Use a honing rod that best fits your serrated knife not to damage or break the rod.
  3. Hold the serrated knife with your less dominant hand, so the indented edge is facing you. With the knife’s handle against your palm, support the blade with your index finger and thumb.
  4. Holding the honing rod in your dominant hand, make contact with the serrations. Ensure the honing rod fits in between each serration.
  5. Position the honing rod at an angle, preferably 13-17 degrees, for optimal sharpening.
  6. Proceed to sharpen with firm but strong strokes. Apply enough pressure to sharpen, but don’t push too hard to bend or break the steel rod.
  7. Continue sharpening each serration at a go until you feel a burr, meaning your blade is sharp. To sense the burr, run your thumb against the serrations feeling for a subtle raise.
  8. Finalize by removing the burrs using smooth sandpaper by carefully running the sandpaper down the un-serrated back of the knife.

Pros of using a honing rod

  • Allows for better control of the sharpening pressure
  • It gives a clean edge
  • Easier to learn
  • Provides better angle precision

Cons of using a honing rod

  • It takes longer to get results
  • It may not be effective on heavily damaged knives

Using a rat tail sharpener

A rat tail sharpener is a tool used to sharpen the teeth of a serrated blade. It provides an efficient way to restore your serrated knife’s edge by sharpening each serration with the proper angle. A rat tail sharpener resembles a honing rod, only that the rat tail sharpener is shorter and has a pointed tip for precision.

Follow these steps to use a rat tail sharpener on your knife:

  1. Select the proper grit size of the sharpener for your knife. The grit size ranges from extra-fine, fine to coarse. Depending on the status of your knife, you have to choose a grit size that can effectively sharpen the serrations.
  2. Secure the serrated knife in your less dominant hand with the tip firmly against a flat surface. Ensure the indented edges are facing you.
  3. Hold the rat tail sharpener with your dominant hand. If you are right-handed, hold the sharpener in your right hand and vice versa.
  4. Match the diameter of the rat tail sharpener cone with that of the gullet or serration. To fit into the gullet, ensure the cone of the sharpener is slightly narrower than that of your serrated knife.
  5. Start sharpening one serration of the knife at a go. Apply enough pressure to sharpen, but don’t push too hard that you damage the sharpener.
  6. Continue sharpening each serration until you feel a burr. Run your thumb against the serrations to sense the burr, and then proceed to the next serration.
  7. Once you finish, use smooth sandpaper to remove any burr on the back of your knife gently.

Pros of using a rat tail sharpener

  • The cone shape ensures you don’t exceed the size of the serrations
  • It’s easy to use
  • It gives precise angles

Cons of using a rat tail sharpener

  • It requires physical strength
  • The process is time-consuming

Using an electric knife sharpener

electric knife sharpener
Source: pinterest

An electric knife sharpener is a multipurpose tool used to sharpen both serrated and non-serrated blades. In this section, we will discuss electric knife sharpeners designed solely for serrated knives.

There are different serrated electric knife sharpeners. Some have up to four slots, while standard ones have three or two slots.

Follow the steps below to sharpen your serrated knife with an electric sharpener:

  1. Place your electric sharpener on a flat surface. Plug it into a power source and turn it on.
  2. Ensure your knife is clean and dry before sharpening. Clean your knife by wiping it with a paper towel to remove dirt, food particles, or debris.
  3. Gauge your blade to find out the sharpening slots that will suit your knife. There are slots for dull blades and a for polishing the blade.
  4. Most serrated blades have single bevels, so approximate an angle of 20 degrees for sharpening.
  5. Start by running your blade through the sharpening stage meant for dull blades. Begin from the heel of the knife as you move the blade to the tip
  6. Repeat the process 2-3 times. Ensure you maintain the same angle to achieve an even edge.
  7. Check the serrated edges for the desired sharpness. If the serrations aren’t sharp, repeat the process from the beginning.
  8. Once you achieve the desired sharpness, run the serrated knife through the polishing stage. This stage ensures a smooth finish and a long-lasting blade.
  9. Switch off the power supply and unplug the knife sharpener.

Pros of using an electric sharpener

  1. It’s faster than using a manual method
  2. It doesn’t require much physical effort
  3. You don’t have to worry about the correct sharpening angle
  4. It gives you options depending on the condition of your knife

Cons of using an electric knife sharpener

  1. It’s relatively expensive
  2. Some designs occupy a lot of space
  3. It can easily damage the blade if you are not careful.

How to take care of a serrated knife

Proper care and maintenance of a serrated knife are vital for ensuring its serviceability. Taking care of your serrated knife involves proper cleaning, storage, and sharpening.

Cleaning your serrated knife

cleaning serrated knife
Source: Amazon

Since the serrations are narrow, they are prone to damage due to impact or pressure. A combination of dirt, food particles, grime, and water can affect the performance of your knife if not cleaned regularly.

To properly clean your serrated knife, use a brush and mild detergent to remove dirt in the serrations. Ensure you dry your knife before storage with a soft cloth or paper towel.

Avoid washing your knife in the dishwasher as the heat, chemicals, and water can cause damage to the blade. If your knife has a wooden handle, ensure you wipe it with a damp cloth to avoid mildew.

Proper storage of your serrated knife

Source: epicurious

Proper knife storage ensures your knife doesn’t get damaged while at rest. Store your serrated knives in a place where there is no exposure to moisture or chemicals. There are various methods you can use to store your serrated knives.

Mounting the knives on a wall with a magnetic strip is an excellent option. You can also store the knives on the counter inside a dock or under a cabinet with tight space. Avoid storing your serrated knife in a drawer, as the blades might get damaged due to pressure or collision with other items.

Sharpening your serrated knife

sharpening a bread knife
Source: knivesandtools

Proper sharpening is an essential part of knife maintenance. You can use a honing rod, an electric knife sharpener, or a manual sharpener to keep your serrated knives in good condition. Understanding how to sharpen a serrated knife is essential if you want to use it for a long time without replacing it.

Proper sharpening involves choosing the right equipment, angle, and motion. Watch out for the grit level and ensure it matches your knife’s current condition. If you find it hard or challenging to sharpen your serrated knife, it’s best to take it to a professional to avoid damaging the blade.

FAQs on how to sharpen a serrated knife

What is the best way to sharpen a serrated knife?

The best way to sharpen a serrated knife is to use a honing rod. The honing rod ensures a consistent angle and matches the original angle of the serrations, allowing for a smooth sharpening process. Gently pass the honing rod through each serration with a smooth motion until you feel a burr, then rub the burr with smooth sandpaper.

Can you use a whetstone to sharpen a serrated knife?

Serrated knives feature indentions and scalloped edges that a whetstone can’t match. Whetstones are flatter and suitable for sharpening knives with even edges or straight blades. While some people may argue that you can use the edges of the whetstone to sharpen the serration, it doesn’t guarantee effective or consistent results.

How do you sharpen a serrated knife without a tool?

Sharpening a serrated knife without a tool is possible. You can use the bottom of a ceramic plate or cup to sharpen each serration on the blade. These methods don’t guarantee angle precision and effective sharpening, which is why it’s best to use a honing rod.

Can you sharpen a serrated knife with a pull-through sharpener?

You can sharpen a serrated knife with a pull-through sharpener. This method requires a pull-through sharpener explicitly designed for serrated knives. Run the serrated knife through the pull-through sharpener while maintaining a 20-degree angle throughout to sharpen the serrations.


Understanding how to sharpen serrated knives is essential for anyone who uses them regularly. The best method to sharpen a serrated knife is to use a honing rod to ensure effective and consistent sharpening. Proper cleaning, storage, and sharpening methods will ensure your serrated knife remains in top condition.

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