How to Properly Sharpen a Serrated Knife, According to an Expert

Though a painstaking task, the good news is you don’t have to do it often.

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more.

How to Properly Sharpen a Serrated Knife Tout

Food & Wine / Dana Fouchia

While sharpening serrated knives can be tedious, the good news is that you only need to sharpen them when necessary. Unlike a straight-edge knife, most of the blade of a serrated knife is only in contact with the food you’re cutting, not the cutting board. This means it dulls more slowly and requires less sharpening in most instances. 

When to Sharpen Your Serrated Knives

According to John Somerall, Food & Wine's Editorial Project Manager of Food Research and Testing, a classically trained chef, knife sharpener, and recipe tester, it might take longer to notice that your serrated knives need sharpening because they tear through food. That said, they should still do so relatively cleanly and quickly. “If you notice blunt serrations or difficulty when cutting bread, it’s time to inspect your edge and consider if sharpening is required,” he says.

Pay attention when cutting bread to determine the sharpness of your serrated knife. If your cut leaves a lot of crumbs behind, it’s likely time to sharpen. 

Equipment You’ll Need

Sharpening rod

A whetstone isn’t the answer for sharpening a serrated knife, nor are electric or manual sharpeners unless the manufacturer states that as one of the settings available. For this task, you’ll need a ceramic or steel sharpening rod, which is passed through each of your knife’s serrations. We recommend the budget-friendly Kota Japan Diamond Carbon Sharpener Rod for precise sharpening. It's easy to use and lightweight, and it will last through rigorous sharpening.

Kota Japan 12 in. Diamond Carbon Steel Professional Knife Sharpener Rod


How to Sharpen a Serrated Knife

  1. Determine which side of your knife is the beveled side. Though you might not know this at first glance, your knife should have flat and beveled sides. On one side, the blade is at the same angle all the way to the blade's edge. On the opposite side, the blade angles down just before the serrated edge. This is the beveled side, and it's the side you’ll sharpen. 

  2. Run the sharpening rod through each gullet gently in several short strokes. Push away from the blade's edge, toward the spine, and only to the point where the rod is the same diameter as the gullet — the space between the tooth tip and the inner surface of the blade — in order to avoid enlarging it.

  3. Repeat until you’ve sharpened all the gullets. This is a painstaking task, and there is no shortcut. For this reason, even those comfortable with sharpening their knives at home choose to take their serrated knives to a professional sharpening service, but have no fear! Patience perseveres and produces a good result that endures many uses.

  4. While you’re working away at the gullets, you may notice that burrs collect on the opposite side of the knife. Remove these metal pieces by running the flat end of the blade along a whetstone. 

  5. Your knife will have a clean, sharp edge.

Our Expertise

Christa Glennie has been a freelance writer and food editor for nearly 20 years. She is also the author of two cookbooks and specializes in food and drink trends, agriculture, the regional foodways of Western New York, and the restaurant business. Her respect for simplicity and uncluttered counters in the kitchen ultimately fuels a desire to find and own well-designed, multi-purpose, best-in-class kitchen tools. For this piece, she spoke with John Somerall, a chef, recipe tester, and knife expert.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles