How to sharpen a serrated knife

Henckels Pro S 8-Inch High Carbon Stainless Steel Bread KnifeA friend recently asked me how to sharpen a serrated knife, and I realized I had no idea. I sharpen my chef's and paring knives at home on my sharpening stone. But I've never sharpened my serrated blade. Poking around online, I found a link that says you can sharpen on a stone by each individual blade serration. That sounds insanely time-consuming. Other sites say it should only be sharpened by a professional.

Anyone have any suggestions for how best to sharpen a serrated knife?

Update: Doh! Forgot to turn comments on. Fixed now, answer away.

14 thoughts on “How to sharpen a serrated knife

  1. I’ve heard it’s best simply not to bother with sharpening your serrated knives, and for that reason, it’s not worth it to buy expensive bread knives. One of my favorite bread bakeries uses and sells $5 ones and that got me convinced about the cheap-bread-knife bit.

  2. Use a round steel file. They usually taper a little, so you can use it for various sized serrated knives. It won’t be quite as fine as using a stone, so you will need to steel/hone the blade in the same fashion that you sharpened it.

  3. echoing what the first commenter said, any bread knife will do. in culinary school, they teach not to sharpen them. there’s no need (if you used correctly).

  4. Because I forgot to turn on comments for this entry at first, I got two suggestions via email.
    From Pete:
    I’ve had great success sharpening regular knives, serrated knives, vegetable peelers, and pretty much anything else you can think of on a Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker:
    I still take my knives to be professionally sharpened every six months or so, but this does a really nice job.
    From Sam:
    I use (at the recommendation of a local butcher) the Spyderco works great. My favorite chefs knife I have to admit that I take it to the butcher and for a couple dollars he puts an edge that is remarkable on it for me.

  5. I realize this isn’t a tip on how to sharpen your serrated knife yourself, but I take my serrated knife (and other knives) to be sharpened by the lovely lady in Chelsea Market who sits there patiently on Wednesdays and Saturdays waiting for customers. She does all her knife sharpening by hand and charges reasonable rates. I like supporting her, though I’ve also always wanted to try the knife sharpeners who toodle through the West Village in their old-fashioned truck…

  6. I, too, am an advocate of saving money on serrated knives; truth be told, though, I don’t even use my serrated knives all that much, so I only have to replace them infrequently.

  7. I second what Regan said…plus I worked in a cooking store for years and we always told people the same thing…buy the cheap Henkles at Target ($12) and keep it for 10 years…then toss…
    Good luck!

  8. Cheap serrated knives? How do you cut your tomatoes? A good serrated knife + a tomato = some of the easiest cuttin’ you’ve ever done seen.

  9. Jason ~ of course you would use a tomato knife. ha. only $60.
    I think the whole idea is that if you use your serrated knife for things that it’s intended, it won’t dull. but when you use it to knock through “other” things, that’s when it dulls. a good, cheap utility knife is always valuable.

  10. While I’m familiar with using a round file to sharpen in the recesses between the tips of the serrations, I’ve found a rotary tool (ie Dremel tool) with a fine grinder drum attachment works really well for said application… I’ve also found it useful for sharpening the S-Blade of my Robot-Coupe, and other things of that ilk, that can not be easily sharpened on stones. Also, even a GOOD serrated knife will dull over time if used only for its intended purposes… like cutting A LOT of crusty bread.

  11. Sometimes expensive knives are worth it. I’ve had a Cutco serrated blade (called a Trimmer) for ten years. It’s never been sharpened and is still frighteningly perfect. I adore this knife! My second favorite cutting tool is (are?) my Wusthof kitchen scissors. Kitchen scissors are the bomb!!!

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