If you've ever found yourself with a dull knife, a pile of ingredients to chop, and no sharpener in sight, the solution to faster, safer cooking is already sitting in your cupboard. That's right, a ceramic mug is your key to a knife that's sharp enough to sink through a tomato, slice a jumbo onion, or cut through a butternut squash with no fear of slippage.
When it comes down to it, doing meal prep with a dull knife simply isn't safe — after all, how are you going to cook all kinds of delicious recipes from The Spruce Eats if you're nursing an entirely preventable kitchen injury? Keeping your knives sharp lets you focus on the knifework at hand (instead of the work the knife is doing on your hand).
Choose a simple, sturdy mug whose handle sits flush against the container. Avoid anything with an ornate, delicate, or decorative handle, as you'll need to maintain a very firm grip on it while you're sharpening.
Here's how to do it:
- Hold the mug upside-down in one hand, then place the base of the knife blade at a 45-degree angle against the exposed ceramic rim at the bottom.
- Keeping a firm grip on both the mug and the knife handle and maintaining that 45-degree angle, drag the knife against the rim using even pressure as though you were using a traditional sharpening steel. Do this three times on the first side.
- Repeat on the other edge of the blade, drawing the knife against the ceramic rim three times.
- Repeat using the first edge of the blade, but do it two times.
- Repeat using the second edge of the blade.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 once more, but do it one time on each side.
- Carefully wipe the resulting carbon dust from the blade using a clean, damp dish towel, then slice away!
Using the three-three-two-two-one-one method ensures that the blade's edge is sharp and centered. Favoring one side will cause the blade to skew one way or the other (also called a "rolled" edge), so be sure to apply even pressure to both sides for a centered edge that will immediately grip the ingredients. If the edge is sharpened too far in one direction, the improperly sharpened edge will push ingredients away instead of cutting through them.
Now this technique won't get your knife professional-grade razor-sharp and is not a replacement for a quality knife-sharpening steel. You should still have one of those, and give each knife 10-15 drags on each side every couple of weeks. But in a pinch — because hey, sometimes you need to slice a tomato right now — this mug hack will absolutely do the trick.