How to Use a Honing Steel—Honing Steel for Sharp Knives

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My view was that a pull-through, handheld knife sharpener would be the best for your kitchen knives. It looks more like an accessory in your office than it does a tool. Then I was a line cook at a restaurant where the executive chef made use of a honing knife to sharpen his knives. The steel was used with incredible speed by the executive chef, who swiped his Japanese and German knives at a 45 degree angle to sharpen the blades.
What’s the point of honing and sharpening your knives anyway? Over time, knives get duller. It’s a fact we know. How does honing your knife skills help? Try this experiment: Place your hands together with your fingers pointed upwards. You can now interlock your fingers to create a triangle shape by separating your palms. Notice how far your fingertips reach outwards. It’s like dull metal. When knives show wear and tear, the blade becomes uneven, with microscopic changes to its shape that you can’t really see to the naked eye. When you run the blade against a honing steel, it’s essentially straightening those jagged edges (yes, in this case, your fingertips) to create a clean, straight line on both sides of the blade.

How to use a Honing Iron

Hold the sharpening iron in one hand and your knife in the other. Then, drag one end of the blade from the top to the bottom of the honing iron. Next, move the knife around the opposite side. Keep the honing steel steady and only move the knife—make sure to evenly sharpen both sides of the knife—for about 30 seconds (longer if your knife is *really dull). When you’re done, wipe the blade with a cloth to remove any microscopic particles of metal that have been shaved off.

How Many Times Should Your Knives Be Sharpened?

Before joining the restaurant, the chef had worked for some of New York’s most famous fine dining restaurants. Per Se and Le Bernardin were two examples of places where the chefs had to stop what they were doing for thirty minutes and sharpen their knives for another 30. Unless you’re cutting paper-thin strips of raw fish in front of Eric Ripert, this level of precision is unnecessary. Experts say home chefs should use their knives at least twice a month.

Sur la Table photo

Wusthof Honing Steel, 10”

It is my first ever honing tool and it has been a life-long favorite. The steel is very sturdy and has held up well over the years. You can sharpen your skills with the help of the steel honing iron and plastic handle (sorry).

Amazon photo

Ceramic Honing Rod 11.5 inches

This ceramic honing steel is gentler than a steel rod, which makes it ideal for using on Japanese knives (they’re more delicate than western knives, so they appreciate the less abrasive finish). It also helps that it’s one of Amazon’s bestselling honing rods and we love the hanging loop so you can hang it from a kitchen hook for easy access.

Amazon photo

Levinchy Diamond Honing Steel

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend…and a chef’s too. Because diamonds are the hardest substance on earth, it makes sense that they’d be the perfect material to use to sharpen knives. Amazon offers a low-cost honing iron for as little as $20. It is composed of finely ground diamond particles

The products in this article were chosen by editors and writers independently. Food52 is an Amazon Associate and earns an affiliate commission for qualifying products that we link to.

Ask yourself: How often do you sharpen your knives? We won’t judge! Please leave your feedback in the comment section.

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