Every kitchen needs a honing steel, and if you require one for whatever reason, it’s already included in your knife set. It might seem obvious to some, but others might be wondering exactly how to use this handy utensil. The first thing to note is that the honing steel isn’t a replacement for a sharpener or a slicer. You should only use the honing steel after you’ve already used either of those tools on your knife.
Why not replace your blade?
The idea behind using a honing steel is much the same as why we don’t cut off our hair every day: it would be too much work and would ruin lots of perfectly good hairbrushes! We only cut our hair when it gets too long, and we only hone our knives when they get too dull. The sole purpose of the honing steel is to realign the edge of your knife so that it can stay sharp longer before you need to use a slicer or sharpener again.
How often should I use my honing steel?
Different types of knives will lose their edge at different rates depending on how often and how hard you work with them, but as a general rule (and according to some experts) you shouldn’t need to hone more than once a month. A good idea would be to try and test yourself by seeing if you can tell when your blade has lost its edge: do you notice that cutting things like tomatoes is tougher than it usually it? Can you see a visible difference by looking at the edge of your blade? If so, then it’s time to hone your knife.
How do I use my honing steel?
To give yourself an idea of how long you should be stroking along the length of your blade, take one hand and hold it palm down on the countertop. Extend all five fingers and place them in front of you vertically so that they almost look like a wall. Now touch each finger with the tip of the knife, starting with your pinky and finishing with your thumb: this is around 10-12 inches (or about half a foot). You should always angle the tip just slightly downward when you’re using your honing steel: if you try and do it straight on, your knife will most likely roll-off. You should also bear in mind that the idea behind using the steel is to maintain an edge, not to sharpen it (which would require a slicer or sharpener). It’s important that you continue this motion lengthwise along the whole blade: 10-12 inches per stroke is good for most people’s arms and is around 4-5 strokes per side for longer knives.
Maintaining instead of replacing
After you’ve finished honing each side of your blade, there shouldn’t be any visible change in its appearance: if you can see small nicks or dents, then it means that your blades need more than just honing. Don’t worry! A couple of properly honed strokes on your honing steel should keep your blade sharp enough to cut tomatoes with little effort for another month or so.
If you’re using a ceramic knife, don’t use it on the hone!
It might seem like this article is talking about ceramic blades when they say “knife”, but in actuality almost all of us are using metal knives. Ceramic knives are great because they never need to be sharpened, but unfortunately, they aren’t very strong and they actually break more easily than metal knives if dropped on hard surfaces (like your kitchen floor). Because of how brittle ceramic blades are, you shouldn’t try and hone them even though it looks like everyone else is doing it in the cooking shows!
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