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How to Hone Your Knife

Once you master the honing steel, you’ll want to use it every time you cook
Knife Honer
Photo: elenghan via Flickr

News flash: That steel rod in your kitchen isn’t for sharpening your knives. It’s meant for honing, and, yes, there’s a difference.

Knife sharpening, best done on a whetstone, literally removes pieces of the blade to give the edge more of a point. A knife steel, or honer, aligns the blade, forming a straighter edge. In other words, sharpening actually creates a new edge, while honing keeps the current one in line.

As you use your knife, the metal can get knocked out of place. Running the bent edge against the steel straightens it out again. After honing, the knife appears sharper, because the edge is straighter, but no sharpening has actually occurred.

Here’s how to hone your knife correctly:

① Hold the steel with one hand, the tip pointing straight down.

② With the other hand, position the knife’s blade at a 20-degree angle up against the steel.

③ Draw the knife’s edge down the steel, starting at the knife’s handle and ending at the point.

④ Bring the blade’s other side in contact with the steel, at a 20-degree angle again, and repeat the motion.

Watch the video above to see how it’s done.

Since the blade can easily slip out of alignment, however slight, it’s important to use the steel often. You can even run it after every use. Sharpening, though equally important, can occur less frequently.

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