Chef Knife and Steel

Having a well-cared-for chef's knife is fundamental to a well-run kitchen and great food. One major way to care for your knife is to hone it regularly using a steel. This article will explain why honing is important for your knife, the difference between honing and sharpening a knife and how to properly hone your knife to insure it functions most effectively.

Things You Will Need

In order to properly hone your knife, you will need the following:

1. Chef's knife, preferably 8-inch or 10-inch
2. Steel, either metal (magnetized) or ceramic
3. Clean dish towel
4. Single sheet of paper
5. Flat surface, optional

People often confuse honing with sharpening one's chef's knife. Though honing a knife helps maintain a knife's sharpness, it does not actually sharpen it. Rather, honing a knife, if done properly, returns the knife's blade to the 20-degree angle in which it was originally molded. Honing also helps remove metal spurs and food particles left over from use.

To hone your knife, hold the knife at a 20-degree angle to the steel. To achieve this angle, place the blade of the knife at a 90-degree angle (perpendicular) to the steel, move the knife to half that distance, thus creating a 45-degree angle. Repeat this step again to achieve a 22ish-degree angle, which is approximately the proper 20-degree angle, and adjust to 20-degrees.

Once the 20-degree angle is achieved, move the knife, starting with the butt of the knife closest to the steel's guard, along the steel until the tip of the knife reaches the end of the steel. Repeat this process about eight times for each side of the knife. You should hear a "ping" sounds, not a grating sound.

Once you have completed this, carefully wipe the blade of the knife with a dish towel to remove the released metal spurs and food particles and to clean your knife before storage.

It is recommended that you hone your knife after each use to maintain the highest quality blade possible and to extend the lifetime of your knife. Honing your knife after each use will also mean you only have to sharpen your knife, either professionally or with a sharpening stone, about every six months, depending on use.

Tips & Warnings

A simple test to see if your knife is sharp is to see if it will slice through a single sheet of paper. If your knife does this easily, it is plenty sharp and there is no need to get it professionally sharpened.