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How To Use A Knife Sharpening Steel

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Man sharpening a knife Nichola Evans/Photodisc/Getty Images

How To Use A Knife Sharpening Steel

When we use a whetstone to sharpen a knife, what we're doing is reshaping its cutting edge by grinding away tiny amounts of the blade. And while it's the best way to sharpen a knife, all that grinding can leave the knife's edge rough and uneven. Using a knife steel, also called a sharpening steel or honing steel, helps smooth out that roughness, leaving a nice, straight edge.

Also check out this video on how to sharpen a chef's knife.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 1 minute

Here's How:

  1. With your left hand (or your right hand if you're left-handed), hold the sharpening steel point-down, with its tip resting firmly on a dry cutting board — as if it were a large nail you were about to hammer into the board.
  2. With your other hand, hold the knife crossways against the steel with the back of the blade (the part nearest the handle) touching the steel. You're going to be pulling the knife backward, toward you, so you want to start with most of the blade in front of the steel.
  3. Tilt the knife so that its cutting edge meets the shaft of the sharpening steel at a 22½-degree angle. Don't have a protractor handy? That's OK! Remember that 90 degrees is a right angle, and 45 degrees is half of that. So 22½ degrees is just half of that. You can pretty much eyeball it.
  4. Now, maintaining this 22½-degree angle, gently pull the blade toward you while simultaneously gliding it downward along the shaft of the steel. You want to cover the entire length of the blade, keeping the blade at that 22½-degree angle the whole time. Do this step 10 times.
  5. Switch to the other side of the blade, give it ten more strokes on the steel and you're done!

Tips:

  1. Make sure your sharpening steel is at least as long as the blade you are honing. For instance, if you are using a 10-inch chef's knife, your knife steel should be no shorter than 10 inches as well.
  2. After using the sharpening steel, rinse and carefully wipe the blade dry with a towel so that any tiny metal filings on the knife's edge don't end up in the food you're about to work with.
  3. Keep your knife steel handy while you're working in the kitchen. Just a few minutes of ordinary slicing on a wooden or plastic cutting board can knock your knife's delicate edge out of alignment. Once you're accustomed to the feel of a sharp knife, you'll feel the difference right away. When you do, just a few quick strokes on the steel will straighten it right out again, without having to grind away any more blade on a whetstone.

What You Need:

  • Sharpening steel
  • Chef's knife in need of honing
Related Video
How to Use a Knife Steel
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