For a long time, I thought the best way to care for kitchen knives was with those pull-through handheld knife sharpeners that look more like a clunky office accessory than a kitchen tool. That is, until I worked as a line cook in a restaurant, and the executive chef used a honing steel on his kitchen knives. He used it with lightning speed, swiping his German and Japanese knives up the steel at a 45-degree angle, finessing the blades to laser precision.

What’s the point of honing and sharpening your knives anyway? Over time, knives get duller. We know this. But how does honing your knives help? Do an experiment with me: place your palms together, with your fingers pointing upwards. Now, interlock your fingers and separate your palms, creating a triangle formation. See how your fingertips extend outwards? Think of that 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 Steel

To honey your blade, hold the knife sharpening steel in your non-dominant hand at a slight angle and the knife in your dominant hand. Drag one side of the blade up the honing steel from top to bottom, then repeat on the other side of the knife. 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 often Should You Sharpen Your Knives

The chef at the restaurant I worked at previously had stints at some of the most prestigious fine dining establishments in New York City. It was at places like Per Se and Le Bernardin where every 30 minutes, the cooks had to drop what they were doing and hone their knives for 30 seconds. Unless you’re cutting paper-thin strips of raw fish in front of Eric Ripert, this level of precision is unnecessary. However, experts say that anywhere from two times a month to a few times a year is best for home cooks, depending on how often they use their knives.

Photo by Sur la Table

Wusthof Honing Steel, 10”

This is the first honing steel I ever used and I am hopelessly devoted to it. It has honed my favorite knives with ease for years and yet shows no signs of wear. It features a steel honing steel and plastic handle to help you hone your honing skills (sorry, had to).

Photo by Amazon

11.5 Inch Ceramic Honing Rod

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.

Photo by Amazon

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. This under-$20 honing steel from Amazon is made of extremely fine diamond particles

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate, Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.


Be honest: how often do you actually sharpen your knives? We won’t judge! Let us know in the comments below.

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