You must have heard of honing steels before, but if you haven’t, they are also known as, well, steels. I have visited a lot of homes and almost all of them have one stashed away in their knife block or kitchen cupboard.
In case you forgot how it looks like, it is a metal rod with a rubber or ceramic handle that probably came with the knife set that you bought a while ago.
Perhaps you’ve seen your friendly butcher using it to hone his knife just before he cut those juicy steaks.
Maybe you’ve seen it in one of the gory movies you watched with your friends. Now, the question is, what are you meant to do with it? Impress your family and friends? Sharpen those knife blades? Allow me to explain.
Why you need a honing steel
In a typical household, there may be some confusion when it comes to what a honing steel, rod, or hone is. Many kitchen tools look the same, but actually have two very different functions. Conventionally, the term steel signifies a metal rod that you can stroke your kitchen knife with in order to restore its sharpness. The length of the honing steel is about as long as your forearm, but you can find longer ones that make achieving the sharpness a little faster.
Now, notice that I say “restore,” instead of sharpen? Because, traditionally, the honing steel works differently than a knife sharpener. The honing steel merely realigns the edge of your kitchen blade, whereby a knife sharpener grinds off its metal to create a fresh, new edge.
At the end of the day, both tools achieve the same result, a sharper knife. The method, however, is very different. Keep in mind that honing is non-destructive, while sharpening is quite damaging. Honing maintains, while sharpening will shorten the lifespan of your knife.
There are three different types of hones on the market: steel, ceramic, and diamond. For my global knives, I like to use hones that are made of steel, which seems to be the most popular choice. Most people that I spoke to recently also prefer a steel hone.
Steel hones are the most traditional, common, and oldest hones out there. Usually, you can get it with a kitchen knife set. It is either perfectly smooth, but it may have fine ridges running its length. I would say that the smooth type is the most gentle, while the ridges can roughen your knife while it realigns.
One brand I trust is Victorinox. The brand has a wide range of honing steels that won’t break your bank. The model I bought is the Bee Hive, Oval 30cm. I bought it for less than $70, have had it for about a year now, and have yet to be disappointed. Even now, it’s still in good condition and works perfectly.
If you cook a lot at home, if you’re a chef, or if you’re looking for an upgrade to your current tools, I call it the perfect choice!