Despite the name, sharpening steels are not used to sharpen a knife. A sharpening steel is used to hone, or realign, a knife blade that may be slightly bent.
Professional chefs keep a sharpening steel on hand to keep their chef’s knives or other commonly used knifes in tip-top form. If your knife needs sharpening, you will need a sharpening stone or electric knife sharpener.
For the best cutting results, you should hone your knife before every use, even if it isn’t dull. It helps maintain the best-possible cutting edge.
Instructions on How to Use a Honing Steel:
Hold the steel in your non-dominant hand. The knife is what you will be moving during this process, so you want to hold it in your dominant hand. Simply hold the steel steady in your non-dominant hand.
Hold the steel straight up and down. You can either place the point of the steel on a countertop – and on a non-slip surface, or you can hold the steel tip-up. Either way, make sure it is straight up and down.
Start at the heel of the knife. You should always start at the heel of the knife and draw the knife towards your body. This allows more control.
Hold the knife at a 20° angle. A 15° to 20° angle is the ideal angle for honing a knife blade.
Apply a few pounds of pressure. Lightly press the blade against the steel so there is a little pressure but not too hard. Pressing too hard will dull the knife and damage the steel.
Draw the knife across the steel and down. The knife will make a swooping motion as you draw it from heel to tip across the sharpening steel. Be sure to start at the top of the steel and move to the bottom. If the tip is on a table, the top is at the handle. The tip of the steel is the top if you are holding it in your hand.
Make 10 to 20 passes on each side. 10 to 20 passes on each side are all it should take to properly realign the knife blade, but remember to alternate sides with each stroke to achieve a straight edge.
Rinse and dry the knife. Rinse the knife in a sink and dry it with a towel to remove any shavings from the blade.
Special Note: The more you practice at using a sharpening steel, the better and faster you will be able to do it. However, the angle and pressure you apply to the blade are more important than speed, so make sure you are using the steel correctly before you try to speed up the process.