NORWALK, Conn. -- Maintaining a knife's sharp, smooth edge demands proper maintenance and care. While knives don't need to be sharpened or honed after every use, it's important to know when a blade needs attention.
Knowing when to hone versus sharpen depends largely on a knife's current level of sharpness. "Honing steel will re-align the microscopic teeth and can be used frequently, even after each use," said Andrea Arnold, manager of Wusthof's Connecticut outlet store. "Sharpening steel will actually take a small amount of steel off the blade, creating a new edge. You want to make sure the steel is at least as long as the blade you are either honing or sharpening."
While there is a big difference between honing and sharpening a knife, the same techniques apply to both methods. To start, hold the knife to steel at a 14-degree angle and gently pull the blade toward you while gliding it downward, ending with the top of the knife at the bottom of the steel. "Imagine the motion of lighting a match when using the process of sharpening or honing," said Arnold. After once side has been completed, place the knife on the other side of the steel and repeat the process. It's also important to clean your knife after honing or sharpening so that you remove any excess steel.
Honing steel should be performed somewhat regularly to re-align the microscopic teeth in the blade that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Honing a knife more often will allow more time between sharpening. "Honing a knife with the proper technique can substantially increase the knife's longevity and performance in the kitchen," said Arnold.
When a knife's edge becomes too dull, sharpening it with diamond steel or ceramic steel will grind away material from the knife, allowing it to reset the edge. Diamond sharpening steels' core is covered in diamond grains and depending on the size of the sharpening steel, up to 2 million diamond grains are applied to the surface. Ceramic sharpening steels are slightly less abrasive and will gently sharpen knives in comparison to a diamond sharpening steel, resulting in a finer edge. "Having knowledge of the types of sharpening techniques and how and when to utilize them is helpful for any cook," said Arnold.
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