What’s the Difference Between Knife Sharpening and Honing?

August 1, 2019

Customers often visit our storefront stating they need knife sharpening when they actually require knife honing in San Diego, CA, and vice versa. It is apparent that there is some confusion on the differences here, and it does not help that many knife sets come with a “sharpening steel” when, in fact, that tool is used for honing. Here is an overview of these differences and how to tell when your kitchen knives could use some maintenance.

Honing vs. Sharpening

The tool that many amateur chefs call a sharpening steel is actually a honing steel. Knives become dull because the blade’s edge is no longer properly aligned. Even if a blade remains sharp and still has its edge, it cannot cut food properly without being realigned.

This is where honing and sharpening come in. Honing steels push the edge of the knife back to the center and straighten it. The result is that the blade is corrected without any steel being removed. While this does not sharpen the knife, it does restore its abilities and will help you cook happily without struggling to cut food. Honing should be done before each use, as washing, dropping and misusing knives between meals can cause misalignment and make your next attempt at food prep feel impossible.

Knife sharpening in San Diego, CA involves removal of steel in order to restore an edge. This is performed when a knife is truly dull and not misaligned. Rather than using a steel, the best tools are a water stone, whetstone or electric knife sharpening tool. You do not have to sharpen knives as frequently as you hone them—most knives only require sharpening a few times a year. That is a good thing, as sharpening is much more involved than honing.

Knife Maintenance

It is important to know when knives need maintenance so they remain safe and effective. Most kitchen accidents are not from sharp knives, but dull ones, because they are more likely to slip and get your finger instead of your food. Also, people tend to use excessive pressure to make a knife cut, which is also dangerous. That is why it is important to keep knives honed and sharpened. You experience less frustration and reduced chance of injury.

The best way to tell if a knife requires attention is to cut a tomato. A sharp and well-honed knife will cut right through with ease. If you are not fixing salad that night, cut a piece of paper held in the air. This task should also conclude without struggle.

If the knife fails these tests, try honing it first. Once that does not work, you will need to sharpen it. As this is often an involved and arduous task, there is no shame in taking your knives to a professional to ensure it is done right.

Larson Sharpening, Inc. offers mobile knife sharpening in San Diego, CA. If you require help with knife sharpening or knife honing, contact us today to schedule a visit, or stop by and see us!

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