How to Use the Honing Steel That Comes With Your Knife Set

An easy and essential step to keep your knives in tip-top shape

Honing board and knife on cutting board Aleksandr Vorobev

If there’s a knife block set on your counter, congrats—you’re officially an adult. But have you ever used the honing steel that came with it as anything other than a lightsaber prop? If not, your kitchen knives are probably not performing as well as they should.

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These rods, made of ridged steel, are an essential part of knife maintenance, helping to keep blades in tip-top shape until it’s time to sharpen them (sort of like brushing your teeth between cleanings). Unlike sharpening, honing doesn’t remove any metal fibers. Instead, the friction caused by running your blade along the surface of a honing steel helps straighten and align metal fibers on the knife’s edge that get bent during the cutting process.

Without honing, your knife’s edge will quickly become dull. But honing a knife before each use or at least every few times you use it will help extend the time between sharpening sessions.

If your knife set didn’t come with a honing steel, you can buy one for $40 to $100 (try Amazon, Home Depot, Target, or Sur La Table). Look for one that’s at least 9 inches long with fine consistent grooves along the rod. It should feel smooth, not rough.

Our three-step guide might not have you honing with the alacrity of Gordon Ramsay, but it will definitely help keep the blades in your knife block sharp and might even make you confident enough to duet with him on TikTok.

Step 1: Find the Right Angle

Find the right angle gif

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Honing at the correct angle is key: If the angle is too wide, you’ll actually dull the blade.

Hold the handle of the honing steel with your non-dominant hand and plant the tip straight down onto a cutting board.

Gently place the heel of the knife against the top of the honing steel at an approximate 20-degree angle. A trick for gauging the correct angle is to hold your knife perpendicular to the honing steel, then reduce that angle by half, which is about a 45-degree angle, then reduce the angle by half again.

Step 2: Hone the Blade

Honing the blade gif

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Maintaining that angle, draw the knife down the full length of the honing steel while applying light pressure and pulling across the full length of the knife blade, until the tip of the knife and the tip of the honing steel meet.

Be sure to use gentle, steady strokes: Blunt force and speed can damage the knife’s edge. Repeat with both sides until the blade is honed, about three to five strokes per side.

Step 3: Check the Knife Edge

Checking your knife edge with a piece of paper

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Your knife should now be perfectly honed.

To check, grab a sheet of paper and try to slice through it top to bottom. A sharp knife will slice the paper cleanly, without bending the edge down first or shredding it. If that still happens after repeated honing, it’s time to sharpen the knife.

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Headshot of Perry Santanachote, editor with the Home editorial team at Consumer Reports

Perry Santanachote

A multidimensional background in lifestyle journalism, recipe development, and anthropology impels me to bring a human element to the coverage of home kitchen appliances. When I'm not researching dishwashers and blenders or poring over market reports, I'm likely immersed in a juicy crossword puzzle or trying (and failing) to love exercise. Find me on Facebook