We’ve all seen TV chefs furiously honing away their knife on a honing steel.
And there is a good reason for it, honing your knife is an important part of keeping your knife well maintained and helps them to last as long as possible.
Honing a knife is often overlooked by home cooks and typically people will not hone their knives nearly as often as they should do.
This article looks at how often should a cook hone their knife to help keep them well maintained.
You should hone your knife at least every three uses of your knife. You should only hone each side of the blade six times per session or less, ensuring that you are honing the knife at the correct angle.
Looking for a new honing steel?
Check out my recommendation, the Wüsthof 10 Inch steel on Amazon here (opens new tab).
Why you need to hone your knife
It’s important to understand why you need to hone your knife in the first place.
Honing a knife is a really important step you should take to ensure your knife not only lasts as long as it possibly can but also to ensure that it remains enjoyable to use.
Knives can and will start to feel blunt very quickly if not maintained. Honing your knife helps to reduce this problem.
However; many people have the wrong idea about what honing a knife actually does to it.
Most people refer to a honing steel as a sharpening steel, it isn’t.
A honing steel does not sharpen your knife.
Honing your knife is not the same thing as sharpening your knife. And a honing steel is not the same thing as a sharpening steel.
Honing is the process of re-aligning the blade of your knife.
If you looked at your knife blade edge under a microscope, it would be similar in appearance to the edge of a saw blade, a long row of tiny little teeth.
With use, it is inevitable that these tiny little teeth will fold over and go out of alignment.
Each individual tooth is not actually any less sharp, your problem is that they are not aligned.
A honing steel is used to realign these teeth, effectively folding back into a straight row, giving the blade a much sharper feel.
Sharpening a knife is the process of removing the current edge of the blade to reveal a brand new, fresh and sharp edge.
We’re not going to go into any more detail about sharpening in this article, but in order to understand how much you should use a honing rod, it is useful to know what it is and is not designed for.
How often you should hone a knife
You can’t really hone a knife too often.
In fact, many professional chefs will recommend honing a knife after each and every use.
I don’t think home cooks need to hone their knives after every use, after all, professional chefs are preparing meals for a whole restaurant of people every time they use their knife.
I would recommend that you hone your knife after every three uses as a minimum, this will really help to prolong that extra sharp feel to the knife.
Honing your knives more often than that probably won’t benefit the home cook very much, but it also can’t do much harm either, so if you have the time go ahead and hone after every use.
The main thing to watch out for when it comes to honing a knife is not the frequency of honing, but actually how much you hone the knife during each session, so let’s take a look at that next.
Can you hone a knife too much?
You should hone each side of your knife blade no more than six times after every use.
If that isn’t brining your knife blade back to alignment you may need to:
- Clean your honing steel (View my article here)
- Check if your honing steel is worn out (View my article here)
- If your honing steel is fine, sharpen your knife (View my article here)
If you think that your honing steel is in good order and clean, and your still not getting a satisfactory knife-edge after six hones on each side of the blade, then it’s likely that your blade needs to be sharpened.
No matter how much you continue to hone your blade it just isn’t going to sharpen those little microscopic teeth.
And it may actually make things worse. If you over-hone your knife after every use you actually run the risk of folding the teeth of the blade over too far.
It shouldn’t take more than six hones on each side to realign the teeth, so if you keep going after that then the most likely outcome is that you will over-hone, and start pushing the teeth out of alignment.
How to hone a knife
One vital part of honing your knife is to use the correct technique. You may seem to be doing everything right. Honing after every three uses or less. Only honing each side of the blade 6 times at most per session.
But you could still be causing damage to your knife.
When honing a knife you really need to make sure that you are honing correctly, at a low angle.
The blade should be at around a 15 – 20 degree angle to the honing steel.
If you start honing at a higher angle than this then you risk damaging those microscopic teeth on the blade, folding them totally out of alignment and potentially making the blade of your knife even worse!
But don’t worry, it really isn’t very hard at all to hone in the correct way, and I’ve written a whole article about honing a knife which you should find useful.
My honing steel recommendation
Honing and sharpening tools last for decades if they’re looked after properly. That’s why I would always recommend you invest in one of decent quality.
A poor quality honing rod runs the risk of damaging your knife, so if you choose a quality honing rod then there’s a good chance your knives will last longer too.
This 10-inch honing rod from Wüsthof is the only steel you will ever need. Wüsthof are renowned for their high-quality western knives, so this is the perfect kitchen partner.