A sharpening steel is used to keep a knife in good condition, sharp for a long time. A sharpening steel is a rod of steel of approximately the same hardness as the steel of a knife. Run a kitchen knife over the sharpening steel 5 to 10 times on each side. This is usually enough to get your knife ready to cut again!
Can you sharpen a Knife with Steel?
There is a difference between sharpening a knife and using a sharpening steel. With a sharpening steel, you’re not removing material, you’re keeping the edge of your sharp knife nice and straight. This prevents your knife from dulling quickly and also postpones the big sharpening. As the sharpening steel does not remove any material, your knife will not wear out. For best results, use the sharpening steel regularly. Preferably before or after each use of your knife. Is your knife very dull? Unfortunately, you can’t sharpen it with steel. Try a ceramic or diamond sharpener.
How to use a Sharpening Steel:
Find the right Angle
When using a sharpening steel, it is important to find the right angle between the knife and the steel. Kitchen knives usually have an overall sharpening angle of 30 to 40 degrees. However, the sharpening angle of a cutting edge is usually specified by the supplier. For example, a German kitchen knife with a sharpening angle of 20 degrees has a total sharpening angle of 40 degrees.
When it comes to sharpening angles, the smaller the angle, the sharper the knife. Unfortunately, a knife with a small angle is also more sensitive. Japanese kitchen knives, for example, have an overall angle of about 15 degrees, which makes them razor-sharp but also fragile.
It is important to maintain the correct angle when using a sharpening steel. However, it is almost impossible to maintain the exact same angle when sharpening by hand. Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of sharpening angles here. Hold the knife lightly on the sharpening steel at the correct angle, and you will automatically notice that the sharpening steel is doing its job. Remember, however, that if the angle is too large, you may damage the cutting edge by blunting it. If the angle is too small, the sharpening steel will be ineffective and may scratch the blade.
Getting the Angle right
The above may seem complicated, but don’t be put off. Finding and maintaining the right angle between the knife and the sharpening steel is more a matter of gut feeling than mathematical understanding. To get this feeling, it’s best to practice with an old or cheap knife before trying it with your new, expensive chef’s knife.
The method where the tip of the steel is on the worktop is a safer way to use steel. However, most chefs simply hold their steel upright, as this becomes easier and quicker with practice. The best way to describe the movement is to try cutting a thin slice off the sharpening steel. Use only light pressure.
How often should I use a Sharpening Steel?
Use a sharpening steel on a regular basis. Preferably before or after using your kitchen knife. Pass the knife over the steel 5 to 10 times on each side. This should be enough to make your knife sharp again. If it’s not sharp, you’ll need to sharpen it on a whetstone, grindstone, or other sharpening tool.