By: Chef Ambassador, Nick Meadows
The team at It’s Just Sharp has gotten a flood of questions coming in around the idea of chef’s knives, knife sharpening and honing. So we asked our culinary ambassador Chef Meadows to help out!
Sharpening Vs Honing a knife
This is a fantastic question that comes up a lot especially from home cooks! Usually it happens when the honing steel comes out and people see the memorable chef’s knife going back and forth across the honing steel. So let’s start with the standard Chef’s knife, one of my favorites is this one.
This is an 8-inch Shun Kanso Chef’s Knife, it’s a full-length Japanese style knives and one I use often. However, our discussion lies at the edge. So let’s take a closer look at the cutting edge.
Any good knife can become a dull knife. It is up to the user to apply routine honing and sharpening to keep the knife in top quality. no matter if its European style knives, German style, Japanese style or any other chefs knife or brand, It is the job of the chef to keep their blades in top quality.
Japanese Style knives
Some Japanese style knives have a specialized edge where there is only one angle instead of two. These sushi knives are specialized for the chef using them and provide a clean flat cut needed for sushi rolls.
Usually they are lighter however they have a much higher price due to their blades. If you own one only sharpen one side into alignment to keep from breaking. We found that YouTube has a ton of relevant information and details.
When we talk about sharpening what we’re really talking about is the blade edge that causes cutting or slicing. When this edge gets dulled through use the edge rounds. In order to sharpen a blade, we are putting a harder angle back into the tip of the blade edge.
If we were to take our blade and draw a line down the center we could find the two angles. As we work our blade across a sharpening instrument like a sharpening stone or in a system like we sell at Its Just Sharp, we put the angle back into the rounded edge and it is considered sharpened.
Side note: this theory applies to any instrument that produces a cutting motion. Knives, axes, hatchets, scissors, and chisels to name a few. These are all examples of bevels that cut.
The smaller the angle of the blade, the finer the cut and the more delicate the blade. For example, a shaving straight razor might have a combined angle of 10-15 degrees, whereas a kitchen knife might have an angle in the mid 30s.
Here we have a fixed-angle sharpener and our knife from earlier. I simply set the knife into the clamp, select my angle and the whetstones ensure that I get the blade angle I’m looking for. These stones act much link sandpaper does.
In sharpening, we are actually removing some of the metal of the blade itself. If you are sharpening you’ll probably notice some of the metal shavings left behind like so.
Honing acts differently. when we hone a chef’s knife we aren’t removing any material whatsoever. In the normal use of a blade, like chopping on a cutting board the durable edge can start to roll over. This can cause you to have to put a ton of weight into the edge and only succeed in smashing whatever you’re trying to cut.
Instead, to get the edge nice and straight we use honing implements like a kitchen honing rod or quality strops to extend and maintain a sharp edge.
If you’ve ever seen a cook pull out a honing rod and run his knife across it over and over, it’s unlikely that they’re sharpening the blade, but rather honing. Some restaurants commonly use honing rods, to create a show for customers. This technique requires practice, a strong grip, and control to not hurt the knife or owner.
The same goes for barbers who use straight-edge razors with strops prior to a shave. The object of both is to get the edge as straight as possible before use to get the cleanest cut or shave possible.
Honing instruments are much softer in nature. hanging strops, stropping stones, and honing irons fall into this category.
To keep your kitchen knives in the best condition, a quality cutting board is mandatory. We recommend a rigid wooden one with a handy damp towel under it creating a firm base.
Chefs never use a steel or stone board in any kitchen. those materials would break equipment, ruin hone, and destroy blade tips.
No matter what your favorite blade is with a little knowledge how you can keep it sharp and well-honed at all times!
Are you trying to hone your knife with a honing iron? Check out this guide here. https://www.seriouseats.com/knife-skills-how-to-hone-a-dull-knife