If you don't know the difference between honing and sharpening, you're certainly not alone.
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Honing—righting a bent cutting edge so that it's straight once more—is the most basic way to ensure your knives serve you well over the long haul. The more you hone, the less you have to sharpen, and that means your knives will work great and last a lifetime.
Why's honing so important? Think of it this way: A knife's edge is microscopically thin. And yet, this slender surface spends its days getting whacked against a hard cutting board. Is it any wonder, then, that that once-straight edge can get knocked out of alignment in the space of a couple of cutting hours? It is not. The question is, how do we get that edge straight again? And the answer is: by honing it on the reg.
If you don't know the difference between honing and sharpening, you're certainly not alone. The two things are frequently confused, but in fact quite distinct. Each time we sharpen a knife, we remove material from the blade. Sharpen that tool enough times, and you'll eventually run out of blade entirely. When we hone, however, we're simply straightening the knife's cutting edge. By keeping our knives well-honed, we cut down on the frequency with which they need to be sharpened, thus allowing them to stay in our lives a lot longer.
As Daniel O'Malley demonstrates in the video above, proper honing technique is easy to get down. The key components are picking the right rod—also known as a "steel" or "hone"; setting yourself up for success with the correct positioning and angles (honing correctly is all about the right angles); using a smooth fluid motion to right that errant edge; and caring for your hone so that it continues to serve you well.
Get more expert honing tips at chefsteps.com