is supported by our Pitmaster Club. Also, when you buy with links on our site we may earn a finder’s fee. Click to see how we test and review products.

Expert Reveals What You Need To Know About How To Sharpen And Hone Knives

Share on:

Honing And Sharpening Are Not The Same

Ever show up at a rental house or a friend’s house and all the knives are dull? It kinda kills your will to cook. The fact is, a sharp knife cuts faster and is safer to use because it won’t slip off foods as easily as a dull knife. Sharp knives make cooking easier and more fun.

To keep your blades at their best during daily use, try not to slam the blade down hard on the board when chopping. Use a light touch. When slicing, concentrate on drawing the blade across foods instead of pushing down into them.

How to Hone a Knife

Periodically, you’ll need to hone your edge. Honing is different from sharpening. Honing maintains a knife’s edge, while sharpening repairs the edge. Honing should be done every few uses, but you will only need to sharpen your knife when it’s so dull that it slips off foods instead of cutting through them.

Here’s what’s going on. Even when sharp, the edge of a knife is lined with many tiny, thin, jagged pieces like the teeth on a saw. With repeated use, the teeth go out of alignment, making the blade less effective at its job of cutting. Honing the knife on a honing steel keeps the teeth aligned and straight so that the edge cuts more effectively.

Honing tools are made of one of three materials: special hardened stainless steel, ceramics, or “diamond” steel. Stainless honers have small fine ridges cut into the rod. Ceramics have an etched abrasive surface and they remove a small amount of metal which you can see on the ceramic surface. Ceramics are breakable so handle with care. Diamond steel has fine grit diamond dust embedded and like ceramic, it is abrasive and actually removes some metal.

To hone a knife, hold a honing steel in one hand with the point facing up and the knife in other hand with the point facing up. Position the heel of the blade at the top of the steel at an angle of 10 to 18 degrees (for Asian knives) or 18 to 22 degrees (for European and North American knives). With even, gentle pressure, pull the blade down the length of the steel, gradually moving the knife toward you to drag the blade across the steel as it goes down. End the sweep with the tip of the knife at the bottom of the steel. Hone the other side by reversing the knife and repeating the down-and-across sweeping motion. Repeat about five sweeps on each side. When you get really good, you can hone your knife faster by sweeping one edge of the blade down the steel then sweeping the other edge up the steel. This is how most professional chefs do it. It takes a little practice but it saves time.

sharpening stones

How to Sharpen a Knife Using Stones

If your knife is still dull after honing it, the blade should be resharpened. Good-quality electric sharpeners save time and we recommend several here. But many chefs prefer to sharpen their knives by hand on a sharpening stone (whetstone). Among stones, 1,200 grit is considered sufficient to sharpen and polish a cutting edge, while 6,000 or higher grit will create a very finely sharpened, highly polished edge. Some chefs prefer diamond-impregnated stones to obtain the sharpest edge.

Whichever stone you use, place it parallel to the edge of a countertop on a wet towel to prevent slipping, and start with the coarsest grit. Spread a thin coat of mineral oil (or water) over the stone to help reduce friction and heat that could damage the blade over time. If you’re right handed, stand facing the stone with the knife in your right hand and the cutting edge facing left. Position the knife blade against the upper left-hand corner of the stone and tilt the spine of the blade up about 10 to 18 degrees (for Asian knives) or 18 to 22 degrees (for European and North American knives). Hold the knife in position with the fingertips of your left hand, providing even, gentle pressure on the entire blade. Move the blade in a gradual arc over the stone so that the heel and then the point of the knife slip off the lower right-hand corner of the stone. Repeat 10 to 20 times. Flip over the knife so that the cutting edge is facing to the right and repeat by positioning the blade against the upper left-hand corner of the stone and tilting the spine the appropriate angle. With even, gentle pressure, arc the knife toward the lower right-hand corner so that the heel and then the point slip off the lower right-hand corner. Repeat 10 to 20 times. If your stone has more than one grit, move to the next finest grit and repeat. If you are left-handed, stand facing the stone with the knife in your left hand, and reverse the hands given in the directions from the beginning of the process.

Related articles

Published On: 10/21/2019 Last Modified: 7/18/2022

Share on:
  • Dave Joachim - Editor of, David Joachim has authored, edited, or collaborated on more than 45 cookbooks, four of them on barbecue and grilling, and his Food Science column has appeared in "Fine Cooking" magazine since 2011. He’s a perfect match for a website dedicated to the “Science of Barbecue and Grilling.”


High quality websites are expensive to run. If you help us, we’ll pay you back bigtime with an ad-free experience and a lot of freebies!

Millions come to every month for high quality tested recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, product reviews, and inspiration. But it is expensive to run a website with more than 2,000 pages and we don’t have a big corporate partner to subsidize us.

Our most important source of sustenance is people who join our Pitmaster Club. But please don’t think of it as a donation. Members get MANY great benefits. We block all third-party ads, we give members free ebooks, magazines, interviews, webinars, more recipes, a monthly sweepstakes with prizes worth up to $2,000, discounts on products, and best of all a community of like-minded cooks free of flame wars. Click below to see all the benefits, take a free 30 day trial, and help keep this site alive.

Post comments and questions below


1) Please try the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can’t help you with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

4) If you are a member of the Pitmaster Club, your comments login is probably different.

5) Posts with links in them may not appear immediately.



Click for comments...

DIY Honing and Sharpening

Don’t have a honing steel or knife sharpener? Try these DIY tips. They can help hone your knife just enough to keep the knife from slipping and cutting you by mistake.

Sandpaper. Some electric knife sharpeners like the WorkSharp Ken Onion Knife & Tool Sharpener, use sandpaper belts in various grits from coarse to fine. If you have some sandpaper on hand, draw the blade against it at the same angle you would when using a sharpener (10 to 18 degrees for Asian knives or 18 to 22 degrees for European knives).

Nail file. Many nail files have to coarse and fine sides. Use both sides to sharpen your blades, first on the coarse then on the fine side.

Coffee mug. Flip over a ceramic coffee mug and you’ll notice a rough, unglazed perimeter on the bottom. Use that rough ceramic like a ceramic honing tool and draw your blade across it to hone the knife. An upturned ceramic bowl works just as well.

Another knife. Worst case scenario: you can use the blunt top edge of a knife as a honing steel. Draw your blade across the blunt edge of a knife just like you would with a honing steel. Better than nothing!


These are not ads or paid placements. These are some of our favorite tools and toys.

These are products we have tested, won our top awards, and are highly recommend. Click here to read how we test, about our medals, and what they mean.

Use Our Links To Help Keep Us Alive

A big part of this site is our unbiased equipment and product reviews. We love playing with toys and we have no problem calling them the way we see them. Some companies pay a finder’s fee if a reader clicks a link on and buys a product. It has zero impact on our reviews, zero impact on the price you pay, and the sites never tell us what you bought, but it has a major impact on our ability to keep this site alive! So before you buy, please click our links. Here’s a link that takes you to a page on Amazon that has some of our favorite tools and toys:

Blackstone Rangetop Combo: Griddle And Deep Fryer In One

The flat top does the burgers and the fryer does the fries. Use the griddle for bacon, eggs, grilled cheese, and so much more. And why deep fry indoors when you can avoid the smell and mess by doing it outside!

Click here to read our detailed review and to order

GrillGrates Take Gas Grills To The Infrared Zone

GrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, kill hotspots, flip over to make a fine griddle, and can be easily moved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips, pellets, or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke.

Click here for more about what makes these grates so special


Comprehensive Temperature Magnet With 80+ Important Temps temperature magnet
Winner of the National BBQ Association’s product of the year award. This 8.5″ x 11″ magnet contains more that 80 benchmark temperatures for meats (both USDA recommended temps as well as the temps chefs recommend), fats and oils, sugars, sous vide, eggs, collagens, wood combustion, breads, and more. Although it is not certified as all-weather, we have tested it outdoors in Chicago weather and it has not delaminated in three years, but there is minor fading.

Click here to order.

Fireboard: The Ultimate Top Of The Line BBQ Thermometer

Fireboard Labs Product Photo Shoot. Kansas City Commercial Portrait and Wedding Photographers ©Kevin Ashley Photography

With the ability to monitor up to six temperatures simultaneously with either Bluetooth or Wifi on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer, Fireboard is the best digital thermometer we’ve tested.
Click here to read our detailed review

Our Favorite Backyard Smoker

The amazing Karubecue is the most innovative smoker in the world. The quality of meat from this machine is astonishing. At its crux is a patented firebox that burns logs above the cooking chamber and sucks heat and extremely clean blue smoke into the thermostat controlled oven. It is our favorite smoker, period.
Click here for our review of this superb smoker

Is This Superb Charcoal Grill A Kamado Killer?

The PK-360, with 360 square inches of cooking space, this rust free, cast aluminum charcoal grill is durable and easy to use. Four-way venting means it’s easy to set up for two zone cooking with more control than single vent Kamado grills. It is beautifully designed, completely portable, and much easier to set up for 2-zone cooking than any round kamado.

Click here to read our detailed review of the PK 360

Click here to order directly and get an exclusive deal

Surely you know somebody who loves outdoor cooking who deserves a gift for the holidays, birthday, anniversary, or just for being wonderful. There he is, right in the mirror! Here are our selections of best ideas, all Platinum or Gold Medalists, listed by price.

Click here to see our list of Gold Medal Gifts