The Hospitality Guru: (cooking) Back to Basics – Steel/stone

A Steel is an essential part of your tool kit, a steel is used to maintain the cutting edge of your knife, this is called honing. When buying a steel; its important to get one that is harder (higher on the Rockwell Scale) than the knives it is going to sharpen.  A stone can also be used to sharpen knives.

You’ll need to practise honing your knife with a steel a bunch of times, it’s a technique that will become easy & natural the more you practise.  The following steps are recommended for honing a knife with a steel.

  • Hold the steel at an angle of 45 degrees with your thumb facing upwards on the handle.
  •   Maintain an angle of 10 degrees against the steel and place the heel of the knife against the tip of the steel.  Using a slicing motion, move the knife against the steel along its full length.  Work from the heel of the knife to the tip. 
  • Stroke the other side of the knife against the steel in the same way. Two or three strokes per side is all that should be needed.
  • Wash and dry the knife carefully.

You will also need to learn how to sharpen a knife using a stone & as with using the steel, you’ll have to spend many hours practising this technique.

  • Put the stone securely lengthwise on a bench.  A folded damp cloth under the stone will stop it from slipping.
  • Smear the stone with an appropriate lubricant.  (Refer to manufacturer’s recommendation)
  • Hold the knife by the handle. Rest the fingers of your free hand on the side of the blade.
  • Hold the knife at a 10-15 degrees angle to the stone.
  • Use long, even strokes to move the knife along the whole length of the stone.  Work the knife from heel to point, and alternate between sides.
  • Clean the knife under cold running water to wash off any metal grindings.
  • Dry the knife carefully.

Diamond and sand stones are used for sharpening knives; they are lubricated with detergent, water or oil, depending on the manufacturer’s recommendation & in some cases your preference.

Grinding a knife is only necessary when the blade needs to be reshaped after long and continuous use or poor treatment & should be left to the professional because an inexperienced person may do more harm than good.

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