It may surprise you that a dull knife comes with dangers that rival sharp knives. Cooks who struggle to cut food with a dull knife often have to exert more force, which can make an injury even more severe. Safety aside, knives must be suitably sharp to slice cleanly through meats, fruits, and vegetables. You’ll exert less effort when a blade has a suitable edge, which is particularly important if you’re slicing for long periods of time.
While sharpening will grind down the edge of a knife, removing material until the blade is thin and razor-sharp, this leaves behind a series of tiny burrs—these burrs can catch on food as you slice, increasing resistance and making your efforts less efficient. Knives will also develop burrs or fall out of alignment after cutting through dense meat and vegetables, so if you’ve never done it, it’s probably time to hone your knives.
Honing is a process that removes burrs using a fine steel edge and aligns the blade. Regular honing will reduce the need to sharpen as often and help your knives last longer. A honing steel is also referred to as a sharpening steel or whet steel. These tools feature a large handle for easy gripping, and a wide bolster to protect your hand as you glide the knife edge along the steel.
The steel itself is a finely ground file made of stainless steel, ceramic, or occasionally, diamond. Consider which material you prefer. Keep in mind whether you want a tool that provides different grades of polish, which range from extra fine to coarse. Honing steel models vary in the size of the handle and length of the steel, which are additional shopping considerations, along with your budget. Overall, the best honing steel will keep the sharpened blade of your knives aligned and free of burrs to help them hold their edge longer.
Our Top Picks
With those shopping considerations in mind, this guide showcases top-performing and reliable honing steel tools.
The Utopia Kitchen Honing Steel has the flexibility to hone virtually any kind of knife—kitchen, sporting, household, and pocket—and can sharpen both straight and serrated blades, as well as blades made of steel and ceramic. Made of durable, solid carbon steel and coated with nickel-chrome, the steel is strong enough to file and straighten a range of blade types while protecting the cutting edge from damage.
The handle on this Utopia Kitchen honing steel has a slip-resistant rubberized coating for comfort and is ergonomically shaped to work for both right- and left-handed users. A hanging loop on the end makes it convenient to store, and the 10-inch length allows it to fit easily into drawers as well. The ability to sharpen nearly any knife, durable construction, and a reasonable price make the Utopia Kitchen Honing Steel Knife an excellent choice for most cooks.
A beautiful, ergonomically-shaped pakkawood handle defines the TUO Honing Steel. The handle is gently rounded to fit the curve of the hand and provides a comfortable grip. The 9-inch steel is long enough to sharpen most knives without being too long to manage safely. The TUO honing steel is intended for daily use, containing heavy carbon steel with a fine grain. Rather than removing material from the blade, the steel simply smooths and aligns the cutting surface to create a clean slicing edge. With its attractive design, the TUO Honing Steel can provide an elegant accent to the kitchen.
The Noble Home & Chef Professional Knife Steel has an oval-shaped handle for a comfortable grip surface. At first glance, it looks like any other steel, but it has several features that differentiate it from others. The steel is hardened for durability, then treated with a proprietary chromium plating process to prevent rust and corrosion, while offering a gentle buffer to protect the cutting edge as it’s honed.
As you hone a knife with this Noble Home & Chef tool, tiny bits of burr are shaved off of the blade and can fall to the counter or floor, or end up in your food. The honing rod is magnetic, causing removed bits of metal to hold to the steel itself until wiped away, protecting the user from inhaling or ingesting particles. This steel is available in a 10-inch length, which is appropriate for most knives without being too bulky, as well as a 12-inch length, which is great for longer knives.
The Chefast Honing Steel Knife Sharpening Set provides excellent performance and added accessories at an affordable cost. The Chefast steel is hardened steel coated with chromium and features a hard plastic ergonomic handle with a solid-feeling heft. The 10-inch length makes it ideal for sharpening most knives while still being manageable for users.
The Chefast set includes the steel and a cloth storage bag to protect it from damage in the drawer—this is particularly important, because a steel that has been dented or scratched can badly damage the cutting edge of a knife. The set also provides a cleaning cloth: while honing steels can be washed, it’s critical that users dry the steels promptly and thoroughly to avoid rust and corrosion, which can damage knives as well. Offered together at a reasonable price, the Chefast Honing Steel Knife Sharpening Set is a solid budget buy.
Dalstrong’s Honing Steel is handcrafted from durable high-carbon steel with a full tang and triple riveting, so users can be confident that the Dalstrong will hold up to years of daily use. The handle contains contoured pakkawood for a firm ergonomic grip on the 10-inch steel. A wide, sloped bolster protects your hand from the blade as a knife is honed, and from particles of metal that shave off. Designed to complement Dalstrong’s heavy-duty Gladiator Series knives, the Dalstrong Honing Steel can sharpen knives with blades up to 10 inches long. The steel is slightly more expensive than others on the market, but the rock-solid construction makes it worth the investment.
This 10-inch steel from renowned knifemaker Victorinox features industrial brushed chrome-plated steel construction. This method of finishing the steel reduces the likelihood that fragments of the blade will chip off while honing, preserving the sharpness and longevity of your knives. The hard plastic handle is rounded and textured for ergonomic comfort. The handle is weighted to balance against the steel, providing users with optimal control. The Victorinox is a versatile option, capable of sharpening virtually any knife or set of scissors.