Honing Rods. Honing Steel. Sharpening Steel. It Comes In Many Names, But No Matter What You Call It This Tool Is One Of The Most Important And Misunderstood Pieces In The Kitchen.
Whether it’s in your knife block or you saw Gordon Ramsay using it on TV, you’ve probably seen a honing rod. While it’s a ubiquitous piece of kit in the kitchen, it’s a bit of an enigma. Many think that this long steel rod is meant to sharpen your knives, but that’s not the case. Beyond that, contemporary rods are made from materials other than stainless steel like ceramic and diamond-coated steel.
It isn’t known when honing steels were first invented, but there are records from the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire making honing steels in Sheffield, UK as far back as the early 1600’s.
With such a long history of use by knife owners, it’s important to know what a honing rod is, how to use it, and how to find the right one for you.
What Is A Honing Rod?
While many people call it a sharpening rod, a honing rod or steel hones your blade rather than sharpens it. With regular use, your knives will start to lose their edge. Standard wear and tear such as cutting through fibrous meats or knicking the cutting board will eventually bend your knife’s edge at the microscopic level.
By using your honing rod, you fix those small deformations to keep your knife’s edge like new. It’s important to note that you’re not removing material like you do when sharpening on a stone. A honing rod won’t help you if a knife has a totally blunt edge.
The best way to think about it is that your honing steel should be used a few times a week, or even daily, while a proper sharpening of your knives should be done once or twice a year.
Honing Rod Vs. Kitchen Sharpener
Traditional honing steel will help keep your knives sharper longer. Newer honing rods made from ceramic and diamond-coated steel do remove a minimal amount of steel when honing, usually tiny bits hanging onto your blade by a thread. No matter what material rod you use, it is healthier for your knives to use them regularly to maintain the edge for as long as possible.
Popular YouTuber Ethan Chlebowski goes in-depth on honing and how to hone to keep your knives fit for daily use.
Eight Best Honing Rods
Whether they’re made from steel, ceramic, or even coated in diamond, honing rods come in all sizes, materials, and even shapes. These eight stand out from the rest.
Wusthof 9-Inch Honing Steel
A classic honing steel by any measure, the Wusthof 9-inch steel is a great, affordable honing rod to have in your kitchen. Made of stainless steel, this is everything you want from a honing rod. It’s light and tough and made by a company with more than two centuries of history making knives.
A strong, robust honing rod is what every knife owner should be looking for, and this one checks the boxes.
Zwilling 12-Inch Professional Oval Sharpening Steel
Sometimes you just need something a little bigger and heartier. This steel from Zwilling is up to the task. Its oval shape and longer length make it great for bigger knives. The chrome-plated steel is hard enough to hone most types of steel with ease and is easy to clean.
The loop at the end lets you hang it up easily too. Weighing in at just under a pound, don’t let that fool you. This is a heavyweight rod that will withstand years of use in your kitchen.
JB Prince Mac Black Ceramic Honing Rod With Grooves 10.5-Inch
With a fine 1200 grit, this ceramic rod from JB Prince is incredibly hard and durable. Its black ceramic coating is harder than both white ceramic and steel, and it’s also resistant to breaking so it can handle whatever you throw at it. Since it’s ceramic, it has the benefit of being completely rust-resistant, unlike traditional steel rods.
Most knife blocks that come with a honing rod will have a steel varietal, but looking beyond the block can lead you to quality rods like this one that can last a lifetime.
Opinel 10-Inch Diamond Steel Sharpening Rod
When it comes to rods that also sharpen, you can’t go better than diamond steel. This Opinel rod has a coating embedded with diamonds that sharpens as it hones. It’s good for both kitchen and pocket knives so you sharpen your EDC with it as well.
With a beechwood handle, and weighing 21 ounces, this rod feels good in the hand and will leave a pristine edge on your knives. Worth the price in every way for the discerning knife owner.
Green Elephant Ceramic Sharpening Rod
Yes, there are many ceramic rods on the market today, but you’d have a hard time finding one as robust and durable as this one from Green Elephant. With a grit of 1500, the rod is fine enough to lightly sharpen along with honing and realigning your blade. It’s also suitable for Japanese knives which may come with only one cutting edge instead of a Western, or German, style double-edged knife.
The silicone seal between the rod and the handle is designed to absorb vibrations and the whole construction is built to withstand being dropped without cracking. Lightweight and fairly-priced, this 11-inch rod is worth a look.
Friedr Dick 10-Inch Sharpening Steel
It is almost impossible to chip this rod thanks to being coated in diamond dust. From German maker Friedr Dick, this 10-inch rod is diamond-coated steel is designed for the heavy knife user in mind.
An oval shape allows more of the blade to contact the rod with each pass which means each knife takes less passes to hone. The ergonomic, dual-density polymer grip keeps everything safe and secure when passing the blade down the rod.
The catch-22 is the diamond itself. Yes, it will return your knife’s edge quicker, but use the rod too often and it’ll scrape off material far faster than other types of rods.
Kuma Kitchen Knife Sharpener
Some rods are designed for only one type or knife or are too short to properly hone long chef’s or slicing knives. This honing steel from Kuma is the consummate all-arounder. The steel reliably restores your knife’s edge thanks to its carbon steel construction. The triple-riveted ergonomic handle is slip resistant so even honing wet knives (although you shouldn’t do that on a honing rod) can be done safely.
Unlike most of the other rods on this list, this steel will need more hands-on maintenance due to its carbon steel construction otherwise it will rust.
Friedr Dick Multicut Steel
Another entry on this list from the German maker, this honing steel looks unlike anything else out there today. At first glance it’s easy to think this is a misplaced paddle, but in reality it’s a multi-dimensional honing steel.
The flat 11-inch blade has six parallel grooves running through it. Slide your knife down the main body of the steel and it’ll hone like any other rod. However, slide down one of the grooves and you can more precisely remove burrs and imperfections from the blade.
This is far and away the priciest honing steel on the list so you’ll need to determine if it’s worth the investment or if you would be better served using one of the other rods to hone your knives.
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