Sharpening Steel Review
A good sharpening steel is an essential tool in the kitchen but many people misunderstand what is does and how it works. A traditional sharpening does not grind the metal it hones it. As a knife edge is used it tends to bend and degrade. Using a steel helps push the edge back to the original sharp angle. This is why many professionals will use their Sharpening Steels daily or even several times a day. Since no grinding is involved they are really fine tuning the knife edge. Over time the edge will degrade and will be impossible to hone. That is when the knife will need to be re-ground aka re-sharpened. Most professionals will do this every 3-6 months depending on how hare they use their knives. For home cooks resharpenings should be done less, perhaps every 6-12 months.
There are hybrid tools that will sharpen and hone at the same time. A diamond steel and a ceramic honing rod will actually take material off and hone while they sharpen.
Here are our favorite steels ranked by effectiveness and ease of use:
F Dick Multicut Steel: This traditional steel has an oval shape which keeps more of the knife edge in contact with the steel. Also, the steel has grooves that run down the blade of the steel that helps remove small imperfections in the edge. This is a great overall steel and is our top choice.
Henckels 10" Diamond Steel: Henckels has a long history of making fine knives. The diamond steel they produce has fine diamond coating which is a little aggressive and makes for easy honing and sharpening. This steel sharpens as well as hones and we found it had good balance and did an excellent job. If you want to use a steel only occasionally this is the choice.
MAC Black Ceramic Honing Rod: This is a new product by MAC and we found the steel easy to use and well designed. The black finish is unusual and attractive and the steel honed our test knives quickly.