Sharpening steel or honing steel: the difference
The sharpening steel and the honing steel: they are extremely similar. That's also the reason why people sometimes get them mixed up. However, there are two important differences. The name already gives some of the game away: you use a sharpening steel to sharpen a blunt knife, and you use a honing steel to hone the edge of your sharp knife. This is due to the material used. A honing steel is always made from steel. Makes sense. A sharpening steel, however, consists of or has a layer of an abrasive such as ceramic or diamond. The material is also the best way to tell the two apart.
What is a sharpening steel?
A sharpening steel therefore has sharpening particles that actually sharpen the knife. Usually this is ceramic (aluminium oxide) or diamond. By running the edge of the knife along this abrasive, you remove steel and make the edge of your knife nice and straight again. All bumps, dents and scratches are removed. A sharpening steel can therefore be used to sharpen knives that have become blunt after repeated use. How often do you use a sharpening steel? Less often than you probably think. It isn't necessary to run your knife along the sharpening steel every time you're about to start cooking. They remove too much material for that. On average, you use a sharpening steel once or twice a month. This depends on how often you use the knife. A sharpening steel is usually best suited for use at home. It keeps your knife sharp, but can also sharpen a knife that has become blunt.
What is a honing steel?
A honing steel, on the contrary, is not used to sharpen a knife, but to get an edge straight again. The honing steel pushes small irregularities in the knife's steel straight again. It doesn't remove any material. Therefore, a honing steel doesn't sharpen. It isn't possible to use a honing steel to sharpen a blunt knife. It's simply not made for that. You do actually use a honing steel each time before you start cutting. This will keep the edge at its sharpest. In addition, it will mean you have to sharpen the knife less soon and less often. A honing steel is only necessary if you use your knife very frequently. It keeps your knife sharp for longer. It's ideal if you have to stay in the kitchen all day and don't have time to sharpen the knife. However, it can't get a blunt knife sharp again. For that, you need a knife sharpener, a sharpening steel or a sharpening stone.