Choosing and Using a Steel
Choosing and Using a Steel
Not all Steels are made for the same purpose, some are going to realign your knives and some are going to allow you to resharpen your knife. Learn how to choose and use the best steel for your needs.
Why Use a Steel?
First things first, let’s talk about the purpose of a steel and why and when you should use one. A regular or polished steel, which is what most people have, is not going to sharpen your knife; it functions as a re-aligner for the edge of your knife. No matter how careful you are with your knives, as you use it the edge of it will start to push one way or the other, and a steel can be effective in pushing that edge back to center to give your knife a better edge. So, when should you use your steel? As soon as you think you notice that it might not be cutting as cleanly as it was. If you wait at all past that point, then you have waited too long! For a steel to be effective it has to be used often! If you aren’t someone who is going to use a steel very often, then save your money and buy a real sharpener instead!
You want to make sure that your steel is at least 2 inches longer than the knife you are going to use it on. We are going to go over two different techniques for using a steel. The first is the best way for beginners to become comfortable with using a steel. You will ground the tip of the steel onto a cutting board, then take your knife and place the edge of the blade near the handle at the top. Pull down while sliding the knife back so that the entire length of the blade comes into contact with the steel. You will want to try to maintain a 15-20° angle when you are doing this; try to think of removing the bark from a branch without cutting the wood underneath, this is an easy way to be in the 15-20° range. Once you have finished a stroke on one side, do the other, remember the goal here is to push the edge of the blade back to the center, so doing three on one side then three on the other is not going to work. For a simple touch up 3-5 passes a side should be enough. An alternate technique is to hold the steel horizontally across your body and then with your other hand work the knife from the tip of the steel towards the handle in the same motion as above. Make sure you move only your wrist on your knife hand, this way the tip of the knife should not be able to reach your hand holding the steel. Either technique you decide to use, remember to select a steel longer than the knife and to keep your fingers behind the hand guard on your steel for safety!
If you have used a regular or polished steel and your knife is not cutting any better then it is time to move on to a diamond cut or multi-cut steel. These have an abrasive surface and will put an edge back on some knives. To use these types of steels, follow the same process as above, but make as many passes as needed until you have the desired edge on your knives. This type of steel is not going to work on an extremely dull blade, if you have tried a diamond and multi-cut steel and it is still not cutting as cleanly as you like, then you need to use an actual sharpener like the Tru-Hone. The Tru-Hone is a commercial-grade sharpener that can put a razors edge on even the dullest of knives, but most people will not have access to or want to pay for this type of sharpener. You can always send your knives into Walton’s and for a small fee we will sharpen them for you!
So follow the above tips to keep your knives working well for you in the kitchen. A sharp knife is an essential tool in the kitchen and having one will make your cooking experience much more enjoyable! Remember, sharp knives do not cause accidents in the kitchen, dull ones do!
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