You have probably seen all those fancy cooks use them on TV shows. They are often included in good knife sets; maybe you even have one at home. Most people know what those are, but don’t utilize them at all.
They rarely come with instructions, but if you use them in the right way, your knives will be sharp for much longer. I’m talking about sharpening steel – a handy little tool to have in your kitchen arsenal.
If you don’t have it, read on. I’ll teach you what it is, share the benefits it brings, and guide you on the way to selecting the greatest sharpening steel on the market right now.
Best Sharpening Steel
So, what is sharpening steel? How do we use it?
Sharpening or honing steel is a tool that maintains the blade sharp or makes it even sharper by rearranging and realigning the edge of the blade.
Or to be more precise – when you sharpen the knife with this sharpener, you are actually removing fatigued material and uncovering a fresh beveled edge.
It is very important to make the difference between sharpening steel and sharpening stones because sharpening stones sharpen the dull edges of a knife.
The blades are made of high-quality steel alloy and hold an edge for quite a long time.
As they cut, the edge eventually becomes dull, so we need to maintain its perfect cutting quality by using a sharpening steel.
Related: Recommended Knife Sharpeners; Top 5 Sharpening Stones
What to look for when buying sharpening steel?
The material of The Rod
The material of the rod is certainly the first feature that comes to mind when deciding what the right option is. The three most common materials rods are made from are steel, ceramic (learn more about ceramic knives), and diamond.
Steel rods are a classic pick and are mostly used for regular maintenance of the blade. They are the type that often comes with a kitchen knife set. Steel rods come with smooth or ridged, square or round edges.
The ridged steel rod is superior in terms of honing the blade, but they tend to wear it down faster. They also make the honing process faster. So if you want your blades to last longer, you should pick smooth steel rods.
However, you cannot sharpen Japanese blades on them, as they are too delicate. Those knives are made of harder steel than western steel and will tend to chip on a steel hone. Only a ceramic or diamond hone can handle the Japanese steel without damaging it. Reasons for not using rigid rods are that your honing is smoother and more precise. In my experience, the ridged steel works better at aligning the burrs (or sawteeth).
Those are traditional butcher’s sharpening steel tools and are used to hone blades in a fine way, maintaining the sharp edge. The coated steels are smooth but embedded with abrasive diamond particles.
However, they can be a bad choice for regular honing, as their abrasive diamond coating can remove more substantial amounts of metal. There are many complaints regarding diamond rods, as their coating tends to wear or fall off after a short period of time. So it is wise to choose a quality product from a renowned producer.
Just like their steel counterparts, they are also a great option if you hone your knives on a regular basis. The downside of ceramic rods is that they are brittle, so they can be broken if you are not careful enough. They offer a slight sharpening effect and are gentle enough not to do anything drastic to your blade.
Length of the Sharpening Surface
Regardless of the material you choose, one of the most important features when selecting sharpening steel is certainly the steel length. The logic is quite simple – the longer the steel, the more runway to pull the knife along.
This is very important when honing longer knives. You want the length of a rod (not including the handle) to be at least 2 inches than the longest knife you plan to sharpen. I’d personally recommend a minimum length of 12 inches, just to make sure your knife won’t hit the surface below in the process. Safety should always be a #1 priority.
Ease of Cleaning
It may come as a surprise to you, but this feature is important when you choose to sharpen steel. You want your blades razor-sharp fast for everyday kitchen work, and without a mess, I suppose. The time spent on cleaning the sharpening steel should be minimal, so consider getting one that is easy to clean.
You have to clean your sharpening steel, or it will get clogged up with super tiny metal particles and will gradually lose its effectiveness. The right way to do this is to wipe them with a clean cloth thoroughly.
You should also scrub it in hot soapy water every few weeks, but be careful not to use anything harsh that could scratch. I personally do not advise using cleansing powders for cleaning them, as the abrasiveness of the powder will wear down the surface of the rod.
Ceramic rods are a bit more challenging to keep clean because steel blades leave gray marks on them (metal particles). The right way to clean this type of rod is to use an erasure.
Finally, no matter how well you maintain your sharpening steel, it will eventually wear off. Don’t expect it to last the lifetime of your top-quality knives.
See Also: List of top-quality knife blocks
Comfortable, Slip-Resistant Handle
When it comes to safety, this may be the most important feature. The handle should be slip-resistant and should have the right thickness to ensure a firm grip.
It should rest in your hand comfortably. If the handle is too large or too small for your grip, it can easily wear out your wrist while using. A good and quality handle will make the sharpening process much easier.
A common saying goes, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” The price may tell the difference between quality and bad products, but the expensive one is not always better.
However, buying quality items is one of the top ways to save money. Even if you only cook a few times a week, your kitchen items will get a fair amount of wear and tear, so you want to make sure to get the finest product for the price.
Most Recommended Sharpening Steels Currently on the Market – My Reviews 2022
Ceramic Sharpening Rod, Lightweight & Highly Durable 11-Inch
This is a fine quality honing ceramic steel, big enough to work well for pocket knives all the way up to 10 inches carving knives.
Probably the top option for regular knife maintenance, as it does slight honing for a smooth edge, making the blade perfectly effective in just a few minutes. The lightweight and comfortable handle will provide an effortless and safe sharpening experience, and its unique design will make you enjoy your creative side in the kitchen without the interruption of a dull knife.
It comes with an exclusive shock-absorbing feature, which protects the rod when dropped. A plastic cap at the end of the rod to prevent drop damage is a unique and excellent design cue.
It is easy to clean; you should use regular detergent and air dry for it. With extraordinary hardness, it is just the right tool for hard Japanese knives and will last for years if maintained properly. It may not be a cheap product, but the quality and durability indeed.
Things I Liked
- Lightweight and ergonomic handle, making it easy to use
- The rubber cap at the end of the rod protect it from accidental drops
- Unique design and color
- Easy to clean
Things I Didn’t Like
- With a length of 11 inches, it is not suitable for honing the longest of knives
Messermeister Sharpening Ceramic Rod
This one is a pretty safe choice, simply because ceramics never runs out. This 12-inch sharpening tool is everything you want for getting everyday work done fast, and it can handle the vast majority of long knives. It is made from 1200-grit industrial ceramic, and it is ideal in terms of the preventive maintenance of your knives.
As the product described above, it has a slight abrasive characteristic, that will provide a perfect edge finishing. However, it does take off a little steel from your knife with each pass, instead of just aligning, so make sure you only apply light pressure to preserve your knives’ lifespan. The best bet is to keep this rod as a short-term sharpener, perhaps using it once every two weeks.
This sharpening steel is very fragile, so be careful not to drop it. The handle is soft-grip and ergonomic, providing a very secure grip.
The cleaning isn’t a big deal – when the surface gets clogged with gray swarf from sharpening, use an erasure. As for regular cleaning, hot, soapy water, and a damp cloth do the trick. However, it is a bit expensive, if you ask me.
Things I Liked
- 12- inch ceramic surface, perfect for long blades
- Ergonomic and comfortable handle
- Easy to use, does not make a mess
Things I Didn’t Like
- Very fragile, so be careful not to drop it
- A bit more aggressive than standard sharpening steels
- Not a super-fine grit, but more than sufficient for general-purpose kitchen work
Winware Stainless Steel Rod
When talking about Winware Stainless Steel Rod, the first thing that catches the eye is the price of this product. But don’t get tricked – it does its job perfectly, and may certainly be a nice addition to your kitchen. If a knife has trouble getting through the skin of a tomato without slicing in a sawing motion or has trouble gliding through meat, it needs a quick hone. And that is exactly where this sharpening steel excels.
It features stainless steel, a 12-inch rod, and a plastic handle with a hanging loop. There is nothing too fancy about it; it does a great job as a regular maintenance tool. However, it’s not a professional tool, so if you expect a razor-sharp edge, you will likely want a diamond, or other similar fine-grit tools as well.
This rod is rather large and heavy, so sharpening blades with it may not be a piece of cake. The handle is comfortable, with a good handguard. It is very easy to clean, all you have to do is to wipe it with a soft damp cloth. This is a great value buy, and a quality product indeed.
Things I Liked
- Very cheap, compared to its counterparts
- Extra-long steel helps with reducing the number of passes required to get your knives nice and sharp.
- Hanging loop makes it easily accessible
Things I Didn’t Like
- Too big and heavy
- Far too rough for any expensive fine edge blade
- It takes more effort to hone an edge
Related: Choose the right type of knife sharpener
Victorinox Swiss Classic 10-inch Honing Steel
Made by a renowned Swiss producer, this honing steel is excellent at maintaining the edge of the knives and extends the life of your cutlery with regular use. Cooking is so much more enjoyable when you have the proper tools for the job, and sharp knives make a big difference.
This tool features chromed plated steel, giving the surface increased hardness and stain resistance. With the 10-inch length, it is long enough to sharpen almost any knife in your block from a small chef’s knife to a large butchering knife. It is easy to clean and comes with a lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects.
This product is perfect if you have decent cutlery, as it finishes off your quality blades whenever they lose their edge. The fibrox handle has somewhat of a square shape to make it secure in your hand, making it extremely easy to hold onto even when wet.
Things I Liked
- Very nice quality at an affordable price
- Durable and hefty
- Nice, professional design
- Good size and not too heavy
Things I Didn’t Like
- No ring/hole by the handle
- Has the logo in the metal filing area, so the top part of that face is unusable
Related: 7 Top-Rated Leather Strops and Compounds
Buck Knives 97082 Edge Tek Tri-Grit Ultra Steel Diamond Knife Sharpener
This all-around sharpening steel features a 10-inch diamond-coated sharpening surface. Its handle is made from polypropylene material and has a hand guard to prevent the blade from reaching your hand if you slip. It is great at sharpening/honing and comes with a tri-sided grit with fine-sided 1200, medium side 750, and coarse 325.
It does its job quickly and easily – you can sharpen knives, hatchets, axes, nail clippers, and much more, even if you are not an expert. It is awesome at bringing back dull knives to service, but if you want a mirror-polished edge, this might not be the right product for you.
To keep it clean and well maintained, you have to make sure to get all the metal particles out from between the diamond grit. You can do that with dish soap, warm water, and a toothbrush. A very light rubbing with olive oil should make a big difference in the sharpening results.
Things I Liked
- Ultra-lightweight, only 6.9 oz.
- Handguard ensures safe sharpening
- Very easy to use
Things I Didn’t Like
- Not too good at fine honing works
- Harder to maintain than steel or ceramic sharpeners
And the winner is…
Ok, we reviewed the top 5 products, and now is the time for a verdict. Among all of them, I consider the Green Elephant Knife Sharpening Steel the best, as it has met most of the features you should look for.
With a unique design, top quality ceramic steel, it is a perfect option for a wide variety of knives, including sturdy Japanese knives. The lightweight and comfortable handle provide an effortless and enjoyable sharpening experience.
You will finally have razor-sharp knives with fine mirror-polished edges. The exclusive shock-absorbing feature, with the rubber cap at the end of the rod, is simply awesome, as it will protect your steel sharpening rod from shattering when dropped.
With the highest quality ceramic available, there is less than 80% probability for shattering, which beats all other ceramic rods. It also beats all other products in this category in the quality-price ratio.
If you have questions and suggestions, let me know in the comments section below. If you like this post, feel free to share it. 🙂