After I published the Knives Used by Your Favorite BBQ Joints piece which features knives used by over 140 BBQ joints across the U.S. I started getting direct messages asking about what sharpeners or honing tools BBQ joints were using. I was curious so I did what I always tend to do….make a massive list. The results were just as fun and interesting as the knife question results and ranged from very specific to sending knives out to be done by a service.
Following some sage advice I also contacted Dr. Jeff Savell, University Distinguished Professor, Meat Science & E. M. “Manny” Rosenthal Chair in Animal Science, to get his expertise on the subject and more importantly on how to be completely safe when sharpening knives near meat. He advised, “In most meat processing facilities, knife sharpening is performed in separate areas. Knife sharpening may produce small metal fragments, which could be hazards in food products. The process of honing the knives using steels or other such devices are usually done on the production floor. Honing aligns both sides of the bevel to produce a razor sharp cutting edge.”
So far there are over 136 BBQ joints represented below, but if you are a BBQ spot that I have missed, please reach out as I would love to include everyone to make this list as comprehensive and informative as possible.
17th Street BBQ – Murphysboro, Illinois – We use sharpening steels ~ nothing fancy.
Animales Barbecue – Minneapolis, Minnesota – We all use whetstones. No specific brand.
Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden – From Chef Ted – The sharpening steel is not truly a sharpening steel. It is a honing steel that has a magnetic force to it. The steel I is used to stand the edge back up and to pull any loose metal fragments away from the edge of the blade. I will steel my knife every time I change a task. Example
– cut onion, hone knife, cut carrot, hone knife, cut celery hone knife. Same for meat when butcher- remove trotter, hone knife, remove head, hone knife, remove tenderloin, hone knife and so on. From Chef Thomas: “I use 1000/4000 and 2000/8000 grit sharpening whetstones to sharpen my knives by hand, a nice German steel like Wusthof is great for honing- a ceramic steel will hone your knife even better but is less durable and tends to break easily- and depending on the task I tend to use vintage high carbon knives as my main go to, in the style of old Sabatier. They require more upkeep, but because the metal is softer you can make them scary sharp”.
Bark City BBQ – Portland, Oregon – I use a whetstone for my knives and a Japanese black ceramic rod to hone! It’s 65 bucks, more expensive, but can withstand a drop and not shatter.
Big Al’s Smokehouse BBQ – Dallas, Texas – We sharpen on a whet stone each morning.
Blake’s BBQ – Martin, Tennessee – Well to start, I am the bbq world’s least privy and worst about taking care of and properly sharpening knives. Which a sharp knife is literally 1/2 the battle on getting a good/easy/smooth trim, so it’s a shame I’m so bad about sharpening.
Blake’s Place – Anaheim, California – For sharpening I use an old fashion stone and various honing steels. All non-serrated get professionally sharpened a few times a year depending on usage.
Bodacious on Mobberly – Longview, Texas – Because we use cheap knives I just use an electric sharpener.
Boneyard Bistro – Studio City, California – We mostly use a tri-stone to sharpen I use depending on the knife either a standard steel diamond steel or a ceramic rod to hone my knives.
Brick Vault Brewery and BBQ – Marathon, Texas – We use so many different kinds of sharpeners. Anywhere from electric to small handheld to the cross v sharpener.
Brix Barbecue – Fort Worth, Texas – The sharpener is just one of those cheap hand held ones. Doesn’t hold an edge long, that’s why we have then professionally done now and then.
Burnt Bean Co. – Seguin, Texas – I’m old school I use a whetstone and a good honing steel.
Butter’s BBQ – We use an electric sharpener for our trimming and kitchen knives. You can’t really sharpen the scalloped slicers because the are serrated.
Capelo’s Barbecue – We use a whetstone.
City Limits Barbeque – Columbia, South Carolina – This is a great sharpener, The Chef’s Choice Trizor XV Sharpener. It’s for 15 degree angle blades which is notable for people who are using high end knives.
Daddy Duncan’s BBQ – Katy, Texas – We use a Mac black ceramic honing rod to realign our more expensive Japanese & German knives. Shun whetstone to sharpen them weekly. Also a Presto Eversharp Electric Sharpener for our everyday knives.
Estrada’s Texas Barbecue – Creedmoor, Texas – For sharpening my straight edge knives I like to use a Henckels handheld sharpener. I found one cheap at a Ross one year, and figured I’d give it a try, since they make great knives. Been a fan since!!!
Feges BBQ – Houston, Texas – We use a Japanese whetstone (1000/6000) for sharpening and a diamond steel for honing on the fly.
Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue – Brooklyn, New York – While we have a kitchen littered with the handheld blue and white plastic sharpeners, and a few whetstones, in the last year we picked up one of those Chef’s Choice Electric Sharpeners. It stays in the office because it’s not the most well built appliance in the world, and only the pitmaster can use it. He sharpens knives weekly for everyone and it only takes five minutes. Not romantic, at all, but effective.
Franklin Barbecue – Austin, Texas – We don’t sharpen the scalloped slicers.
Goldee’s Barbecue – Fort Worth, Texas – We use a King 1,000 grit whet stone and a King 6,000 grit whet stone. Both are good daily drivers that are on the cheaper end. The 1,000 is good for sharpening and the 6,000 is good for polishing/finishing. If you need to fix an edge or re-shape, if you want something low and gritty use a 500 grit whet stone.
G-Que BBQ – Denver, Colorado – We use a service that comes out once a week and replaces the knives and sharpens them.
Guess Family Barbecue – Waco, Texas – My cooks usually have their own whetstone for sharpening.
Helberg Barbecue – Woodway, Texas – We use 1000/4000 grit whetstone and a honing steel for sharpening.
Holy Trinity Barbecue – Portland, Oregon – We use a knife service to sharpen our knives.
Hoodoo Brown BBQ – Ridgefield, Connecticut – We have a service that comes in once a week to sharpen the knives.
Hurtado Barbecue – Arlington, Texas – Cozzini sharpens our knives and brings a new set twice a month. It’s really low cost and keeps new knives coming in frequently, which is nice because we’re hard on them. We also use a hand sharpener when trimming proteins.
Jon G’s Barbecue – Peachland, North Carolina – Nothing fancy, just a 2 stage manual sharpener that doesn’t make me cringe when it gets dropped.
Joseph’s Riverport BBQ – Riverport, Texas – We use a whetstone and a sharpening steel for most applications. Occasionally we have someone that will use a belt grinder to even the blades out.
Khoi Barbecue – Houston, Texas – We use whetstones for sharpening.
LeRoy & Lewis Barbecue – Austin, Texas – Mostly just a whetstone for our nice personal ones. For our serrated carvers we just get a new one because they are pretty cheap. I know Brad uses a belt sander to sharpen his knives (per Brad who also has @chudsbbq – “I just have a cheap one from Harbor Freight, it’s a 1” belt sander”) For hones we like steel instead of ceramic.
Liberty Barbecue – Round Rock, Texas – *Victorinox Sheffield sharpening steel. When I feel a knife starting to “drag” I run it across my sharpening steel in order to keep the edge straight. If you are careful and never make contact with the knife onto a hard surface such as a stainless table, you may never have to use a wet stone, never. I have newer modern knives that are razor sharp and have never seen a wet stone, just a sharpening steel. The older high carbon steel blades, such as on a wood handled Dexter, do require a trip around a wet stone in order to keep them sharp. For that, I recommend the WÜSTHOF Tri-Stone Sharpener which includes three different grits for both honing and sharpening your blades, as well as a wood base and water bottle for re-wetting the stones during use. The course grit quickly restores badly worn blade edged, the medium grit produces an average edge, and the fine grit hones to a sharper edge. Fine Grit #J3000 Medium Grit #J1000 Course Grit #J240.
Lillie’s Q – Chicago, Illinois – I use a diamond steel to keep the knives honed and for a knife sharpener I always use a whetstone.
Little Miss BBQ – Phoenix, Arizona – We have a guy sharpen our knives for us. Our bread knives get sharpened 1x and then we give it away with a whole brisket preorder. Our butcher’s is a Bettcher Whizard. That thing is worth every penny.
Lockhart Smokehouse – Dallas, Texas – “I asked the guys and they said whatever they had, which isn’t very sexy! We do also have a local company that comes in weekly to sharpen.
Louie Mueller Barbecue – Taylor, Texas – Once they are worn down, new knives are purchased.
Maple Block Meat Co. – Culver City, California – Per Daniel: For sharpening, at Maple Block I/we use a two-sided whetstone (1000 grit / 6000 grit). Sharp Pebble makes a pretty durable one. At home I use two separate Japanese whetstones that have held up for YEARS…same idea though, one is 1000 grit the other 4000 grit. Both whetstone systems use water, I really like not having to use honing oil.
Mighty Quinn’s – New York, New York – I use king Stones 6,000 and 1,000 and always have a diamond steel as well in my bag.
Mimsy’s Craft Barbecue – Crockett, Texas – To keep our knives in shape we use the Ken Onion Work Sharp belt sharpener, and maintain our edge throughout the day with a honing steel. I use a high carbon titan forge steel.
Owlbear Barbecue – Denver, Colorado – We get our knives sharpened professionally.
Pappy’s Smokehouse – St. Louis, Missouri – From our co-founder John Matthews: Our day to day sharpeners are just plastic handled with a V shaped pair of stones and just a 14” honing rod for fine tuning.
Peg Leg Porker – Nashville, Tennessee – I use a 3 stone whetstone.
Plowboys Barbeque – Kansas City, Missouri – I have an Edge Pro by Apex, but have only used it twice in 10 years. I just take my knives to Ambrosi. We hone knives in the restaurant with an oval diamond steel. Victorinox Diamond Steel Sharpener, 10″ Oval Hollow. Ambrosi Brothers services and and sharpens most of the restaurant knives in Kansas City. Most BBQ competitors have their their knives sharpened there. They set up a mobile unit and sharpen at the American Royal. Great company.
Podnah’s Pit Barbecue – Portland, Oregon – From Rodney, “We use a 1000 grit whetstone for sharpening and an 8000 grit for polishing. I also use a ceramic steel I bought years ago”.
Railhead Smokehouse BBQ – Willow Park, Texas – We use a knife sharpening service who provide the knives and swap them out every other week. In between visits, we use an Accusharp knife sharpener as needed.
Red White & Que Smokehouse – Kearny, New Jersey – Nothing exciting with sharpeners. Just cheap ones since we lose them all the time.
Rossler’s Blue Cord Barbecue – Killeen, Texas – I use a whetstone for sharpening.
Rosie’s BBQ & Grillery – Northridge, California – I like a standard Victorinox honing steel, they last forever and get the job done. For sharpening I only use a stone, takes forever but it’s the best way to do it, and treats the knives the best. No machines ever. It’s a Henckels 6 piece sharpening set. Options for all my knives, great quality.
Sam Jones BBQ – Winterville, North Carolina – Simply a file or stone for knives. Grinder for cleavers.
SLAB – Los Angeles – We use a very basic honing rod.
SlowBurn BBQ – SF/Bay Area – I have the Chef’s Choice Trizor XV EdgeSelect Professional Electric Knife Straight and Serrated Knives Diamond Abrasives Sharpening System. Honing I use my Zwilling Henckles.
Smoke Cellar BBQ – Livermore, California – I have a guy down the street that does it for me.
Smoke-A-Holics BBQ – Forth Worth, Texas – I use a knife sharpening service. They bring me a set of razor sharp knives every other week and pick up a previous set.
Smokey Joe’s BBQ – Dallas, Texas – We just use a regular honing steel, to sharpen our knifes.
Smoque BBQ – Chicago, Illinois – We use a knife service. They provide us a mix of 10” chef knives, slicers, and trimming/boning knives. They are not branded, but they pick them up every week and drop of replacements with fresh edges. We are very hard on all off our equipment, so it is well worth it to always have fresh knives with good edges.
Stamey’s Barbecue – Greensboro, North Carolina – The Tru-Hone sharpener is a quick fast way to sharpen standard kitchen knifes, works great! I wouldn’t use it on a fancy Japanese knife or something like that but for commercial quick sharpening it works great.
Sweet Lew’s BBQ – Charlotte, North Carolina – We use diamond steals for honing and put them on the wheel every other week.
Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue – Tomball, Texas – I use a three sided whetstone for honing a new edge. I do this 2 -3 times per week. I use the steel multiple times a day during service. The steel just straitens up the edge. Doesn’t hone a new edge. That’s the whetstones job.
Truth Barbeque – Brenham/Houston, Texas – I use this rod (ERTDDE Ceramic Honing Rod) because it’s smaller and I travel with it. These are the stones I use: SHAPTON Ha No Kuromaku Ceramic Whetstone (E-set) Medium Grit (#1000) + Fine Grit (#5000) + Fine Grit (#8000).
Ugly Drum – Los Angeles, California – When geeking out, I’ve gotten into carbon steel as that is the easiest metal to keep sharp. So in short, big over 12 inch and sharp are my criteria. Knife sharpening is SO hard to learn and ALL knives are the same once dull. Useless. And expensive knives get dull just as fast as cheap knives. So i always say, buy what you like, but more importantly, find a knife sharpening service and take knives in regularly.
Wright’s Barbecue – Johnson/Bentonville, Arkansas – Shop Fox W1843 Knife Belt Sander/Buffer and LOVEETA Sharpening Stone Whetstone Knife Sharpener – Wet Stones Kit Premium Dual Side Grit 400/1000 3000/8000 Waterstone Set with Non Slip Bamboo Base, Flattening Stone and Angle Guide. That’s so we never going to need to pay for a sharpener again set.
ZZQ Texas Craft Barbecue – Richmond, Virginia – We have a knife sharpener that takes care of all of our knives every two weeks.
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