Keeping your kitchen knives sharp is important for safety, speed, and quality food preparation. With so many options out there, sharpening doesn’t have to be an onerous chore.
Whether you’re using the best electric knife sharpener or a set of whetstones, you can set a sharpening schedule that will keep your knives working at peak performance.
In this guide, we offer a selection of sharpening systems, from electric and manual models to more complex whetstones. You’ll learn the pros and cons of each system so you can figure out which one best suits your needs.
While many chefs won’t mind taking the time to learn more complex systems like whetstones, we think the average cook will be best served by the Chef’sChoice 4643 ProntoPro Diamond Hone Manual Knife Sharpener.
This manual system is suited for both Western and Japanese Style knives and can get them razor sharp without too much time or effort on your part. It’s a slight step above the Chef’s Choice electric option, as it’s able to provide a much sharper blade.
Why Buy A Knife Sharpener?
Whether you’re an avid chef, a hunter or just someone who wants to cook safely and efficiently, keeping your knives sharp and ready to use is a great investment of your time.
For those who dress their own meat, a quality knife with a sharp edge can make a difficult task much easier and result in a better butchering job.
Cooks who enjoy seeing to every minute detail will appreciate how a freshly sharpened knife handles. There’s something deliciously satisfying about being able to effortlessly slice through even the ripest tomato.
Sharp knives are safer to use; you require less force to chop through food, and there’s less chance of slipping and causing injury.
Although you have the option of sending knives away to a professional sharpener, this can be costly and you’ll be without your knives for an extended period. Sharpening your knives at home is easy and painless.
How Well Do They Work?
Sharpeners can only work as well as they’re used and can vary in effectiveness from knife to knife.
Do you have Japanese style blades? You’ll need to sharpen on a 15-degree angle, whereas most Western knives favor a 20-degree angle.
Does your favorite knife have a serrated or scalloped blade? To sharpen that, you’ll need to learn to use a manual sharpener.
It’s important to note that while an electric sharpener may seem quicker and can take some of the guesswork out of the process, these sharpeners can deliver a lot of heat to the blade, and heat can change the quality of metal.
True professionals swear by sharpening with whetstones, but not every home chef has the time or patience to dedicate to mastering this art.
If you regularly hone your kitchen knives and sharpen them once or twice a year, you’ll never have to struggle with a dull blade again.
Top 5: Best Knife Sharpeners
1. Chef’sChoice 15 Trizor XV EdgeSelect Professional Electric Knife Sharpener
The Chef’s Choice XV EdgeSelect is an automatic sharpener that has three separate channels.
It’s pre-set to give you a burr-free 15-degree edge without any hassle; simply turn it on, slide your knife’s blade through it up to three times, and you’re done.
While it doesn’t have very many options for the user, it’s still a great tool for anyone who wants an easy edge on their knives.
The biggest upside to this device is how easy it is to get razor-sharp knives. With other rigs, you’ll need time, practice, or both in order to get consistent edges on your knives.
This machine takes care of the angle for you and automatically grinds the sharpening surface against the blade so you don’t have to do the work.
The sharpening bits are made with extra abrasive diamonds to keep grinding time down when it comes to taking lots of material off of your knives.
Unfortunately, the 15-degree pre-set angle means that – depending on your knife – you may be taking a lot of metal off the blade the first time through.
The second and third stages have smaller bevels and finer grits so you can rely on those to maintain your edges when they’re not badly damaged.
Overall, knives will come out a fair bit sharper than those with 20-degree edges, but they’ll also be a bit more fragile.
Does this matter? Probably not. The speed and convenience offered by this device means that you won’t mind having to sharpen your knives slightly more often. You’re not going to grind your knives down to nothing, either.
While you’ll take off a decent chunk of metal when you grind in the new edge the first time, after that, maintaining the edge doesn’t require you to remove much material from the knife.
We think that Chef’s Choice XV EdgeSelect may be a great knife sharpening solution for most households; it keeps your knives sharp without too much effort on your part.
2. Chef’sChoice 4643 ProntoPro Diamond Hone Manual Knife Sharpener
The Chef’s Choice 4643 ProntoPro is a nifty three-stage manual sharpener that can handle both Western or Asian style knives.
All three sharpening slots feature diamond abrasives wheels which can sharpen to 20 or 15-degree angles.
This unit is capable of sharpening straight and serrated knives, and will also take care of sports and pocket knives.
It’s comfortable to use, with an ergonomic handle to grip onto while you smoothly slide your knife’s blade through the different sharpening phases.
Although not as fast as the Chef’s Choice electric sharpener, this is still one of the fastest manual sharpening devices on the market.
While some manual systems recommend light pressure and a gentle hand, this model instructs around four to five pounds of pressure; to figure out how hard to push, practice pressing down on your kitchen scales.
Rather than sliding through in one direction as with most manual sharpeners, you’ll need to saw back and forth with this one; the sharpener simultaneously hones both sides of the blade at once.
Be careful of the final honing slot, which sharpens to 25 degrees – you’ll only need to run your blade through this a few times for the ultimate finish.
The advantages of a manual sharpener over an electric are that it takes up less space – this model can easily be tucked into a drawer between uses – and you can use it anywhere.
Although this is a little bit more time consuming than the Chef’s Choice electric model and requires a bit more effort, it is more versatile and results in sharper knives. We love that it can work on both Japanese and Western. This is a great sharpener.
3. BulbHead 12352 Bavarian Edge Kitchen Knife Sharpener
The Bulbhead Knife Sharpening System is a countertop device that requires you to run your blade down the middle.
It has two “spring action arms” that are constructed from tungsten carbide. What’s unique about it is that rather than being fixed in place – as with manual or electric sharpeners – the spring-loaded sharpener is able to move, flex and contour to accommodate any blade or angle.
This system is portable and compact enough, although with a slightly awkward shape it may be difficult to find the right spot to tuck it away.
The Bulbhead system claims to work on all different blades, whether they are straight-edged, beveled or serrated. It says it can sharpen Japanese and Western-style knives, boning and paring knives and even cleavers – although is not recommended for ceramic blades.
With standard electric sharpeners, you can’t sharpen a single-beveled blade, but the Bulbhead 12353 has instructions which make it easy.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite live up to claims and fails to sharpen high-quality steel blades. With softer knives, it does an okay job, but you won’t be getting razor-sharp knives from this cheaper unit.
If you’re on a tight budget, use cheaper knives, and are happy with a reasonably sharp blade, you’ll probably be content with this, but if you’re fussier, it’s probably better to consider some of our other reviewed models that are just as easy to use but provide much better results.
4. Wicked Edge Knife Sharpener
With many choices of grit and a guide system for consistent angles, the Wicked Edge Sharpener gives you the tools to sharpen any knife without any experience.
The Wicked Edge system is one of the best knife sharpeners on the market. It takes about eight minutes to take a completely damaged knife and get it to the point where it will casually slice pass the “paper-cutting test.”
It’s very user-friendly, with numerous features that show that the designers understand the whole sharpening process.
The Wicked Edge Knife Sharpener has precise angle adjustments between 15 and 35 degrees, multiple catches to support both re-profiling and edge repair, and a number of extra stones sold that allow you to go up to 1600 grit or even strop using the system.
There are two downsides relative to other systems. First, unlike the Chef’s Choice Trizor XV Edge, you have to do a decent amount of work yourself.
- The Wicked Edge is much more versatile and leaves your knives far sharper, but you actually have to spend some time and burn some calories to use it.
- Second, it uses special whetstones that slide up and down on steel rods. We’re not exactly sure how long the stones with the Wicked Edge last, but 200 grit whetstones tend to have a working life of about 200 knives. After that, you’ll have to buy a set of replacement stones.
If you care about the angle of your knives, you want the option to re-profile things occasionally, and you’re enticed by the idea of having multiple whetstones with grits ranging from 200 to 1600, the Wicked Edge sharpening system is an excellent option.
There are multiple packages available with the system, each containing a different array of whetstones. Be sure to choose one that includes the options you’re interested in.
5. Warthog Sharpeners V-Sharp Classic 2
The Warthog V-Sharp Classic is a hand sharpening rig with three adjustable angles and 325 grit rods.
It’s a great tool for putting an edge on a badly damaged knife, but should be supplemented with regular maintenance and a device with a finer grit.
The Warthog holds knives steadily in place and has a sharpening rod on each side to enable you to grind a symmetrical edge twice as fast. The adjustable angles are great for working with a variety of knives.
The grit stones can be swapped out for finishing steels to help maintain an edge if you desire.
We wish that there was a bit more information about the nature of the finishing rods included with this device. Normally, you use a steel to help keep an edge aligned after a bit of gentle use.
While you can go straight from a coarse stone (like the included 325 grit rods) to a steel, it’s usually a good idea to use a more moderate stone (like a 1000 or 1500 grit) first.
That said, there’s some leniency to grit numbers – one manufacturer’s 300 grit diamond rod might be totally different than another manufacturer’s 300 grit whetstone.
If you have a medium or fine grit sharpening device already and want something that’s rougher for dull or lightly damaged knives, the Warthog V-Sharp classic is worth consideration.
The easiest way to tell if your newly sharpened blade is ready to go to work is to cut down the length of a piece of newspaper. A dull spot on the blade will tear the paper as you slowly cut down; a smoothly sharpened blade will result in one long, clean cut.
What is the best knife sharpener? It’s one that you’ll use often and offers the least amount of hassle. For the average home cook, we think the Chef’sChoice 4643 ProntoPro Diamond Hone Manual Knife Sharpener fits that bill.
It’s portable – so can be used anywhere you need sharp knives – and the high-quality diamond stones will restore the sharpness of almost any knife. Not only that, the price tag is more than reasonable.
Investing in a set of quality knives and our suggested knife sharpener is a great way to make cooking more fun.