Cooking is a joy when you have the right tools, and that extends to choosing the right knife sharpener. Any knife, even the most deluxe, is only as good as its cutting edge, and choosing the right knife sharpener will help you get the most joy from your investment. Pronto’s Knife Sharpener Buying Guide will help you choose a knife sharpener that strikes the perfect balance between convenience and control.
A full-featured electric knife sharpener is the best choice for those who use knives to cut bone or frozen foods and don’t need a razor edge. Manual knife sharpeners are the best choice for those who demand a precise cutting edge.
Knife sharpeners made with diamond or tungsten carbide work quickest but also pose a danger to some metals. Stone sharpeners are safe to use on all knives but will wear out over time. Choose a knife sharpener that offers the best usefulness and durability for the materials in the knives you own.
Electric knife sharpeners are good for users of all skill levels. Manual knife sharpeners require some practice to get the best results. Look for built-in or supplied angle guides or notches to reduce the learning curve.
Choose an electric knife sharpener with variable grinding options and adjustable angles that will work with a wider variety of knives. For manual knife sharpeners, make sure you’re comfortable with the grips and design.
Make sure that ceramic sticks and butcher’s steel will fit into your knife rack or butcher block. Manual knife sharpeners are small and store easily in drawers. Large electric knife sharpeners may require extra countertop space, but you’ll be rewarded with greater stability.
A built-in holdout or notch that holds a knife in the correct position on a knife sharpener. Angle guides should be adjustable, as different knives require different cutting angles.
A coarse, round piece of hardened steel with a handle that is used as a daily or occasional knife sharpener.
A variation of the Butcher’s Steel knife sharpener made from hardened ceramic. These are available in blue ceramic, which is coarser, and white ceramic, which is used for lighter sharpening or polishing.
A ceramic made with basalt or another mineral rich in alumina with superior hardness and abrasion.
A feature that automatically guides the full length of a knife blade at the correct angle through an electric knife sharpener.
A natural or ceramic stone used as a knife sharpener, usually having a rough grinding surface and a smoother polishing surface.
Choosing between manual and electric knife sharpeners depends on whether you want to sharpen your knives easily and quickly or you’re looking for an accurate way to measure how sharp they are after sharpening. How you use your knives is also a factor, as some foods, like meats and tomatoes, demand a sharper edge than most breads and vegetables.
If you’re looking for something easy to use that gets the job done on the first try and you don’t need a razor-sharp edge, select an electric knife sharpener. You don’t need much knowledge to operate these knife sharpeners, and knife sharpening occurs at the flick of a power switch. Electric knife sharpeners won’t give you the same sharpness as manual knife sharpeners, and if you’re not paying close attention, it’s easy to over-sharpen and potentially ruin your knife.
Manual knife sharpeners take longer to use and additionally, you’ll need to develop some skill prior to using them. Your reward will be sharper, more precise knife edges. With a bit of concentrated effort, you’ll find it’s not too difficult to learn which angles and what pressure will consistently yield your desired level of sharpness. A consensus of knife enthusiasts and experts insists that a manual knife sharpener is the only way to get the razor-sharp edges that some cutting jobs demand.
When choosing an electric knife sharpener, pay careful attention to how it gets the job done. A good knife sharpener starts with a hard abrasive surface, such as diamond, tungsten carbide or high-alumina ceramics then uses steel or other ceramics for polishing. Knife sharpeners containing diamond or tungsten carbide tend to be more expensive, grind more aggressively and get the job done faster.
Some electric knife sharpeners include a “pull-through” feature that automatically moves the knife at a proper angle. While this can increase efficiency, it is important to consider how delicate your knives are. Some electric knife sharpeners can cut an unwanted curve into a knife or serrate the cutting edge, ruining its surface. Look for a knife sharpener with variable settings to minimize these risks and seek out materials that are compatible with the metals in the knives you own.
There’s little risk to knives when you use a manual knife sharpener. Butcher’s steel and ceramic sticks are the best choices for everyday use, as these knife sharpeners will help a knife keep its edge for up to a year so long as you’re not hacking away at bones or other hard objects. It’s a good idea to keep a ceramic or steel knife sharpener in or near your knife block and use it each time you reach for a knife.
For precise and thorough sharpening, you’ll need a manual knife sharpener made from diamond, tungsten carbide or whetstone. These manual sharpeners range from simple open-faced blocks to complex angled designs that sharpen both sides of a knife with each stroke. Whetstone knife sharpeners are the professionals’ choice but require more technique and patience than tungsten or diamond knife sharpeners.
A knife sharpener is a poor investment if you don’t know how to use it. Electric knife sharpeners will give you the most comprehensive operating information; some manual knife sharpeners may be little more than a stone in a box.
Using a knife sharpener is more than just running a blade across the knife sharpener’s surface. It takes a bit of skill and practice to get the best results from any knife sharpener, including electric models. If you’re already skilled at sharpening knives, you can shop by price, but novices should look for knife sharpeners with built-in guides or angled surfaces that teach the proper technique. When you’re comparing manual knife sharpeners, see if angle measuring tools or how-to literature are enclosed.
Manual or hand-held knife sharpeners typically come with fewer features, due to the lack of technology involved. Make sure you’re comfortable with grips and the design of a manual knife sharpener, and look for double-grit grinding and angle-measuring guides or notches.
Electric knife sharpeners should offer a good amount of freedom in adjustment for the greatest flexibility. Look for an electric knife sharpener with multiple grinding measures and compatibility with different knife materials. An electric knife sharpener should have a sturdy, non-skid base, receptacles to collect metal filings and built-in or adjustable angle measuring guides.
Knives that are mostly used for cutting softer items such as vegetables and thawed meats will only require occasional sharpening, making a manual knife sharpener an ideal choice. If you’re cutting through bone or frozen foods, you’ll be spending lots of time with your knife sharpener and may benefit from the convenience of an electric model.
Some stone grinders like whetstones wear away over time, and the price of these knife sharpeners often reflects how long they’ll last. If you’re shopping for an electric knife sharpener, look for diamond or tungsten surfaces that will last longer than ceramics or steel.
Manual knife sharpeners typically need just a quick wipe with a damp cloth after use, and smaller stone knife sharpeners will tuck away in a drawer until you need them. Butcher’s steel and ceramic stick knife sharpeners should be the right size to store in your knife rack. Make sure you’ve got a secure place to keep ceramic stick knife sharpeners, as they can shatter if you drop them.
An electric knife sharpener is an appliance that may compete for space on your countertop, depending on how often you use it. Larger electric knife sharpeners tend to be more stable than smaller versions, which can make them more precise and easier to use. Electric knife sharpeners can also be harder to clean, so make sure the knife sharpener you choose effectively clears out any metal filings and collects them in a removable tray.