You know that utterly satisfying moment when you’re cutting paper with scissors and you hit the perfect angle and just start to glide, straight and true as an arrow? I could live inside that moment.
To me, keeping your knives sharp is a way to channel that feeling of ease in the kitchen.
If your knife is feeling a little dull, it's time to get to work. (You can use a paper test, or even an onion (and your senses!) to tell if your knife needs to be sharpened.) The first line of defense against a dull blade is honing, but once the honing rod isn’t making the blade feel any keener, you'll need to pull out a sharpener.
A sharp knife is so much safer than a dull knife. You can use less force and because it bites in right wherever you put it, rather than sliding off, so there’s less of a chance for accidents. It’s also more accurate because it allows you to make more even and precise cuts.
But with so many knife sharpener choices, where to begin? Below we’ve laid out the options so you can match your lifestyle, kitchen, budget, and sharpening needs to the right method for you.
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1. You Want Fast, Versatile Sharpening at Home
If I had to recommend one sharpener style to a friend, I’d say go electric and get our winner, the Chef'sChoice Trizor XV Knife Sharpener. In our testing, it restored dull blades to sharper than when they came out of the box. From start to finish, it took about 2 minutes to turn a totally dull knife razor sharp.
Narrow, spring-loaded slots guide the blade onto diamond encrusted sharpening wheels at a precise angle for a notably consistent edge, so straight and even that it looked like taught fishing wire under a microscope. It’s also able to fix chipped knives. Because it’s powered by electricity which spins the sharpening wheels, it sharpens much faster than a manual sharpener.
- Pros: Fast, super effective on everything from a quick touch-up to repairing severely damaged and chipped blades. Sharpens serrated knives.
- Cons: Requires electricity. Larger than a manual sharpener (about the size of a loaf pan).
2. You Have Limited Storage or Budget
A manual knife sharpener is a great option if you want a sharpener that delivers a great edge at a lower price and in a smaller size. We tested tons of manual sharpeners and our winner, the Chef’s Choice Pronto Diamond Hone Knife Sharpener, can handily restore razor-sharp edges to dull blades. It can’t fix seriously damaged knives (as our winning electric model can) but does a good job on a dull blade, and you can toss it right in a drawer to keep it handy for regular touch ups.
- Pros: Great sharpening for dull (not severely damaged) knives. Small for easy storage. Costs less. Sharpens serrated knives.
- Cons: Can’t repair severely damaged knives. Slower than an electric sharpener.
3. You Have Time and Want to Learn a New Skill
Whetstones are a great way to sharpen at home, but much practice is required. A worthy endeavor indeed, but one most folks don’t want to spend the time on. If you do, we have a guide on how to use a whetstone. It can be a very rewarding experience—just make sure to practice on a cheap knife you don’t care about first!
- Pros: Lifelong skill. Very little storage space required. Highly portable. You’ll look like a boss chef and impress your friends.
- Cons: There's a learning curve and it can be tricky to get right.
Bonus: Have Someone Else Do It For You
If you want to go above and beyond, you can bring your knives to a professional knife sharpener. They're probably going to be able to put a better edge on a knife than you will be able to at home. (And if you can sharpen like a pro at home—nice! Can you sharpen my knives for me?) Check your local listings for well-reviewed knife sharpeners. There are even professional by-mail knife sharpening companies, if you can part with them that long.
- Pros: With a good pro, you get a sharper edge than you can at home.
- Cons: Transportation and coordination with a secondary party.
So, which type of knife sharpener are you? And don't even tell me you don’t sharpen your knives—I don’t wanna hear it! This is your sign to start.
If you’re learning, we’ve got you covered with everything you might want to know about sharpening knives, from how to use each style, to where to buy our top-rated models.
And say it with me: A sharp knife is a safe knife!