Best Knife Sharpener 2021
- Dalstrong Premium Whetstone Set (#3000/#8000 Grit)
- Dalstrong Premium Whetstone Set (#400/#1000 Grit)
- Dalstrong Premium Whetstone Kit (#1000/#6000 Grit)
When was the last time you sharpened your kitchen knife? If the answer is “gee, I really can’t remember, it was so long ago,” your reputation as a chef might be in danger. As we all know, knife sharpening is an essential part of the cooking process. The difference between a sharp chef’s knife and a dull one can turn the relatively easy task of chopping vegetables or meat into a full-blown nightmare — complete with a trip to the ER if you’re not careful.
Whether you’re a home cook or a professional chef, sharpening your knives every couple of months can help reduce accidents and optimize your entire preparation process. If well done, it can also help extend your knives’ lifespan considerably. Owning a good knife sharpener should be a must for anyone who takes pride in knowing their way around the kitchen.
But which one is the most appropriate for you? When it comes to knife sharpening, all the options available in the market may seem a little overwhelming. That’s why we prepared this useful, detailed guide to help you find the best knife sharpener to bring those dull blades back to life.
Let’s get to it!
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN
- What is the best knife sharpener on the market?
- What do professional knife sharpeners use?
- Are pull-through sharpeners bad for knives?
- How do I choose a knife sharpener?
- When do you need to sharpen your knife?
- What household items can I use to keep my knives sharp?
1. WHAT IS THE BEST KNIFE SHARPENER ON THE MARKET?
As you might’ve guessed, the answer to this question will depend on your needs, level of expertise, and personal preference. Another thing to consider is the type of knife you’ll need to sharpen (chef’s knife, paring knife, steak knife, etc.) and the amount of time you’re willing to invest in it. That being said, the world of knife sharpeners is a fascinating one and we can’t wait to get you started on the topic.
Here are some of the most popular sharpening options:
Yes, using a sharpening stone or whetstone might be a bit more time-consuming than the other options (the whole process can take between 20 to 40 minutes). But, they offer way more versatility, allowing you to hone and sharpen the blades of your knives at any angle you desire. This is especially convenient if you own a varied collection of knives, ranging from the Western to the Japanese style.
It might take you some time to properly master the sharpening stone but your chef’s knife will end up with razor-sharp blades and the process is surely a rewarding one. Besides sharpening your knife blade, whetstones are also excellent at repairing and bringing that old knife back from the dead. And what’s more, you can also use them to sharpen other objects like gardening tools and scissors.
In order to attain optimal sharpening results and, therefore, a sharp knife, you’ll need either a multi-sided sharpening stone or at least a sharpening kit with two or three stones with varying levels of coarseness (this is usually referred to as ‘grit’).
- It looks really cool
- Some whetstones can last a lifetime
- Whetstones often prolong a knife’s life more than electric sharpeners
- They are used for both Western and Asian styled knives.
- Steep learning curve
- You need to be precise. How you angle your blade will determine the grind
- Dalstrong #3000/#8000 Grit Premium Whetstone Set - Handcrafted set of top-grade corundum whetstones.
- Dalstrong #400/#1000 Grit Premium Whetstone Set - Trusted Dalstrong award-winning craftsmanship, awe-inspiring design and handcrafted with the absolute best materials available.
- Dalstrong Premium Whetstone Kit (#1000/#6000 Grit) - #3000 grit stone is your all-purpose stone to sharpen dull or damaged blades, and a #8000 to return that mirror polish and screamingly sharp edge to your blade.
Also known as “sharpening steel,” the honing steel, or honing rod, is actually more of a compliment to your sharpening method of choice than an actual knife sharpener.
Even though it helps the blade retain its sharp edge in between intensive sharpening sessions, it won’t help you repair dull blades. It generally consists of a honing rod that can be made of metal, diamond carbon steel, or ceramic. Using a honing rod also requires a bit of finesse that can be acquired after some practice.
- Using it often means you’ll have to sharpen less frequently
- Takes some time to acquire the proper sharpening technique
- You need to learn the various angles required to improve your specific blade before you get to work with your honing rod
Dalstrong Honing Steel Options:
- Gladiator Series 10" Honing Steel - Precision forged, ultra sharp, wear-resistant, single-piece, high carbon ThyssenKrupp German steel at 55 Rockwell
- Dalstrong Ceramic Honing Rod- 10" - Scratch-Free Ceramic Coating - Ultra-durable, high-carbon stainless steel honing rod, ideal for Japanese cutlery
- Shadow Black Series 9" Honing Steel - NSF Certified - Precision forged, ultra sharp, wear-resistant, single-piece, high carbon stainless steel
ELECTRIC KNIFE SHARPENER
These rectangular-shaped knife sharpeners generally have three slots where you can insert your knife in order to create, sharpen, and hone its edges. Some use diamond abrasives or tungsten carbides.
While it is true that they are easier to use and more time-efficient, electric sharpeners are generally bulkier and work with a set sharpening angle, offering less control over the sharpening process. They also tend to fare better in the kitchen knife realm, making it an excellent serrated knife sharpener. The Presto sharpener is an excellent example of this type of sharpening device.
- Sharpens your knives in just a few minutes
- Electric sharpeners are usually more expensive
- Set sharpening angles limit versatility
MANUAL KNIFE SHARPENER
In terms of cost, manual sharpeners, or pull-through sharpeners, are one of the most economic sharpening options in the market. Compact, lightweight, and easy to store, a good manual sharpener will do the job in 5 minutes or less - much faster that most sharpening methods.
They also come in various shapes, materials, and sizes, and are known for their versatility. The only downside? This sharpening system isn’t as effective with a serrated knife, for example.
- Not as effective as a whetstone or electric knife sharpener
2. WHAT DO PROFESSIONAL KNIFE SHARPENERS USE?
While most home cooks prefer electric and manual sharpeners, whetstones are usually the go-to method for professional chefs and knife connoisseurs in general. They not only last a lot longer but they’re also way more effective than any other knife sharpening system out there.
Waterstones, or whetstones, can be used for both Western, Japanese, and pretty much any type of blade. The process is very straightforward - soak the stone between 5 and 10 minutes and then run the knife against it - but mastering the angle is key here. There are many YouTube tutorials available or you can read our guide on how to sharpen a knife here.
Pull-through sharpeners are a whole different beast. Oriented towards amateur cooks, these manual devices often feature a D-shaped handle and multiple V-shaped channels or grooves that you can swipe the knife against in order to progressively sharpen, hone, and refine the blade of your knife. You might want to avoid this sharpening method if you own a Japanese knife (too delicate) but it’s totally suitable for the sturdy construction of German and French-style knives.
Similar to the manual sharpeners, an electric knife sharpener uses a motorized sharpening system that chips away the metal from the knife’s blade through a series of wheels or discs in a very convenient and time-efficient manner. While these may save you some time and effort (some of them will even sharpen knives with a serrated edge), the prefixed angle settings make it an overall less versatile tool. Handle these with care - if used too often, they might alter the original design of your knife.
And, of course, let’s not forget about the honing rod. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just a padawan taking your first steps in the culinary world, the honing steel should always be a key part of your knife maintenance routine. As it is known, frequent honing can help enhance your knife’s performance and reduce the time in between sharpening sessions.
3. ARE PULL-THROUGH SHARPENERS BAD FOR KNIVES?
Well, it depends on whom you ask. It also depends on the sharpening material they use. For example, some low-end carbide V-notch sharpeners can end up stripping away too much metal from the knife, eventually ruining its blade and dramatically reducing its lifespan. In other words, you might end up with a sharp knife but you’ll mess up the edge angle.
While most home cooks will swear by it, mostly because of the convenience and price factor, the truth is you can only get so far with a pull-through sharpener. That doesn’t mean they don’t work - they’re the perfect sharpening tool for turning a practically ruined knife into a functional piece of cutlery - but they’re far from being the best knife sharpener. And we take our sharpening seriously.
4. HOW DO I CHOOSE A KNIFE SHARPENER?
Not all knives are created equal and the same could be said about knife sharpeners. Even though all knife sharpening techniques follow the same principle - using an abrasive edge to remove metal from the blade - each knife has its own idiosyncrasy and unique features, and that’s something to take into account when choosing a sharpening method.
Like we’ve mentioned before, a whetstone is the most all-around sharpening solution available. They will work on almost any type of blade and, despite being known for being difficult to master, learning how to use one will bestow a zen aura upon you and will help you forge your path towards knife sharpening enlightenment. Additionally, while not ideal, a whetstone can also be used as a makeshift ceramic knife sharpener - ceramic knives are extremely brittle, though, and sharpening them can be quite the headache.
If you’re too busy to become a waterstone master, the obvious choice is the electric knife sharpener. Yes, you might have to spend a little more on one of these bad boys but, in the end, you won’t regret it. Currently, most sharpening products available on the market work well with both Japanese and Western-style knives, and some of them will even sharpen a serrated blade.
The outdoorsy types might want to go for a handheld sharpener, which is way more portable and versatile enough to work with, say, a hunting knife or a pocket knife. Handheld knife sharpeners usually come with a manual grip, making it easier to manipulate and work at any desired angle.
5. WHEN DO YOU NEED TO SHARPEN YOUR KNIFE?
Depending on the use, you should only sharpen your knives at home every few months or so. For top-notch performance, it is also recommended to have your knives professionally sharpened every other year. On top of that, the daily use of a honing rod, or sharpening steel, is great to keep the blade edge of your knife aligned.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HONING AND SHARPENING?
Basically, honing helps realign the microscopic teeth in the blade, but it won’t sharpen your dull knife. Sharpening works by removing a small amount of steel from the blade, creating a new edge. The difference also lies in the frequency - while honing should be performed on a daily basis, you only want to sharpen your knife once every couple of months. They’re both really useful methods to keep your knives healthy and in top shape.
6. WHAT HOUSEHOLD ITEMS CAN I USE TO KEEP MY KNIVES SHARP?
We strongly discourage using anything other than the tools mentioned above, but as a last resort, if you don’t have the resources to buy the best knife sharpener available, you can MacGyver your way out of it by resorting to certain items that can be found lying around in any household.
Despite not being technically an everyday item in every household, sandpaper is really cheap and it can help sharpen your knives in absence of a better method. For best results, start with a coarser grit and then work your way up to a finer one.
Just like the sandpaper method, make sure the material of your nail file isn’t too coarse - that’ll end up chewing off too much material from the blade, and you certainly don’t want that. Simply place your knife over the nail file and run it at a 20-degree angle until you get the desired sharpening results.
Readily available in most kitchens, ceramic coffee mugs will do a decent job at scraping material from the knife’s blade. You can achieve this by turning the mug upside down and running the knife across the rougher part of the cup. A slight discoloration in the bottom of the mug will generally tell you if you’re on the right path.
Mason jars aren’t just useful for storage. If you’re patient enough, you can also use them to sharpen your knives. Unlike the coffee mug technique, it is better to work with the rim at the top, lining the blade of your knife at a 20-degree angle, making smooth and controlled motions.
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You can also check in with our Expert Knife Finder Quiz and get specific recommendations based on your needs.
Written by Pablo Perez
When he's not adding way too much butter to his recipes, Pablo likes to write about knives, music, food, cinema, and all of the other things that make life worth living.