The stovetop or oven might be the heart of your kitchen, but theis just as important. In fact, over years of moving, my trusty Wusthof has accompanied me the whole time — which can’t be said for any of the appliances I’ve used and left behind. But after a few years of use, even my beloved chef’s knife dulled to the point of uselessness.
In fact, using a dull knife — as anyone who’s cut their finger when their blade slips off tomato skin can attest — can lead to more injuries than a sharp one. But sending your knife to a professional sharpener often isn’t in the budget (or it’s just inconvenient). Luckily, knife sharpeners are pretty affordable, and they’ll help you keep your edge in the kitchen.
Knife sharpeners are far less common in the average kitchen than many, despite their value. Some professional chefs sharpen their knives daily, but even the casual cook will benefit immensely from sharpening their knives once a month.
The good news is, knife sharpeners don’t have to be huge investments. Like any other kitchen tool, what you put in is often what you get out: A few bucks can get you measurable improvements to your blade, and 10 times that can keep your chef’s knife’s edge as sharp as new in perpetuity.
There are lots of tools out there for keeping knives sharp — we’re sure you’re all familiar with the sharpening stone and the sharpening rod — but we wanted the knife sharpening process to be a little easier than these particular sharpening tools. So we tested the heck out of some sharpeners to figure out which ones will always result in a sharp knife without you having to worry about the sharpening angle or anything else and still get a razor sharp edge from a formerly blunt knife. Here are our picks of the best knife sharpener for your chef knife, and we’re going to update it as we test more products.
A note, though. We’re talking just chef’s knives here. A serrated knife may need a different kind of sharpener.
The best sharpener I used while testing was the $150 Chef’s Choice Trizor XV, a bulky device with three separate tracks for bringing dull knives to a super-sharp 15-degree edge (many American knives are sharpened to a 20-degree angle). The Trizor also comes with thorough and helpful directions for use — explaining unfamiliar terms and processes in straightforward ways. Plus, magnets on the sharpening tracks keep your blade angled correctly, so risk of making mistakes while sharpening a dull blade on the diamond abrasive sharpeners is pretty minimal.
The results of my testing were impressive. The sharp blade and smooth edge produced by the device meant I could slice through a tomato without squashing it or tearing the skin because of inconsistencies across the length of the edge.
The one downside of the Trizor sharpener is its premium cost ($150 is more than most people pay for a chef’s knife, let alone the tool that sharpens it) and its bulky profile. But if you have plenty of counter space or don’t mind storing it in a cabinet, the Trizor is the best-performing device around.
If you’re less interested in maintaining a perfect edge on your knife blade, and instead want an affordable, “good-enough” alternative, the $6 Kitchen IQ 2 Stage Knife Sharpener might be for you. No, it won’t fully resurrect an old, dull blade, but this sharpener can help keep up a better edge than usual with just a few passes through the sharpening tracks each day.
The Kitchen IQ also includes two tracks: a coarse sharpener for setting the edge, and a fine sharpener for finishing it. When compared to other compact, non-electric products, like the $25 Anysharp Pro with only a coarse sharpener or the poorly performing $8 Kadell 3 Stages sharpener, the Kitchen IQ stands out.
To test our knife sharpeners, we acquired eight identical chef’s knives and dulled them using a Dremel. They still could cut tomatoes and pineapples (our two testing fruits), but not cleanly; essentially, we wanted our knives to behave like chef’s knives that have seen years of use without much upkeep.
I tested the knives before sharpening them to be sure they all performed about as poorly as we wanted them to, paired each with a sharpener and labeled accordingly. I then followed the directions for each sharpener. Some sharpeners suggested passing the blade through “until sharp,” and I did so until the improvements seemed negligible. Other sharpeners were more prescriptive, and I followed the directions precisely.
After sharpening, I tested each knife, looking at how much it squashed a ripe tomato and tore its skin while slicing, as well as how easily it sliced skin from a ripe pineapple. I rated the cut with each fruit out of 10, noting my specific observations. The primary goals here were to see how sharp the edge became and how smooth it was across its length: a sharp blade shouldn’t squash a tomato, and a smooth blade shouldn’t tear its skin. A pineapple would test the same effects in a higher stress context — cutting through a robust fruit in a non-straight pattern.
Which is the best knife sharpener for you?
The most important element of a knife sharpener is its ability to sharpen an edge across the length of a blade. That said, plenty of other factors might make other devices a better fit for you. Here are some of those factors:
- Ability to sharpen different types of knives
Generally, sharpening a serrated blade specifically requires a serrated knife sharpener, but you still may want to sharpen straight paring knives, boning knives, a fillet knife, cleavers or utility blades (or even a pocket knife or hunting knife). While the Chef’s Choice sharpener is the best for chef’s knives, both the Presto Three Stage and Work Sharp devices offer a little more flexibility for different blades. Presto, for instance, can adjust its slots to guide different blades more effectively. Work Sharp uses attachments and belts of varying coarseness for kitchen knives, pocket knives or scissors — a modular approach that may put off casual cooks, but will likely appeal to DIY enthusiasts.
Another consideration is how clean your sharpener is: if you’re sharpening in your garage, then you might not sweat the steel filings that sprinkle out of some sharpeners, like the Work Sharp or the Presto sharpeners. In a kitchen setting, cleanliness is a must, and Chef’s Choice Trizor and the $25 AnySharp Pro sharpener were the cleanest. That said, all the above recommendations required minimal cleanup, if any at all.
Finally, sound is a concern for some — and some of these devices are significantly louder than others. The Chef’s Choice Trizor is slightly quieter than the Presto sharpeners, but none were silent. If you want a quiet option, non-electric sharpeners will be your best bet.
Out of all the testing, the only device that seemed to have no upside was the $8 Kadell 3 Stages Sharpener, which wasn’t as affordable as the Kitchen IQ sharpener and also performed worse than any other sharpening tool I tested. Besides that one, it seems pretty much any knife sharpener is better than no knife sharpener. So invest in the high end or pick up a $6 tool. Either way, food prep will get a lot easier when you do.