The knife is one of the most crucial tools in any kitchen. And while you may have a few different knives that you use for specific purposes, chances are that a chef’s knife is the one that you use 90% of the time — or it should be, since chef’s knives are incredibly versatile.
A chef’s knife will dull quickly with all that use, and a dull chef’s knife, as anyone knows if they’ve cut their finger when the blade slides off a tomato, is more dangerous than a knife with a razor-sharp edge. As such, knife sharpening should be a key part of any home chef’s routine.
Strangely enough, knife sharpeners are far less common in the average kitchen than many, despite the fact that they help that all-important chef’s knife maintain its edge. Some professional chefs sharpen their knives daily, but even the casual cook will benefit immensely from sharpening their knife 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 sharp edge from a formerly blunt knife. Here are our picks 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.
For a little over $60, the Chef’s Choice 310 manual knife sharpener boasts impressive results, yielding both a sharp blade and a smooth edge. That means a knife sharpened by the 310 will slice a fresh tomato without squashing it, and it will also not tear the skin because of inconsistencies across the length of the edge.
I also really like the size of the sharpening device: the Chef’s Choice 310 is slightly larger than a brick. I have limited counter space at home, and I wouldn’t mind keeping it in a corner all the time. At the same time, if I wanted to store it, it wouldn’t clutter up a cabinet. Aesthetically, it won’t look as sleek as a shiny new stand mixer, but it also won’t stand out as a blemish beside one if you find you like sharpening your kitchen knife on a regular basis.
Finally, Chef’s Choice 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. Overall, using the Chef’s Choice 310 is fairly simple, and the value for the price is unmatched by competitors.
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.
Another manual sharpener, 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.
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’s tracks were the most precise of any sharpener I tested, guiding the knife through multiple stages naturally, and the directions were as thorough as the Chef’s Choice 310.
The 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 (it’s longer and heavier than the Chef’s Choice 310). 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.
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, then paired each with a sharpener, labeling 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.
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:
Generally, sharpening serrated blades requires different types of devices, but you still may want to sharpen straight paring knives, boning knives, cleavers or utility blades (or even a pocket knife or hunting knife). While the Chef’s Choice sharpeners are 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 may equally appeal to the DIY enthusiast.
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 sharpeners are 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 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.
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Shayna Murphy Reviewed.com Published 1:44 PM EDT May 22, 2020 — Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission. Ask any wannabe Alison Roman-type and they’re liable to tell you that a good set of kitchen knives is crucial if you’re trying to take your...