The Best Knife Sharpeners for the Kitchen
Give yourself an edge in the kitchen by learning how to navigate and choose among the wide variety of knife sharpeners available today.
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- Best OverallChef’sChoice 4643 ProntoPro Diamond Hone SharpenerCheck Latest Price
- Upgrade PickChef’sChoice Diamond Hone AngleSelect Sharpener 1520Check Latest Price
- Best Bang for the BuckKitchellence Knife Sharpener and Cut-Resistant GloveCheck Latest Price
A culinary newbie might see knives as mere kitchenware, but a chef recognizes them as essential tools—tools that need to be kept sharp and in tip-top shape in order to perform their best. That’s why chefs keep high-quality sharpening tools on hand and master the skill of blade honing early on in their careers.
To slice and chop and mince like a pro, properly maintaining your kitchen knives is the first step. Read on to find out how to choose the best knife sharpener for your cooking needs and budget—and don’t miss these top-rated recommendations.
- BEST OVERALL: Chef’sChoice 4643 ProntoPro Diamond Hone Sharpener
- UPGRADE PICK: Chef’sChoice Diamond Hone AngleSelect Sharpener 1520
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Kitchellence Knife Sharpener and Cut-Resistant Glove
- HONORABLE MENTION: Utopia Kitchen 12 Inch Honing Steel
Types of Knife Sharpeners
When it comes to knife sharpening and maintenance, it’s important to know the difference between sharpening and honing, as well as the preferred tools for each method.
Sharpening removes metal from the blade to create the ideal angle, or grind. Alone, sharpeners do an excellent job of restoring a blade’s sharpness, but the grinding process does leave microscopic nicks in the blade’s edge. Honing a blade is less about sharpening and more about smoothing the surface. A honing rod will smooth any nicks and dents out of the blade, creating a perfectly tuned blade edge.
Whetstones are the classic and most preferred method for sharpening kitchen knives. These perfectly flat stones have a gritty surface that a knife’s cutting edge is dragged across. This reshapes the cutting edge by removing any misshapen metal.
Whetstones come in a variety of grits and can provide remarkably sharp results. The user starts sharpening with the coarsest grit and works their way to the finest. When done correctly, the knife will be left with an edge sharper than a razor. Just be aware that this method is slow and requires more expertise and experience than other methods.
Much simpler to use than a whetstone, V-notch sharpeners have hardened materials (typically ceramic or carbide) installed in a preset V-shape and set into a notch in a plastic housing. The knife is dragged from heel to tip through the notch, allowing the material to remove metal until the knife conforms to the preset angle (also known as the “grind.”)
These sharpeners are easy and fast to use once your knife’s edge has conformed to the angle. Because the angle is preset, however, users don’t get to choose the profile they put on their knives. Different grind angles provide different characteristics, such as how long a knife maintains its edge or how easily it cuts through delicate foods. If you prefer to customize the profile of your knife, another method may be better. V-notch sharpeners also tend to leave a rougher edge on the blade than other methods.
Electric sharpeners are a fast way to put an accurate grind on a knife’s edge. They use a succession of grinding wheels and angled grooves through which the user pulls the knife. As the knife works its way through the stages, it becomes sharper. They’re easy to use and relatively foolproof but tend to be expensive and don’t provide any grind-angle flexibility.
Honing rods don’t remove material like other sharpeners on this list. Instead, they smooth out the microscopic nicks and dents that come with normal use or even after careful grinding. You hone your knife by dragging the blade across the rod heel-to-point while maintaining the grind angle as closely as possible.
However, sharpening a severely dulled blade is outside of this tool’s capabilities. Use a honing rod to complement one of the other styles of knife sharpener on the list.
Key Shopping Considerations
Consider these selling points before settling in on the best knife sharpener for your needs.
Manual vs. Electric
Depending on your budget and if you prefer to customize your knives’ grind angles, an electric sharpener might be a good choice for your kitchen. These sharpeners are more expensive than most manual sharpeners, but they provide fast and consistent results. This makes them a little more fool-proof than a standard manual sharpening system.
Ease of Use
Convenience and ease of use should certainly be factors to consider when choosing a knife sharpener. Inconsistent results, time-consuming steps, and messy countertops might be reasons to avoid whetstones. In this case, using an electric or V-notch pull-through sharpener would be faster and more convenient.
Most sharpeners on the market can handle a variety of knife sizes, but it’s a good idea to check which blade type and grind angle a sharpener can service. Standard blades tend to come with 20-degree grind angles, which are durable and easy to maintain with a whetstone and honing rod. Most pull-through and electric sharpening systems sharpen at 15-degree angles. This means that the sharpener will regrind your knife to this angle. A 15-degree angle is sharp but will require more frequent sharpening and reduce the life of the blade.
Also, if you have serrated knives, look for a model that specifically says it will sharpen serrated blades. Using a standard sharpener on a serrated blade will drastically reduce the useful life of the knife.
When working with sharp blades, safety shouldn’t be an afterthought. Some methods of sharpening, like electric and pull-through countertop models, are inherently safer than others, such as handheld pull-through sharpeners. It’s easy to make a quick mistake when using a handheld V-notch sharpener, such as missing the groove and making contact with a finger, so countertop V-notch or electric models are safer options. When using a whetstone, proper technique keeps the blade’s edge pointed away from the user, minimizing the chance of an accident.
Our Top Picks
1. BEST OVERALL: Chef’sChoice 4643 ProntoPro Diamond Hone Sharpener
The Chef’sChoice ProntoPro pull-through V-notch sharpener is a good all-around choice for most kitchens. This model uses three stages of diamond sharpening abrasives to work the blade to a razor-sharp edge, even on serrated blades. This model is meant to be held on the countertop with one hand while the other pulls the knife through the sharpener. This makes it a safe option for sharpening knives as long as the user maintains stable and consistent contact between the sharpener and the counter. Also, the small footprint makes it easy to store in a drawer or cabinet.
The main issue is that this sharpener will automatically grind a 15-degree edge on a knife with no option to adjust. If you like to maintain a different angle, this model might not be for you.
2. UPGRADE PICK: Chef’sChoice Diamond Hone AngleSelect Sharpener 1520
The AngleSelect electric sharpener from Chef’sChoice is a worthy option for those looking to minimize the guesswork involved in sharpening. This model uses three stages of grinding wheels to develop a perfectly ground edge. It’s also serrated-blade compatible and adjusts to sharpen either 20-degree or 15-degree angles, covering European, American, and Japanese knife blades.
The AngleSelect is plugged in and placed on the counter, and you simply pull the blade through the machine. This makes it an extremely safe option, as you don’t need to hold the machine in place with your free hand. Due to its large size, though, it can’t be kept ready-to-go in an average-sized drawer.
3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Kitchellence Knife Sharpener and Cut-Resistant Glove
The Kitchellence Knife Sharpener is a three-stage, countertop-held model that comes with a cut-resistant glove. This model uses diamond rods set at 15-degree angles for the user to pull the knife through, heel-to-point, for an extremely sharp finished product. This is a very small model that easily stows away until needed. The cut-resistant glove is a nice addition at this price point and can be used for other blade-related activities as well.
Along with all other preset sharpening rods, the lack of flexibility in grind angle might not appeal to everyone. Also, due to the unit’s small size, it’s not a good idea to use it without the cut-resistant glove.
4. HONORABLE MENTION: Utopia Kitchen 12 Inch Honing Steel
A honing rod is a great complement to a staged sharpening process. This Utopia Kitchen 12-inch model is made from steel, ensuring that it will only reshape the very edge of the grind without removing any metal. The handle is ergonomically designed to be comfortable and non-slip, dramatically increasing the level of safety over other models.
All honing rods have their limitations, and this model is no exception. Honing rods will not put a sharp edge on a dull knife. Also, sharpening with a steel rod is slower than with a ceramic one, so it may take more passes to dial-in the knife’s edge.