Knives are perhaps the most essential tools for food prep—functioning more effectively and safely the sharper they are. A high-quality knife sharpener belongs in every kitchen, for home cooks as well as professional chefs.
If you want to up your culinary game to slice, dice, and chop like a pro, properly maintaining your kitchen knives is key. Smart shoppers can use this guide to learn about the types of products available and check out descriptions of some of the best knife sharpeners on the market to gain a real cutting edge in the kitchen!
- BEST OVERALL ELECTRIC: Presto EverSharp Electric Knife Sharpener
- BEST OVERALL MANUAL: Chef’sChoice ProntoPro Manual Knife Sharpening
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: KitchenIQ Edge Grip 2 Stage Knife Sharpener
- UPGRADE PICK: Chef’sChoice Hone Electric Knife Sharpener
- BEST COMPACT: ZWILLING J.A. Henckels Pull Through Knife Sharpener
- BEST STONE: KNIFEPLANET Premium Knife Sharpening Stone Set
- BEST SHARPENING STEEL: Wüsthof – 10″ Knife Sharpening Steel with Loop
- BEST FOR CERAMIC KNIVES: Shenzhen Knives Electric Diamond Knife Sharpener
- SAFETY PICK: KITCHELLENCE Knife Sharpener and Cut-Resistant Glove
- ALSO CONSIDER: Utopia Kitchen 12-inch Honing Rod
Types of Knife Sharpeners
Just as there are many types of knives, there are quite a few ways to sharpen them. Here, find out how different knife sharpeners work and compare their pros and cons. Some of these methods are ancient while others represent the new wave of precision sharpening.
Whetstones are the classic and most preferred manual method for sharpening kitchen knives. These perfectly flat sharpening stones have a gritty surface across which the user drags a knife’s cutting edge. This reshapes the cutting edge by removing any misshapen metal. Potentially, users can even customize a knife’s grind angle with a whetstone faster than with other sharpener types.
Whetstones come in a variety of grits and can provide remarkably sharp results. The user starts sharpening with the coarsest grit and works toward the finest. When done correctly, the knife will gain an edge sharper than a razor. Just be aware that this method is slow and requires more patience and expertise than others.
Much faster and simpler to use than a whetstone, V-notch sharpeners have hardened materials (typically ceramic or carbide) installed in a preset V-shape that’s 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 its preset angle (also known as the grind).
Different grind angles provide different characteristics, such as how long a knife maintains its edge or how easily it cuts through delicate foods. V-notch knife sharpener angles are preset, however, so users cannot choose the profile put on the knives. V-notch sharpeners also tend to leave a rougher edge on the blade than other methods.
Rather than removing material, honing rods smooth out the microscopic nicks and dents that come with normal use or even after careful grinding. Although also referred to as sharpening steels, these implements can’t help a severely dulled blade; instead, regular use will complement sharpening for the keenest edge a knife can get. To hone a knife, drag the blade across the rod heel-to-point while maintaining the grind angle as closely as possible (see below for more info on honing).
Electric sharpeners are typically the fastest way to put an accurate grind on a knife’s edge. Designed to sit on a countertop, electric sharpeners feature a succession of grinding wheels and angled grooves through which the user pulls the knife. The knife becomes sharper as it works its way through the stages.
Though electric sharpeners are easy to use and relatively foolproof, they tend to be pricey and don’t provide any grind-angle flexibility. They’re not as compact as manual sharpeners, but most are relatively small enough to be stored in a kitchen drawer.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Knife Sharpener
Before buying a knife sharpener, bone up on the difference between sharpening and honing as well as various key factors and features—including material, suitability, and safety—of these precision tools.
Sharpening vs. Honing
Sharpening and honing are not interchangeable terms. They are different tasks that complement each other to keep knife blades keen. Each method requires its own tool.
Sharpening removes metal from a dull blade to create the ideal angle (also known as the grind). While this process alone will restore sharpness, the grinding process itself can leave microscopic nicks in the blade’s edge.
That’s where honing comes in. Honing a blade smoothes the surface. A honing rod will smooth any nicks and dents out of the blade, creating a perfectly tuned blade edge. A quick honing after the sharpening process will yield a sharp, smooth edge.
Most sharpeners can handle a variety of knife sizes, but it’s wise 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 V-notch systems sharpen at preset 15-degree or 20-degree angles. A 15-degree angle is sharp but will require more frequent sharpening, ultimately reducing the life of the blade. Electric sharpeners usually sharpen at 15 to 20-degree angles as well.
To sharpen serrated knives and ceramic knives, look for a model that specifically states its suitability for these blades. Using a standard sharpener on a serrated or ceramic blade will drastically reduce the useful life of the knife.
For centuries, whetstones were actual pieces of gritty rock, but today’s models are synthetic combinations of abrasives. These abrasives include aluminum oxide, sapphirite, silicon carbide or other ceramics, and diamond. Many of the best knife sharpener kits have a combination of these materials in different grit sizes, though some models might use different (though similar) materials.
Depending on the sharpener, these materials come in different shapes. For instance, a whetstone is one piece shaped like a block or a puck. In V-notch sharpeners, the sharpening materials might be opposing strips that look somewhat like blades, or cylindrical rods (not to be confused with honing rods). With electric sharpeners, the sharpening materials are usually shaped like wheels that are typically housed within the machine for safety.
When working with sharp blades, safety is top priority. Some sharpening methods, like electric and pull-through countertop models, are inherently safer options. They typically have a nonslip bottom that helps keep the tool in place while you sharpen a knife.
Many kits come with safety gloves intended to be worn on the hand that holds the sharpener. These gloves will minimize (not eliminate) the chances of accidentally slicing a finger while pulling a blade through the sharpener.
Oversize guards are also popular on the best pull-through knife sharpener options. These molded guards prevent users from placing their hands too close to the sharpening surface, minimizing the chances of knife-to-skin contact while sharpening dull knives.
Our Top Picks
While this guide offers a good deal of background info and specific details about knife sharpeners, shopping for the best product needn’t be complicated. The following list includes some of the best knife sharpeners on the market, from simple, old-school manual models to upgraded gadgets bound to impress a modern chef. Keep the top considerations in mind when comparing these products, and you’re likely to find the best knife sharpener for your needs.
Those looking for an all-around reliable and easy-to-use knife sharpener should check out the Presto EverSharp. This pull-through model plugs into a standard electrical outlet and offers a two-stage knife sharpening system with sapphirite grinding wheels. The sharpening slots are at preset, immovable angles, taking the guesswork out of grinding.
One side of the device has coarse wheels while the other has fine wheels, allowing users to achieve a razor-sharp edge. The bottom of the EverSharp features a rubberized, nonslip surface to keep the tool safely in place during use.
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. The ProntoPull is held on the countertop with one hand while the other pulls the knife through the sharpener.
This manual sharpener is a safe option, as long as the user maintains stable and consistent contact between the device and the counter. Its small size makes it easy to store in a drawer or cabinet. This sharpener automatically grinds to a 15-degree edge with no option to adjust.
Home chefs and knife collectors hoping to sharpen their valuable knives without breaking the bank should look into KitchenIQ’s Edge Grip 2-Stage Knife Sharpener. This compact pull-through sharpener features a budget-friendly price tag and a simple, guess-free sharpening system.
The KitchenIQ Edge Grip manual knife sharpener features two sharpening slots with preset angles to make consistent, repetitive sharpening a breeze. The coarse side will reshape a damaged edge, while the fine side can handle regular smoothing of the rough edge as well as maintenance. This knife sharpener features a handle section to keep the user’s hand safe from the blades while also allowing a sure grip on the device.
This electric sharpener from Chef’sChoice is the high-speed, high-end choice to minimize the guesswork of 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 blade types.
The Chef’sChoice is plugged in and placed on the counter, and it simply requires pulling the blade through the machine. This optimizes safety, as the user doesn’t hold the device in place with a free hand, minimizing the risk of accidental blade contact.
Storage space is often tight—whether in a kitchen drawer, a tool box, or a tackle box. Fortunately, the compact Zwilling J.A. Henckels Pull Through Knife Sharpener doesn’t take up much room, making it easy to keep a capable sharpener on hand.
This small pull-through sharpener features four slots: a coarse and fine slot for Japanese-style knife blades and a coarse and fine slot for standard blades. Each slot features a set of ceramic rods for sharpening. A plastic sliding guard that blocks one set of slots at a time helps prevent accidentally pulling the wrong style blade through a slot. For added safety, there’s a thumb-loop on the handle for a sure grip while keeping the user’s hand away from the blade.
The KNIFEPLANET Knife Sharpening Stone Set is a great tool to give favorite knives an ideal edge. It comes with a set of two sharpening stones, a bamboo base, a flattening stone, and two rubber nonslip bases. The two stones have two grits each: 400/1000 and 3000/8000. This four-stage grinding process adds up to a near-perfect grind when used properly.
The kit also includes a flattening stone to keep the whetstones in good working order. Whetstones tend to become wavy after several uses, as sharpening not only removes material from the knife but also the stone. Use the flattening stone to level the whetstone and increase its lifespan.
Anyone on the hunt for a high quality honing rod should check out this Wusthof model. This knife sharpening steel is 10 inches long, providing plenty of honing surface for large knives. It also has a plastic, slip-resistant handle for quick and easy sharpening.
This model is also magnetized to attract metal fibers during sharpening, ensuring that the blade is sharp and ready for use right away. The loop on the bottom of the handle affords a convenient way to keep the Wusthof on hand and nearby in any kitchen.
Sharpening ceramic knives requires a more precise, delicate touch than stainless or high-carbon blades might. Shenzhen Knives’ Electric Diamond Knife Sharpener is up to the task, with diamond grinding specially designed for ceramic blades.
This knife sharpener features a plug-in electric grinding wheel with coarse and fine diamond grits. The coarse slots feature an 18-degree grind angle, and the fine slots bring the blade to a final point of 20 degrees, sharpening ceramic blades without making them too brittle. And while it does a fine, fast job on ceramic blades, it easily sharpens stainless steel kitchen, pocket, and outdoor knives, too.
The Kitchellence Knife Sharpener is a three-stage, countertop model that includes a cut-resistant glove made of woven Kevlar fibers. This manual V-notch model features a three-stage sharpening process that utilizes tungsten steel blades as well as diamond and ceramic rods set at 15-degree angles. The user simply pulls the knife through, heel-to-point, for an extremely sharp finished product.
This very small model easily stows away until needed. The cut-resistant glove is a wise safety measure that can be used during other blade-related activities such as slicing cardboard, carpet, drywall, and more.
A honing rod is a perfect complement to a staged sharpening process. The Utopia Kitchen 12-inch model is made from steel, and it will only reshape the very edge of the grind without removing any metal, allowing users to get the longest possible use out of their knives.
The Utopia Kitchen 12-Inch Honing Rod’s handle is ergonomically designed to be comfortable and nonslip, increasing the level of safety. The rod can hone challenging serrated blades as well as standard knives. Cleanup is easy, requiring just a damp non-woven cloth with a bit of cooking oil.
FAQs About Knife Sharpeners
Even with an extensive background on the best knife sharpeners, some additional questions might pop up. The following section culls and answers some of the most frequently asked questions about knife sharpeners. Check for any further info you need below.
Q. Do you push or pull when sharpening a knife?
Most knife sharpeners require users to pull the blade through the device, but with whetstones, circular motions that include both pulling and pushing are necessary. This guide on how to sharpen a knife should help.
Q. At what angle should you hold a knife to sharpen it?
Sharpening a knife by hand can be difficult, as maintaining the ideal angle takes a lot of practice. However, the angle to hold a knife while sharpening varies between between 17 and 22 degrees for kitchen knives and 22 to 30 degrees for pocket knives.
Q. How often should you hone a knife?
Honing won’t reshape a blade nearly as quickly as sharpening, but it will help ensure the blade stays razor-sharp. For that reason, professional chefs hone their knives before every use.
Q. Do you wash a knife sharpener?
In most cases, washing a knife sharpener is not advisable as they can become gummed up with soap and filings. Sharpening steels (aka honing rods) can be wiped down with a damp cloth, while pull-through sharpeners can use a quick brushing with a mild brush. Washing and rinsing is never suggested.
Q. How long should a knife sharpener last?
A high-quality knife sharpener used properly can last for many years. The materials in the grinding wheels and rods don’t dull easIly, so a sharpener can remain effective and even outlast a set of kitchen knives.
A knife sharpener can help revive older knives and make them easier (and safer) to use. Armed with helpful information on choosing the best kitchen knife sharpener and the choices on this list, you should be able to make a purchase that will safely and effectively sharpen your knives for years to come.