The 10 Best Knife Sharpeners of 2021, Tested by Allrecipes
Few things are as satisfying as a brand new knife that still has that razor-sharp, factory edge. But with consistent (or even inconsistent) use over time, that blade that was once sharp enough to cut through paper now struggles to get through a tomato.
But just because your trusted chef's knife is dull doesn't necessarily mean you need to go out and buy a new one. Knives are meant to be sharpened and resharpened. With minimal effort, you can bring your knives back to life using a knife sharpener. But with so many types on the market, where do you even begin?
We tested the top-rated knife sharpeners on the market, including manual sharpeners, electric sharpeners, whetstones, and even honing rods (though not technically sharpeners, but more on this later). Keep reading for our thoughts on the 10 best knife sharpeners of 2021, plus learn all about the different types of sharpeners so you can select the right one for your needs.
Best Knife Sharpeners at a Glance
- Best Overall Knife Sharpener: Brod & Taylor Professional Knife Sharpener
- Best Value Knife Sharpener: Kitchen IQ Sharpener
- Best Electric Knife Sharpener: Chef's Choice Trivor XV
- Best Knife Sharpener for Daily Maintenance: Bob Kramer Double-Cut Honing Steel
- Best Whetstone Knife Sharpener: Sharpal Diamond Whetstone
- Best Knife Sharpener for Japanese Knives: Global MinoSharp Ceramic Wheel Water Sharpener
Types of Knife Sharpeners
Arguably the most approachable type of knife sharpener, manual or pull-through sharpeners are a great choice for those new to knife sharpening. To use one, simply use the handle to keep the base secure on the countertop while you pull your knife through the sharpening slot. Oftentimes manual sharpeners will feature multiple slots with varying levels of abrasiveness.
Among the advantages of manual sharpeners is their safety, ease of use, and ability to quickly sharpen both sides of the blade at one time. However the most common critique of manual sharpeners (particularly inexpensive ones) is that they can strip away too much metal from the knives, so be sure not to use them too frequently.
Electric sharpeners, like manual ones, are great for beginners. You don't have to worry about holding your knife at the correct angle — electric sharpeners feature guides that make it easy to maintain the right angle. Simply insert your knife into one of the preset slots and slowly bring the knife towards you. The motorized, abrasive belts sharpen the blade at one stage, and then hone and/or polish the blade in later stages.
These types of sharpeners are relatively new to the market, but are becoming more and more popular for their ability to quickly sharpen knives to your preferred level of abrasion, without requiring you to maintain a certain angle. However, if used too often electric sharpeners can remove too much metal from your knives, significantly reducing their lifespan. They can also be noisy, and bulky to store.
Whetstones, also known as sharpening stones or water stones, give you maximum control over how you sharpen your knives. These are more commonly used among professionals, as they are not the most intuitive of kitchen tools. Whetstones require you to move your knife back and forth across the surface of the stone, all while maintaining a specific angle. They are most commonly used in combination with some type of lubricate, like water or oil, which creates a sludge that aids in the sharpening.
While whetstones are praised for their ability to sharpen knives without removing too much metal (and thus prolonging their lifespan), they can be difficult to use. You'll definitely need to consult the instruction manual, or even an instructional video or class before starting with a whetstone. You should also be aware that sharpening with a whetstone is going to take much longer than manual or electric sharpeners. Plus, all that oil or water is going to make for a messy task.
Honing and Sharpening Rods
Here's where things start to get a little technical. Although sometimes referred to as "sharpening rods," honing rods don't actually sharpen anything. Sharpening refers to removing material from the blade, unearthing a new, sharp edge. Honing on the other hand keeps this sharp edge in tip top shape by pushing the edge of the blade back into alignment. Think of it this way: Sharp knives have little teeth that can become misaligned with use. A honing rod pushes these teeth back into place so that your blade maintains its edge, reducing the amount of times you'll need to sharpen it.
Like whetstones, there is a technique to using a honing rod that can be somewhat difficult to master. But once you get the hang of it, you'll want to hone your knife after every use. Some manual or electric sharpeners include slots for honing, so a rod might not be necessary in those cases.
How We Tested Each Knife Sharpener
For this task, we called on product tester Samantha Lande to round up a collection of the best knife sharpeners on the market from familiar brands like Zwilling, Chef's Choice, and Cooks Standard. To test each sharpener, Samantha started by rounding up a collection of new, relatively inexpensive knives. Each one was dulled with sandpaper, because you need dull knives to test knife sharpeners! She also included some high-end, European knives, as well as a few Japanese-made knives. And when applicable, she tested serrated knives as well.
Samantha did a pre- and post-sharpening test on each knife, by using it to slice through a tomato. She paid special attention to the following factors:
- Ease of Use: How intuitive was the sharpener to use? Would it be better suited to someone more experienced at knife sharpening?
- Efficiency: How sharp did the knife get? Was it able to bring dull knives back to life?
- Cleaning/Storage: Is the sharpener difficult to clean? Does the sharpening process leave behind a mess? Can the unit be easily stored in a cabinet or drawer?
- Versatility: Is the sharpener compatible with serrated knives? What about non-kitchen items like scissors or pocket knives?
After much testing, Samantha narrowed it down to just six favorites. Wondering what else we tested? Keep reading to find her thoughts on the sharpeners that didn't quite make the cut.
The Best Knife Sharpeners of 2021
Best Overall: Brod & Taylor Professional Knife Sharpener
This machine almost looks like an art piece with its solid stainless steel base, which helps to hold it steady. With its Austrian tungsten carbide sharpeners, it can easily sharpen European knives in four to five swipes while the knife is pointed at a downward angle, and hone with a few additional swipes while the knife is pointed upward. It was our favorite pick for serrated knives as well.
The limitations here lie with Japanese knives as the videos on the site do explain that some of the very specific Japanese (sushi) knives may not sharpen as well on this machine.
Some of the other knife sharpeners we tested had a higher room for error as you reshaped the bevel (it's easy to scrape up the knife if you do it wrong), but this sharpener was pretty foolproof and came with great instruction. If you ever forget, the instructions are also imprinted on the bottom of the sharpener.
Cleanup was easy with just a quick wipe down of whatever metal may have dusted the floor of the sharpener. You could leave this one on the countertop as a discussion piece or store it in a cupboard. Since it isn't electric it's also portable to take with you just about anywhere your knives may go.
For those looking to spend less, the company also has a sharpener with the same blades for $59, but the base is made of nylon instead of stainless steel.
Buy it: Brod & Taylor Professional Knife Sharpener, $119; Amazon
Best Value: Kitchen IQ Sharpener
Much smaller than it appeared in the advertisement, this little workhorse fits in the palm of your hand. It is easy enough for a novice to use and does a good job for the occasional knife sharpen. Will it reshape your blades to a new, better angle? No, but it will sharpen both regular and dull knives. Run it through the carbonide, "coarse" side to sharpen and the "fine" ceramic side for serrated or for polishing the knife.
"Small enough to fit in your silverware drawer, it would be silly not to own one of these," says Samantha. "You could throw it in your bag to take pretty much anywhere."
The sharpener has a gripped edge/bottom, so it sticks well to the surface and won't slip while you hold your knives steady to pull through.
Buy it: Kitchen IQ Sharpener, $17; Amazon
Best Electric: Chef's Choice Trivor XV
After reading through the instructions once, it was easy to understand how to use this high-performance knife sharpener. It works well on everything from inexpensive, run-of-the-mill kitchen knives to more specialized and expensive chef knives — and serrated knives too, which many sharpeners don't do, or don't do well.
This isn't an inexpensive sharpener at close to $160, but it does boast diamond abrasives for sharpening and honing, and a third slot for polishing and sharpening serrated knives. It turns extremely dull knives sharp again. For most home cooks, sharpening should last at least a few months.
After the first sharpening, all subsequent sharpening takes under a minute. For touch ups and in between maintenance you can polish up your knives on occasion in slot three.
"It is one of the larger sharpeners," Samantha says, "so if you are tight on space in the kitchen you'll need to tuck this one away elsewhere."
Buy it: Chef's Choice Trivor XV, $160; Amazon
Best for Daily Maintenance: Bob Kramer Double-Cut Honing Steel
Although honing isn't the same as sharpening, honing rods go hand in hand with regular knife maintenance. For those looking for something for daily upkeep, this honing rod is a solid and sturdy choice.
The learning curve on honing isn't easy and it took us a while to get the hang of it. There are good videos available to help you understand proper angle and pressure needed.
"Honing is not for dull knives," says Samantha. "Make sure you are using this tool only with knives that need a touchup."
The rod has two sides for honing and two for polishing. Designed by master bladesmith Bob Kramer in conjunction with Zwillings, this is a high-quality product you can trust.
Buy it: Bob Kramer Double-Cut Honing Steel, $60; Sur La Table
Best Whetstone: Sharpal Diamond Whetstone
Whetstones are simple sharpeners to use, but keep in mind that they need to be used in conjunction with water or oil. This version uses Monocrystalline Diamond, which only gets better with use. It does take some practice trying to get the hang of the whetstone, but the included angle guide is helpful in knowing how to hold the knife. There are two sides, one to sharpen and one to hone, and the base doubles as a carrying case so you can easily store this one in a drawer.
"If you like the feeling and control of sharpening on a whetstone, this is a good pick," says Samantha. Many say whetstones preserve the life of the knife longer than electric sharpeners, which shave off tiny shards of the blade.
This whetstone can also be used to sharpen things outside of the kitchen including scissors, pocket knives, and axes.
Buy it: Sharpal Diamond Whetstone, $39; Amazon
Best for Japanese Knives: Global MinoSharp Ceramic Wheel Water Sharpener
Not all knife sharpeners are made for every type of knife, and Japanese blades often don't sharpen as well in the European-designed sharpeners. Their blades are often thinner and more delicate than their European counterparts. They may also sometimes need to be sharpened at a different angle.
The knife sharpener did an excellent job with the Japanese-made Global knives in multiple sizes. This ceramic wheel sharpener can be used for other knives as well, but due to its thickness, the European chef knife was a little more difficult to get sharp (although it's still doable).
The sharpener itself is incredibly lightweight. You do need to pour water into the wheel which resulted in a little bit of dripping onto the cutting board, but it was simple to wipe up. This one must be dried thoroughly before storing.
Buy it: Global MinoSharp Ceramic Wheel Water Sharpener Plus, $65; Amazon
Other Knife Sharpeners We Tested
Work Sharp Culinary E5
We really enjoyed using this knife sharpener. It is super simple to use and the capabilities are endless. However, at a $200 price point we were disappointed that an added kit was necessary to do some of the other angling. It was great how the sharpener automatically alerted you as to when you should switch to the next step of sharpening. For someone who has a wide variety of knives and wants a sharpener with all of the bells and whistles, this would come highly recommended.
Buy it: Work Sharp Culinary E5, $200; Amazon
Sharp Pebble 1000/6000 Dual Grit Sharpening Stone
Some people truly appreciate sharpening with a whetstone, but our tester found it to be a bit messy and clunky. The whetstone had to be soaked in water for 10-15 minutes before use, and then kept wet the whole time. It did a good job sharpening, and the base held the whetstone steady, but it just wasn't worth the pre-sharpening prep and then the post-sharpening dry with other, less labor-intensive options. Plus, after just a few sharpenings the stone already showed significant markup.
Buy it: Sharp Pebble 1000/6000 Dual Grit Sharpening Stone, $40; Amazon
Cooks Standard Professional Ceramic Rod Knife Sharpening Steel
This ceramic sharpening steel is inexpensive, but it is limited in scope. Ceramic is strong but delicate — one drop on the floor and this thing will shatter in a million pieces. Similar to the whetstone, it also easily shows markings. That said, if you are getting in the habit of sharpening knives and you want to get into the game at $10, this is a good one to try.
Buy it: Cooks Standard Professional Ceramic Rod Knife Sharpening Steel, $10; Amazon
Presto 08800 EverSharp Electric Knife Sharpener
We quite liked using this electric sharpener, and at a price point of around $50, it's a machine that will certainly get the job done well if you don't need it for a variety of specialized knives. It took a little while to get the pressure right (too much pressure stopped the motor). But once we did it was so simple for our tester to sharpen her chef and steak knives.
It is not meant for sharpening serrated blades. It nicely suctioned to the countertop and remained steady while sharpening and it's smaller than the other electric sharpeners we used, making it a great for smaller spaces, too.
Buy it: Presto 08800 EverSharp Electric Knife Sharpener, $45; Amazon
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