Nothing will ruin the experience of meal prep quite so thoroughly as a dull knife — making it slower and making the food messier. Despite that unimpeachable fact, knife sharpeners are far less common in the average kitchen than many. Some pro chefs sharpen their knives daily, but a home cook would benefit hugely from sharpening their knives even just once a month.
To illustrate how crucial a knife sharpener can be, consider this: I’ve used a number ofover the years and come to appreciate each of them for their unique feel — the heavy-duty Wusthof (my first chef’s knife) is great for cubing squash, whereas I love my Global knife for more delicate knife work. A super sharp knife feels great to use. You can cut tomatoes without even wrinkling the skin, or chiffonade leafy herbs without bruising the leaves. But even a premium chef’s knife will dull over time, and $150 (let alone ) can feel like a waste when your Mac cuts as well as a $10 generic knife after only a few months. The best knife sharpener will help you extend the longevity of your investments and keep a blade edge sharp for years.
The good news is kitchen knife sharpeners don’t have to be huge investments. Like with 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 20 times that get you a knife sharpening system that keeps your chef’s knife’s edge as sharp as new in perpetuity.
There are lots of tools out there for knife maintenance — I’m sure you’re all familiar with the knife sharpening stone and sharpening rod — but I wanted the knife sharpening process to be a little easier. So CNET tested the heck out of some sharpeners to figure out which ones will always result in a sharp knife, so you won’t have to worry about the angle or anything else, and you’ll still get a razor-sharp edge from a formerly blunt knife. Here are CNET’s picks for the best knife sharpener for your chef’s knife. We’re going to update it as we test more products.
A note, though: This list is just for chef’s knives. Other types of knives, like a hunting knife or a serrated knife will need a different kind of sharpening kit or sharpening tool to combat a dull blade.
The best sharpener I used while testing was the $160 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 ensure the correct sharpening angle, 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 ($160 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 KitchenIQ 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 this manual knife sharpener’s sharpening tracks each day.
The KitchenIQ sharpening system 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 KitchenIQ 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 KitchenIQ 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.