- If you own a knife, you should probably own a knife sharpener, unless you want to pay a sharpening service.
- Our favorite knife sharpener for most kitchens is the Chef’s Choice Trizor XV EdgeSelect.
- We also have recommendations for manual pull-through, kit (jig system), and portable sharpeners.
There’s no way around it: at some point, your knives are going to need sharpening. And while sharp knives are dangerous, dull knives can be even more so. A dull edge requires more pressure to do its job, making it that much more likely to slip.
Since keeping a knife sharp can be a chore, the best sharpener is the one you’ll actually use. That’s why we spoke with third-generation butcher Pat LaFrieda, who spends just about every night of his life sharpening knives, for his expert input and recommendations.
If you don’t do much food prep or perform too many precise tasks (like, say, slicing sashimi), LaFrieda suggests pull-through sharpeners; they’re about as effective as sharpening steels, but much more user-friendly.
However, if you depend more heavily on your knives, an electric sharpener (if you have the space) is going to make your life easiest, followed by a jig system or a whetstone (just know these have a steeper learning curve).
We tested eleven sharpeners with a variety of knives, noting how easy the sharpeners were to use and how clean of an edge we were able to achieve on each blade. Below, we have recommendations for electric sharpeners, kits (jig systems), multi-stage pull-through sharpeners, and even one for taking on the go.
Here are the best knife sharpeners of 2021
- Best overall: Chef’s Choice Trizor XV EdgeSelect
- Best budget knife sharpener: Müeller Heavy-Duty 4-Stage Diamond Sharpener
- Best knife sharpening kit: Edge Pro Apex 2
- Best compact knife sharpener: KitchenIQ Edge Grip 2-Stage
The Chef’s Choice Trizor XV makes sharpening knives at home as quick and foolproof as can be.
Pros: Fast, even, precise, multiple bevel angles and ways to sharpen for different types of knives
Cons: Doesn’t work well with small (paring) knives or scissors
Electric sharpeners are the fastest, easiest, and most dependable tool for sharpening knives, and the Chef’s Choice Trizor XV offers three different bevels of 25, 20, and 15 degrees. Starting with the 25-degree bevel, you can work your way down to 15 degrees. For context, the sharpest kitchen knives on the market top out at 14 degrees, which is sharp enough to slice sashimi.
The proof is in the testing, of course. I took the edge off of a Victorinox Fibrox Extra Wide 8″ Chef’s Knife (our top recommendation for a budget chef’s knife) using concrete, and after less than five minutes running it through all three stages of the Trizor XV, it was shaving a path right through the hair on the back of my hand — something it couldn’t do very well even right out of the factory.
A three-stage sharpener includes a coarse stage, which takes off the most metal, a finer stage that evens out the burr (overhanging metal on the edge of the blade) from the coarse stage, and a third stage performs the stropping or honing function, usually using ceramic as opposed to the diamond-coated steel in the first two stages. Running your knives through the third stage every few weeks will keep the blades fresh and extend the time between sharpening.
What we like most about the Trizor XV (the XV refers to the 15-degree sharpener) is the spring-loaded sharpening blades that grip the knife’s edge at the correct angle, preventing you from damaging the blade as you pull it through. This is the main problem with pull-through sharpeners: too much pressure or a slight tilt as you draw the blade through and you’ll actually end up dulling your knife, or at least making a jagged edge that will be tough to fix.
The Trizor XV is also easy to store (there are no parts beyond the unit itself) and it requires almost no maintenance beyond occasional light cleaning, which involves opening a catchment system for filings.
While running through the three stations in order is the general way to sharpen a basic chef’s knife, you can also mix things up to better suit different types of blades. For example, Chef’s Choice recommends using stage one followed by stage three if your knife is intended for butchering, field dressing, or “highly fibrous material” in general. This helps retain “micro flutes” (flouted channels running near and perpendicular to the edge), which create a more abrupt edge to cut through fibers.
When it comes to filleting, you can use stages two and three, which will help retain even finer micro flutes, and prevent tender meat from tearing.
Lastly, running your knife through the third station will strop and polish blades, which will remove any burrs (or wire edge) and give it a light sharpening. You can do this every couple or few weeks to keep your blades fresh and extend the time between sharpening.
The best budget knife sharpener
Müeller’s Heavy-Duty 4-Stage Diamond Sharpener takes care of most knives and scissors for a surprisingly impressive result without breaking the bank.
Pros: Sharpens scissors as well as knives, three stages for knives
Cons: Doesn’t sharpen serrated knives, not the finest edge, but more than good enough for most
A pull-through sharpener strikes a happy balance between quality and convenience. You’re not going to get an edge that will appease a sushi chef, but you’ll be able to slice tomatoes (or trim raw fish for that matter) with the end result.
We tested seven pull-through sharpeners and found that Müeller’s Heavy-Duty 4-Stage Diamond Sharpener turned out the best edges with the least amount of difficulty and margin for error.
All of our research and expert interviews pointed us to three-stage sharpeners, and our testing confirmed that three stages seem to offer the best edge from a pull-through, but this model’s fourth stage, for scissors, certainly doesn’t hurt. Couple that with the fact that this sharpener is about the same price as less-intensive single-stage ones, and we had our pick.
We sharpened cheap drawer scissors and kitchen shears, as well as nearly-destroyed bait knives and fine German steel with this sharpener and while we didn’t get a perfect edge on the latter two (that would be tough with most sharpeners), we did get them serviceable again.
The most common issue we ran up against with pull-through sharpeners was getting a bite on edges without coarsely gouging away at them, which can be disastrous. With the exception of wider-angled pocket knife blades, everything ran through the Müeller smoothly, and most jobs were done in a matter of minutes.
No, you’re not going to completely restore knives with jagged edges or broken tips using this pull-through or any other, but for a quick but respectable edge freshening, nothing we tried within this price range offered the same treatment.
The best knife sharpening kit
Edge Pro’s Apex 2 offers the whetstone experience with foolproof control, allowing you to get your edges (almost) as sharp as the pros.
Pros: Sharpens all knives, adjustable bevel settings
Cons: Suction-cup grip doesn’t work on all surfaces, best for kitchen knives (you can augment your kit for other knives though)
A sharpening kit, and specifically a jig system like Edge Pro’s Apex 2, is essentially a whetstone kit with training wheels. You get absolute control while using the most traditional sharpening tools (a set of ceramic stones) without the hassle of having to intimately understand the edges of your blades.
Edge Pro offers several different kits, but the Apex 2 is a great place to start for those just looking to sharpen kitchen knives. You get three stones of 220, 400, and 600 grit ceramic, the kit itself, an 8″ ceramic hone, a microfiber towel, a water bottle for careful dousing, and a black carrying case. It’s everything you need and nothing you don’t.
We found the Apex 2 exceptionally easy to set up and put to work, thanks to the marked angles on the vertical rod on which the jig pivots. We also appreciated the instruction manual; it offers tips on how to find the edge of your blade by using a permanent marker, which will ensure you don’t ruin it.
If you’re new to sharpening, you’ll probably want to practice on a knife that you’re not terribly worried about, but you’ll get comfortable soon enough (and much sooner than if you were to use whetstones freehand).
The only thing we don’t like about the Apex kits is that they’re held in place by suction cups. While they work extremely well on high-gloss surfaces, they wouldn’t stick to my workbench or my card table, where I like to handle messier tasks, and I had to buy a bench mount for $27. That said, since most people are sharpening in their kitchen and many might not have enough of an overhanging edge on their countertops for a vice or clamp, we understand how the suction cups may be useful.
We’ve recommended the Apex 4 in the past because it’s a little better suited to polishing Japanese knives, but it’s not necessary for most people, and you’ll do just fine with everything from shears to serrated knives using the Apex 2.
This kit will last you an incredibly long time, and it will handle every kind of knife in your kitchen and then some (though if you really want to branch out you may want to invest in a few other items). We brought back everything from absolutely tortured bait knives from a fishing boat to chipped carbon blades on Japanese knives with little trouble at all. Plus, we have to admit that it’s sort of fun to use.
The best compact knife sharpener
If you don’t have room in your kitchen for a full-sized sharpener or you want something you can take on the go, the KitchenIQ Edge Grip 2 Stage Sharpener will get the job done and neatly tuck away.
Pros: Small, stable, effective for basic sharpening and finishing, works on serrated blades
Cons: You won’t get as refined of an edge as with a three-stage sharpener, not good for scissors
The Kitchen IQ 2-Stage Knife Sharpener is almost as basic as knife sharpening gets, and if it’s the difference between you owning a sharpener — any sharpener — and not, spend the $10 and your knife work will become infinitely better, and perhaps more importantly, safer.
There’s not much to this little number: the carbide blades make up the coarse treatment and the ceramic ones do the fine work to touch up the edge. What we like about it over the others in this size class is that it does have two stages as opposed to one, and it is incredibly stable with a low center of gravity and a comfortable grip. Out of almost all of the sharpeners we tested, this was by far the least likely to topple over.
Of course, it also fits in your drawer, or your pocket for that matter. Either way, it’s not going to occupy precious space, and you can take it on the go. It’s not going to perform any miracle work on far-gone cutlery, but keeping it in regular use will keep the working knives you do have in commission, which is all most of us need anyhow.
It’s a great backup tool to have in your kitchen, and easy enough to pull out of the drawer and draw a knife or two through it a few times before prepping for dinner. It won’t break the bank, and you may rely on it more than you expect.
What else we tested
AccuSharp: This one doesn’t offer the cleanest sharpening, but it is extremely safe and does a decent touch-up for those less inclined to spend time sharpening knives. Still, we found it to be the quickest and easiest to use, which goes a long way.
Lansky D-Sharp: This is a great pick for those looking to take a sharpener on the go, and especially those looking to keep a variety of knives sharp. With 17-, 21-, and 25-degree angles as well as a ceramic edge for honing, you can use this palm-sized sharpener with anything from a fillet knife to a pocket knife. This doesn’t do the finest job, but it’s versatile, extremely thin (about half an inch) and only a few inches long, so it’ll fit in any kit.
Work Sharp E2: If you want a more affordable option for an electric sharpener, this is a great (and more compact) option, but you’ll have to operate it with a little more finesse or you’ll torture your blade like you would misusing most any sharpener. Unlike the Chef’s Choice Trizor XV, it also works well with scissors.
Our testing methodology
We dulled a few different types of knives for this guide, ranging from lower-quality 440 stainless steel (including a cheap pocket knife) to mid-quality X50CrMoV15 steel to finer VG-10 (a relatively high-carbon steel with vanadium and chromium and molybdenum for a hybrid between German- and Japanese-style blades).
We then ran each knife through every sharpener we tested (11 in all), weeding out ones that clearly, off the bat, weren’t working as well as others.
After we were pleased with the sharpness of the knife, we ran it through a sheet of paper and along the outward sheet of a folded high-gloss magazine, which is Bob Kramer’s method for testing sharpness. We then took them back to the kitchen where we made sure they could slice tomatoes and skin-on onions under little to no more than their own weight.
We also spoke with metallurgist and MIT senior lecturer Michael J. Tarkanian, as well as Pat LaFrieda, the famed butcher behind LaFrieda Meat Purveyors, to learn what types of sharpeners work best, and which ones should be left to the professionals.
While whetstones and grinding wheels reign supreme, we found through experience and interviews with the experts above, as well as others, that they require a certain level of prowess most home cooks don’t have. Grinding wheels can also be very, very dangerous.
If you’re really after a whetstone, the ones we recommend based on past testing are Smith’s TRI-6 Arkansas TRI-HOME Sharpening System, but generally, we’ve found that electric, pull-through, kits (specifically, jig systems), and portable options are best for most people.
Our general criteria for consideration included:
Convenience: Above all, a sharpener has to be simple enough to use that it doesn’t prevent you from ever putting it to use at all. We made sure that each sharpener we tested worked with basic instructions. A whetstone, on the other hand, requires a level of expertise that most home cooks don’t have. Further to that point, a grinding wheel is incredibly dangerous and has no place in most homes. We also took note of efficiency: how long did it take to sharpen a knife sufficiently? Although, convenience and quality are generally non-correlative. Specifically, when pull-through sharpeners were quick to sharpen, they usually left edges fairly rough and jagged.
Safety: Sharpening knives can be dangerous, so a stable device is paramount to ensuring safety. Some options we tried didn’t necessarily inspire confidence in that department, so they were set aside. Each of the sharpeners we ended up recommending is on the sturdier and safer side.
Materials: We found that kits with whetstones offered the most precision, but a combination of diamond and ceramic pull-through options offered a lot for the relatively quick pass most home cooks are willing to give their knives.
Versatility: Some sharpeners — including most pull-through options — only offer a single setting. These work in a pinch, but we found that at least three options (one for coarse sharpening, one for fine sharpening, and one for polishing) serviced a knife best, while a fourth, for scissors and serrated blades, offered the most versatility.
Size: We considered sharpeners based on size depending on where one might keep them. Some fit in drawers, some required a devoted shelf within a cabinet, and others fit in your pocket. Larger sharpeners performed better almost across the board, but we also considered the needs of those looking for a portable sharpener.
What we look forward to testing
We are still looking at more pull-through options, but we will also be recommending both honing steels (we haven’t found much difference from one brand to the next, but we’re happy with this one from Victorinox) and e-commerce-based sharpening services.
Chef’s Choice Pronto Pro 4643: This is a pull-through option we’ve recommended in the past, but after testing and researching so many more, we’re not sure you need to spend so much on a pull-through sharpener, as you can find quality electric sharpeners for about the same price. We’ll be putting it through more testing and reporting back soon.
KnifeAid: At nearly $13 a sharpening, this is probably going to cost you a little more than taking your knives to a local sharpener — provided you have one. For convenience’s sake, we’re going to consider KnifeAid and other sharpening services. The one thing you’ll need to keep in mind is that your knives will be out for a while, so you’ll need a backup or three in the meantime.
Angle: Each blade edge has an angle set in the factory. Most kitchen knives will range from about 14° to 20° per side.
Bevel: The surface of a blade that has been ground to create the angle and edge
Edge: The sharp side(s) of a blade
Electric sharpeners: Electric sharpeners are similar to pull-through, but with exponential precision. These are the best for most people where convenience, efficiency, and precision are concerned. They do tend to be larger and harder to store, though.
Honing: Maintaining (by way of aligning) the edge of a blade
Jig systems, or kits: You can think of a jig system or kit as a whetstone with training wheels. You’re still using and wetting ceramic stones, you just have a stationary axis that allows you to position the jig (to which the stone attaches) and measure out precise angles. These are more involved than other options, but behind a whetstone, they offer most of us the optimal end result.
Pull-through sharpeners: The most basic option, but also the most cursory, a pull-through sharpener is made using opposing steel (often diamond-coated) and sometimes ceramic edges, which remove steel from the edge of your blade as you draw it through the wedge. These will do the job for quick touch-ups but don’t usually perform well when trying to bring back a seriously dull or damaged blade.
Stropping: The polishing of a blade, often with leather, after it has been sharpened
Whetstone: While whetstones indisputably offer the greatest sharpening potential, they really only do so in the hands of a pro. If you’re looking to make a hobby of knife sharpening, be our guest, but know that you’ll have a learning curve with which to contend.
Check out our other great knife buying guides