This page was updated in August 2020.
Knives are one of the most commonly used pieces of kitchen kit, but you won’t get very far with one if it’s blunt.
A good sharpener can make a top chopper out of even the cheapest of blades. A dull, unsharpened knife is actually less safe to use than a sharp one – some professional chefs will even sharpen their knives daily.
While lots of chefs swear by rod-shaped steel sharpeners or whetstones, abrasive hand-held block sharpeners are a good option for household kitchens as they’re so easy to use – the wheel action is intuitive and safe. For that reason, we reviewed these types of sharpeners only.
AnySharp knife sharpener
Most innovative knife sharpener
Best bits: Compact size and suction base
Comments: This diminutive gadget is a seriously smart invention. The smallest sharpener we tried, it takes up barely any kitchen space, and the lever secures the suction base to the surface incredibly firmly – so much so, you could sharpen using just one hand. It feels safe, it’s intuitive to use, and after three pulls, our blunt knife was very sharp.
ProCook twin wheel knife sharpener
Best knife sharpener for all-round performance
Pros: Excellent sharpening stone and safe-to-use handle
Comments: This sharpened our knife beautifully, and was probably the best sharpening stone of all. The handle ensures your hand stays a safe distance away from the blade area, and the suggestion of adding water to lubricate the wheels worked a treat.
EKA Firesharp knife sharpener
Best knife sharpener for the outdoor cook
Pros: Portable, with a quick sharpening function
Comments: A good choice for a budding Bear Grylls, this tiny, portable pocket sharpener could be fitted to a keyring. However, without a handle or suction mechanism, this requires a steady, experienced hand to use it safely.
Robert Welch Signature hand-held knife sharpener
Best ergonomical knife sharpener
Pros: Super-comfortable handle and sturdy feel
Comments: This sturdy sharpener has only one setting, but still sharpens well. The handle is comfy and easy to hold, and the thumb guard makes it feel extra safe.
Tested by Barney Desmazery
Which knife sharpener should I buy?
Lots of knife enthusiasts swear by a traditional steel for sharpening, but in actual fact, this metal rod ‘hones’ a knife, which essentially means it realigns the blade – this, strictly speaking, doesn’t sharpen it. This knife skills video shows you how to use a steel. Whetstones usually come as a flat block of stone, and while they’re very efficient, require a certain amount of skill to use them properly. Hand-held sharpeners are usually small, compact and the best choice for home cooks or beginners – they often come with a safety guard and the wheel action is very intuitive to use. For that reason, we tested hand-held sharpeners only.
What we looked for
Ease of use and comfort: We looked for sharpeners that can be used by people of all skill levels.
Sturdiness and steadiness: A sharpener that feels robust and is steady both in the hand and on the work surface.
Safety: A top priority – waving sharp pieces of metal around is no trifling kitchen matter! We looked for sharpeners with safety functions and guards to protect against nasty accidents.
Sharpness: The ultimate test. We looked for sharpeners that quickly and efficiently grind a knife to optimum sharpness – a freshly honed knife should be able to cut through a piece of paper.
Groundness of blade: We marked down sharpeners that left blades with rough edges.
How to use a knife sharpener
To use a hand-held knife sharpener, place the heel of the knife in the groove. Apply light pressure, then pull the knife towards you from heel to tip in a firm steady stroke. Repeat four or five times until the knife is sharp again. Some sharpeners have two grooves with the first being for sharpening the blade and the second, to hone it.
Once the knife is sharp don’t be tempted to carry on as it could make the knife blunt again. Serrated knives can be sharpened in the same way, but while the blade sharpens, its teeth will be gradually worn down.
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This review was last updated August 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.