You no longer dice onions—you can only mash them. You’re not so much cutting into a steak as you are wrestling with it. The truth is as clear as your slices aren’t: Your trusty kitchen knives are in need of sharpening.
If it’s been a while or if this is your very first foray into knife maintenance, you might not have the proper tools on hand to get your knives’ edge back. While a honing steel is a great piece of equipment for keeping well-kept knives aligned, it’s not going to cut it (pun absolutely intended) if your blades are already decidedly dull. If that’s the case, you’ll need to up the ante.
According to Fleishers Craft Butchery’s head butcher Jason Yang, shop butcher manager Kyle McCarthy, and butcher manager Sam Masler, you’ll want to use either a traditional whetstone or a device that allows you to pull the knife through opposing abrasive surfaces without grinding or warping the blade. “This is fast and easy because it mimics the cutting motion, and one doesn’t have to worry about setting an angle to regain the edge of the knife,” the team explains. There are other options out there, like V-shaped sharpeners, that will undoubtedly make your knives sharpener, but they might not preserve their quality for as long as these methods.
It can get confusing. Here, we’ll help light the way through your shopping experience and highlight some of the best knife sharpeners on the market right now, as picked by the Fleishers team and online reviewers.
Working with a whetstone takes practice, but the team at Fleishers attests that it “yields excellent results in sharpness and can increase the longevity of your knives.” The stones from Shapton are the team’s everyday, go-to sharpeners. They recommend starting with a 1000 or 2000 grit stone then polishing the knife’s edge with a finer, 4000 grit stone.
Boasting four different grits between two sharpening stones, plus a flattening stone to maintain the sharpeners and a bamboo board to keep everything from slipping, this whetstone set has more than earned its online praise. Reviewers call it a great place to start for beginners and excellent value for its price tag.
Another, more budget-friendly option when it comes to whetstones is this dual-sided stone from King. Where the 1000 grit side reestablishes a razor-sharp edge, the 6000 grit side polishes the blade “magnificently,” as one reviewer put it. Another wrote that, after five minutes of sharpening, this stone brought a knife that “couldn’t cut butter if it were hot” back to working order.
This stylish set of sharpening stones from one of the world’s topmost bladesmiths will take your knives from dull to paper-cut sharp to finely polished in three easy steps. It doesn’t hurt that they’re pretty enough to display (use the cabinet space for something else). The accompanying instructional DVD guides even the newest of newcomers to knife maintenance through the process.
Unlike the ceramic options above, this whetstone is made from natural rock sourced from an underwater mine in Japan. But it isn’t all about aesthetics—Masuta matches its form with high-performing function. Reviewers appreciated how hard and long-lasting this stone proved to be, with some noting that it’s particularly effective at polishing and finishing knives.
The ultra-coarse 250 grit stone in this two-stone set will refine even the dullest, most out-of-shape of blades. One reviewer wrote that these stones made their knives "feel like new again."
Consider this set of whetstones as the ideal “finishing touches” kit: Not only do the stones finely sharpen and polish, but its rust-removing sponge rubs away the kind of corrosion and scuffs that inevitably come with time and use. One reviewer went so far as to say that it yielded all their other sharpeners “useless.”
Whetstones aside, this is the Fleishers team’s pick for beginners and seasoned knife users alike. “This is a great first knife sharpener: It’s easy to use and store, and will get your knife sharp with very little effort,” they explain, adding that its spring-loaded feature adjusts to fit any knife’s angle, which prevents the blade from being damaged while getting sharpened.
The team points to this versatile device from Work Sharp, which employs a motorized abrasive band to sharpen virtually every variety of knife, as another excellent alternative to a whetstone, stating that it “brings professional knife sharpening into the home.” A bonus: It’ll also sharpen your scissors and garden shears.
Using the same spring-loaded features as the Fleishers team’s pick from F. Dick, this sharpener seamlessly adjusts to the angle of your knife, from 12 to 20 degrees.
This adjustable sharpener returns an edge to dulled knives within seconds, thanks in no small part to the safety handle that keeps users’ fingers well out of harm’s way.
Do you have a favorite knife sharpener? Tell us about it in the comments below.
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