Do kitchen knife sharpeners work?


There are so many knife sharpeners out there today. It’s easy to get confused. Not knowing what to buy or not knowing which of these knife sharpeners actually work is probably one of the main reasons people tend to rely on professional advice, which unfortunately is not always an honest one.

Check out here the best kitchen knives you can buy.

Do kitchen knife sharpeners work? All knife sharpening tools get the job done to some degree, however depending on the sharpener you choose to use and the knife type, there might be some things you should know before making any purchase.

The pull-through sharpener was the very first sharpening tool I had ever used. Back then, I was 13 and had an overly protective mother (like most mothers). She would not let me do anything unless she considered it safe. But when it came to the kitchen, because I spend soo much time with her, handling a knife was something she did trust me with (a little).

And sharpening was one of the first things she had taught me. Back then, pull through sharpeners were really in and were also really cheap and they lasted a long time. I guess the ease of use was probably one of the main reasons why most of the people repurchased it then.

You basically could find it in most households, and surprisingly you still can today. Back then, we did not have any fancy knives, so pull-through got the job done, and to be frank, we were happy with the results.

However, little did we know that we were dramatically shortening the lifespan of our knives, nor did we realize we were sharpening way too often.

It was only many years later (once I started culinary school) that I started using other types of sharpening methods for the first time. And when I saw the differences, and how knives held their edges longer. I quickly learned that pull-through sharpeners were actually damaging our blades in the long run.

This was the case for any type of knife, such as serrated knives, for example. However, it does not change the fact that it did what it was meant to do, which was sharpening, although not perfectly.

What type of knife sharpeners works best?

I already mentioned the pull-through method, and I will come back to it in detail in a sec. However, I wanted to take the chance to go through which sharpener is, in my opinion, the best. Please bear in mind that all of the sharpeners out there today have some type of drawback.

When one might be easy to handle (like the pull-through), but you might hurt your knife in the long run. Others would be much harder to get a handle on, but you would have much more significant and long-lasting results. I have made a list of the most common types and the pros and cons, and I will leave for you to decide which suits you best.

Type ProsCons
Manual pull through knife sharpenerEasy to use.
Can be very cheap
Misconception one size fit for all
Ceramic wheel sharpeners can cause Chips and chunks with Japanese knives
No way to use pull-through if you have a knife with a bolster
Can permanently damage your blade
Is bad for your knife in the long run
Electric knife sharpenerEasy to use if you follow the guidelinesCan be expensive
if you are not holding the angle correctly, you might end up with uneven edges
Removes way too much metal
More prone to accidents if you are new at this.
Sharpening / Honing SteelThe learning curve is not too hard.
Might improve cutting abilities
Relatively inexpensive
Regular Hones do not remove steel it is only for honing so one should be careful to pick the correct one.
Cannot fix a blade that is dull.
Cannot remove nicks.
Wet stone sharpening
It gives you the best results.
Longer sharp edges.
Fastest to sharpen your knives (depends on the stones you are suing)
You might need some time to get the hang of it.
Requires steady hand
Some stones can be expensive

Why you should stay away from a pull-through sharpener.

There are a few other reasons outside of the first two I have already mentioned why you should be avoiding this sharpening method altogether. And most of them are things you probably did not realize or even think about. But it is also depending on what version you are using.

To give an example, if we were to talk about the ceramic wheel sharpeners, they tend to get chips and chunks out of thin blades, or with some models, you would have a higher chance to cut yourself. But the biggest reason is that there is no one size fits all pull-through sharpener.

I am sorry, but this is a common misconception. The angle on the edge is different on all knives, so sharpening it on an angle that is fixed, makes it really hard to get it right. Most quality Japanese knives have offset bevels, so how can a plastic box with fixed ceramic wheels know the difference?

Another but less affecting reason is that you can’t sharpen a knife with a bolster using a pull-through sharpener.

Ok fine, do electric knife sharpeners work?

Electric knife sharpeners are in the same boat as the standard pull-through sharpening tool. They are easy to use and get the job done much faster, but for a price, and on top of that, there are some aspects of it I simply do not like. I realize that the majority of people don’t want to go through the hassle and taking all the steps when it comes to sharpening.

They thus, instead, go for an easy and quick fit. But in case you are using an expensive knife or a Japanese knife, I would strongly suggest avoiding automatic electric knife sharpeners altogether. Firstly, you will lose a lot of metal when sharpening, which leads to a short lifespan of your knife. Second, it is dangerous!

If I am distracted or the knife slips, I might dig the edge into the spinning grindstone in the sharpener. That is not a disaster, but it might mean a time-consuming reprofiling of the knife. Misaligning is another thing that you should consider.

The Chef’s Choice line seems to control the blade pretty well. But the electric motor just means it sharpens a bit faster than manual models, and if you push too much (which commonly happens if you are not used to it), you will end up with too much pressure being applied unevenly downwards on the blade.

This will generate heat, which will ruin the metal of the edge, strip away excess material, and create a wavy edge that won’t stay straight to the cutting surface and potentially leave things not cut properly. Lastly, in case you have a serrate knife, it will smooth out or remove the serrations.

What is the best kitchen knife sharpener?

The best sharpener is the one that suits you best. I know that this answer might not satisfy you, but this is the best advice I can give. Some people are lazy, and some do not have the time or patience, in the end, we all have different lives and priorities.

If you have a professional knife, please do not use a pull-through or electric sharpener, as mentioned earlier. However, if you do not want to spend a lot on a knife and are ok with switching (and buying a new one) regularly, then a pull-through will do the job. If you are in the middle class, I would recommend using sharpening steel (not honing just be clear).

But if you have an expensive knife, please respect the blade and use a wet stone or at least let it be sharpened by a professional. I would go for a wet stone any day. Even with small knives and or with cheap knives, I will always work with wet stones. Once you get used to sharpening in this method, it becomes therapeutic.

It will give you satisfaction when you finish, and in all honesty, you’ll feel proud when you see the end product. Time is all you need when it comes to using wet stones. You do not need to buy anything expensive in the beginning. In fact, I would suggest starting with a cheaper one to see if this method really fits you.

If it does and you get the hang of it, you can switch to a more expensive/professional one. Here is a tip, buy honing steel and every time you are going to use your knife, hone it. This way, your knife will stay sharp for a very long time, and you would not need to sharpen it so often.

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