If you don’t already know, I’m from Canada. That being said, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion I play hockey, right? I’d be upset about the stereotyping if it weren’t true. I haven’t hit the ice in a long time, but I did play every season for over 20 years.
Were I to suit up and play today, I’d likely skate like I was up to my knees in molasses. My excuse would be, of course, that my skates needed sharpening. That has been every mediocre hockey player’s excuse since the game was invented.
The truth is, I do skate better on sharp blades, just like even an average chef will do a better job cutting meat with a sharp knife.
What I’m trying to say is you can’t let the condition of your equipment hold you back from doing your best work. Good knives are essential if you want to prep and serve meat to the best of your abilities, and you won’t do yourself any favors letting a good knife get dull.
In this article, we’ll cover what electric knife sharpeners are good for, how to use one, what features you want in a good electric knife sharpener, and finish with a round-up of some of the best units available.
In the end, you should either be able to choose your new electric sharpener with confidence or know that an electric is not for you so you can look at other types.
All set? Game on!
At a Glance: The 5 Best Electric Knife Sharpeners to Suit All Budgets and Needs
- Presto EverSharp Electric Knife Sharpener
- Grocery Art Electric Knife Sharpener Tool 3-in-1
- Chef’sChoice 15 XV Trizor Professional
- I.O.Shen Nirey Knife Wizard
- Chef’s Choice Commercial Model 2000
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.
Contents - Click to Jump to Section
What is a Knife Sharpener and Why Do I Need One?
A knife sharpener is any device that restores and maintains the cutting edge of a knife blade. In a nutshell, the blade is rubbed or dragged along a hard, rough surface, removing minute amounts of metal until the cutting edge is thinned and sharp.
Knives dull with repeated use, and a dull knife is hard to work with.
Not having a sharp blade can slow you down, and make it difficult to perform essential tasks associated with barbecuing, such as deboning, filleting, slicing, and carving.
A dull knife can also slip during cutting, creating a higher potential for injury. So a sharper knife is actually safer.
Why do Blades Become Dull?
Repeated use, inappropriate use, and poor storage are all reasons why knives become dull. But what is actually causing the blade to lose its edge?
Repeated contact with hard surfaces, like cutting boards, plates, or bones, can cause the thin edge of the blade to fold or roll and may cause small nicks. You probably can’t see these imperfections, but you’ll notice them eventually.
Even the mild abrasiveness of food will have a similar effect. These tiny folds will eventually turn a sharp wedge into a flatter or boxier shape, albeit on a microscopic level.
Folds may also break off before they roll completely over, leaving a blunt edge behind.
How Do I Know When My Knife Needs Sharpening?
You’ll probably begin to notice your knife isn’t doing the job as easily as it once did.
Not only will you be expending extra effort, but you may also find you’re tearing or crushing instead of slicing. In some cases, you may even be able to see the damage on the blade.
If honing your knife (a restorative process, and not a full sharpening – we’ve covered honing in a separate article, by the way) doesn’t restore the sharp edge, that means the folding process is too far-gone, and it’s time for sharpening.
Why Choose an Electric Knife Sharpener Over Other Types?
The main reasons? Ease of use, and no skill required. They are a sharpener for all.
An electric sharpener takes a lot of the guesswork out of sharpening. Multi-stage sharpeners are clearly labeled, making it easy to go through the sharpening process without worrying about which grit to choose.
Built-in guides ensure you’re sharpening your knife at the correct angle – preserving the angle of the cutting edge is crucial to maintaining peak performance.
Electric sharpeners are also fast – the spinning sharpening surfaces get the job done far faster than any manual system. If you’re not interested in spending a lot of time manually sharpening your knives (a Zen-like experience for some enthusiasts), an electric sharpener may be for you.
How To Use an Electric Knife Sharpener
Ease of use is one of the key reasons to own an electric knife sharpener, as I just stated above. Still, there is a right and a wrong way to use one. Here are the steps you’ll want to follow:
- Clean and dry the knife
- Turn on the sharpener
- Place the blade in either the left or right slot of the first stage
- Pull the knife through the sharpener towards yourself
- If the knife has a curved tip, pull up near the end of the pass to follow the curve
- Repeat the process in the opposite slot
- Alternate sides until you can feel a raised burr along the blade with your finger
- Move knife to second stage slot and use alternating passes as before
- Continue making passes until the burr is gone
- Test the knife on a sheet of paper to determine if it’s done – it should slice the paper cleanly and easily
- Don’t apply too much pressure – let the machine do the work
- With a 3-stage machine, Stage 1 is only for damaged or very dull knives. For routine sharpening, start with Stage 2
- Consult manual before sharpening serrated edges – typically, only Stage 3 should be used
Here’s a good video that walks you through the process from start to finish:
Buyer’s Guide – What to Look for in The Best Electric Knife Sharpener
Before we look at some suggestions for purchase, let’s review a few important points to consider before you fork over your cash or card.
Choose Your Type
There are many kinds of electric sharpeners to choose from. Think about your needs, and think about your knives before you make a decision.
For example, do you just need a sharpener for fixing some beat up blades and putting on a sharp edge? Or, might you also benefit from a honer, to keep the edge keen between sharpening?
Before choosing, have a look at your knives and see what they’re made of (literally, not metaphorically).
Different knives may need special care. While most knives are made of steel, some high-end knives are now being made of ceramic, titanium, and even tungsten carbide. These special knives need sharpeners up to the task.
Number of Stages
There’s more to sharpening a knife than just dragging it through a coarse grinder. While that might suffice to put some life back into a seriously messed up knife, to properly sharpen a knife you’ll also need to fine tune.
This means at least two stages, one coarse, and one fine. Even better is a 3-stage sharpener, each stage finer than the last.
Multi-purpose, or Just for Knives?
Perhaps you have more than just knives in need of sharpening around the house?
Chisels, small gardening tools, and of course scissors all get dull with repeated use. Some electrics can handle these types of tools, as well as your kitchen and BBQ knives.
A general-purpose sharpener may seem useful, but just be sure you’re not doing your blades a disservice by sacrificing quality for versatility.
Can it Sharpen Serrated Knives?
A serrated blade requires a unique sharpening technique, and if your sharpener isn’t designed to handle a serrated edge, you’ll likely damage the blade and make your knife less effective.
If serrated knives are part of your BBQ tool kit, get a sharpener that’s up to the task.
Get the Right Angle
Unless you’re very familiar with knives, you may not realize that not all blades are formed at the same angle.
As a general rule of thumb, knives made in the U.S. and the U.K. have a blade with a 20° angle at the cutting edge, and Japanese knives employ a 15° angle.
It’s crucial to choose a sharpener that will guide your knives through the sharpening element at the correct angle. Putting a Japanese knife in a sharpener made for 20° blades will result in an incomplete job at best, and a damaged blade at worst.
On the flip side of that coin, running a 20° blade through a Japanese sharpener will severely damage the knife, and may even change the angle of the edge.
Intended Use: Home or Commercial?
A sharpener that’s suitable for a professional chef may be overkill for your average weekend warrior or backyard pit boss. A commercial-grade sharpener may be large, noisy, and bulky because it’s designed to be used over and over again, perhaps on a daily basis.
Likewise, a good home sharpener may not stand up to the rigors of restaurant life.
Get the sharpener that’s right for your setting, or you’re not making a smart investment. (Having said that, we totally get the appeal of having restaurant-grade appliances and gadgets at home!)
Brand Reputation / Reliability
You’ll be forgiven for not recognizing many of the brand names in the field. It’s a good idea to visit manufacturers’ sites and also look for forums where people discuss their experiences with various sharpeners. You’ll soon get a good idea of which brands are reputable and reliable.
A quick search of electric knife sharpeners will reveal price points from under $20 to well over $500. As with all consumer goods, you seldom get your best value at either end of the spectrum.
Think about how often you expect to use a sharpener, and also about how much you’ve invested in your knife assortment.
Every knife will benefit from sharpening, but it may be unnecessary to spend hundreds of dollars on a sharpener for a modest selection of blades.
Product Round-up & Mini Reviews
To save you a whole bunch of legwork (even if it’s virtual), we’ve gone ahead and chosen four sharpeners that we consider to be among the very best in each category.
Best Electric Knife Sharpener for Home and Standard Kitchen Knives
Presto 8800 Eversharp
If you’ve got a decent selection of knives and you want to keep them sharp, but you’re not looking to leave the mark of Zorro everywhere you go, this could be the choice for you. It’s an affordable solution to a problem for folks with simple needs.
This 2-stage sharpener uses Sapphirite-coated grinding wheels: heavy grit on stage 1, and fine grit for honing in stage 2. The guides are pre-set to the correct 20° angle required for most standard kitchen knives to make it easy to sharpen correctly.
There are three suction cups on the base to hold it securely to your countertop – assuming you have a smooth surface. If your counter is tiled or made of butcher block, you’ll have to think if there’s somewhere else you can set up.
Underneath the sharpening wheels, two receptacles catch all the metal filings that come off your blade for easy disposal.
One shortcoming of this sharpener is how it handles serrated knives. Blades serrated on just one side are fine, but knives serrated on both faces can’t be run through the Presto 8800.
Check your knives before picking up this, or any sharpener.
- Lightweight and compact
- 2-stage process
- Not suitable for all serrated knives
- 3-stage is better for higher-end knives
- Can’t sharpen Japanese knives
If you want to keep your regular knives sharp, but aren’t heavily invested in your arsenal, this might be the sharpener you need in your kitchen. For routine maintenance of average blades, this should do the trick.
Best Multi-Purpose Electric Knife Sharpener
Grocery Art GA-EKS-001 3-in-1 Sharpener
Knives are not the only sharp implements found in most kitchens. Scissors get a serious workout in many homes, and slot screwdrivers are so useful, they find their way into all manner of projects.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have just one device to keep all these useful tools at their best?
Considering its diminutive dimensions; a lot is going on in this tiny sharpener. It’s only 5.5” in diameter, and weighs just over 1 pound. Incredibly, it houses a 2-stage sharpener, a separate scissor sharpener, and a screwdriver sharpener. Impressive!
The manufacturer claims it will sharpen either standard or Japanese knives, but it won’t do serrated edges.
There is a coarse stage for heavy-duty sharpening and edge restoration, plus a fine stage for finishing the job with a bit of polish.
Scissors sharpen on the side, and screwdrivers insert into a small slot. For convenience, the cord retracts into the unit when not in use.
Not surprisingly, a fast motor in a small housing is going to run hot. For that reason, you shouldn’t operate it for more than about 3 minutes at a time before letting it cool down a bit. You also should keep a hand on the unit to steady it, which could be a bit awkward.
- Sharpens more than just knives
- 2-stage process
- Retractable cord
- Can’t sharpen serrated knives
- No catch tray for filings
- Needs to be hand-steadied
While this might not be the sharpener you want for your showpiece knives, it is a good, all-purpose sharpener for many of the items you’ll find stashed in your drawer. The price point on this little guy makes it worth having around for basic sharpening jobs.
Two Best for Japanese Knives
Chef’s Choice Trizor XV EdgeSelect
You’ve done your research, and you’ve concluded that Japanese knives are what you want on hand when you’re prepping and serving your best barbecue.
Still, you’re concerned that keeping their 15° angles in peak condition will require more labor than you have time for or interest in.
What you need is a simple way to keep them sharp without paying a professional, but also without setting aside the better part of a day to do it at home.
Lucky for you, there’s the Trizor XV. That’s right – XV, as in Roman numerals for 15, as in degrees. This is a high-quality sharpener made just for Japanese knives. Actually, that’s not exactly true; you can put 20° blades through the Trizor, but they’ll be converted into 15s. That’s a neat trick!
This unit uses a 3-stage process for proper sharpening. The first two stages employ conical rotating discs coated in diamonds for sharpening and honing. Stage 3 (which they call the “stropping” stage) uses flexible discs to refine and polish the edge. The manufacturer suggests you can use the three stages in a variety of ways to create custom edges for specific jobs.
Straight and serrated blades can be sharpened with the Trizor XV. You can also sharpen both single- and double-bevel blades. (It will actually create three bevels if you use all three stages.) Basically, all your Japanese knives will be at home in this sharpener.
- 3-stage system
- Correct angle for Japanese knives
- Diamond-crusted sharpening wheels
- Sharpens serrated knives
- Not for 20° blades (unless converting to 15°)
- Rather large (12” x 6.2” x 6.4”, 4.5 pounds)
If you fancy yourself a kitchen ninja, and you have a collection of Japanese knives, the Trizor XV EdgeSelect would be an excellent choice. Just remember, you’ll need another sharpener for your 20° knives, unless you plan to re-angle them (which in some cases ruins them!)
I.O.Shen Nirey Knife Wizard Electric Sharpener
I.O.Shen is an exceptional quality Japanese brand knife, made especially for the Western market. They have the elegance, style, and sharpness of Japanese steel, with balanced and weighty handles much as we prefer in the west.
As a top make of Japanese knives, it stands to reason that they make a companion sharpener.
The I.O.Shen electric sharpener is meant solely for 15-degree Japanese knives and will take any such knife to a beautifully sharpened edge over its two-stage system.
It comprises of two sets of spring-loaded grinding wheels, one coarse and one finer, with the spring-loaded feature allowing the tool to sharpen blades of highly variable thickness without the user having to touch any settings.
It can sharpen straight edge and scalloped edge knives, however for serrated knives, you can only run the flat side through, so cannot sharpen double-sided serrated knives.
- Japanese made sharpener for Japanese knives – A perfect match.
- Spring-loaded grinders to accommodate and knife thickness
- 2-stage system, coarse and fine, for severely blunted knives and finishing to a high sharpness.
- Very fast sharpening.
- Only for 15-degree Japanese knives, not suitable for most ‘standard’ western knives.
- Can’t sharpen double-sided serrated knives (not many electric sharpeners can!)
Best Commercial Electric Knife Sharpener
Chef’s Choice Commercial Diamond Hone 2000
If you’re running a commercial food establishment, your knives are more than just an extension of a hobby or something to impress your guests – they’re the tools of your trade!
You can’t waste time with dull knives, and you don’t want to wait for them to be professionally sharpened elsewhere. Is there an efficient way to sharpen your knives in-house?
Clearly, the answer is yes, or else I wouldn’t have posed the question. For your professional/commercial/industrial grade knives, the Diamond Hone 2000 seems like the best choice without utterly destroying the bank.
Make no mistake; this machine is a beast. It weighs a whopping 12 pounds, and it’s a foot-and-a-half long. A powerful motor provides the juice to turn the diamond-crusted sharpening wheels. It’s a 2-stage process; so you won’t be fine-tuning your sharpening job, but you will be getting a razor-sharp edge in short order.
Knives in a commercial environment get a workout and dull quickly – this machine will have them back to cutting cleanly without seriously interrupting your workflow.
It’s a versatile machine, capable of handling most types of knives. Serrated knives, butcher knives, filleting knives, even Japanese knives – they can all be sharpened in the Diamond Hone 2000. If your professional kitchen has a wide selection of knives, this is your one-stop sharpening shop.
If you do, eventually, wear out the sharpening surface, you can replace the cartridge through the manufacturer. One reviewer said he had recently done so – after ten years of use. It isn’t cheap, but, as another, highly descriptive reviewer commented, “It makes knives ungodly sharp.”
I don’t know exactly how sharp that is, but it sounds pretty darn sharp.
- Diamond-crusted sharpeners
- High-power motor
- Handles all knife types
- Big and heavy
- Only two stages
Unless you’re seriously into sharpening your knives, this model really is only for commercial applications. While the initial outlay may seem hefty, it should pay for itself in short order in time and money saved versus sending knives out to be sharpened.
How To Keep Knives Sharper During Use and When Not In Use
Every time you sharpen a blade, you lose just a little bit of metal. Eventually, the time will come when the knife is no longer viable. A good knife, carefully sharpened, can last for years, however.
The less you have to sharpen your knives, the better, though, so here are a few tips to help you keep your knives at their best between uses, and even while you’re cutting.
- Occasionally hone your knives on a honing steel or a fine grit whetstone to keep a clean edge
- Store them in a wooden knife block, or on a magnetic rack, not in a drawer (unless the blade has a guard or sheath)
- Use the knife for the job it was made for; for example, don’t try to cut through bone with a paring knife
- Avoid glass cutting boards; wood is better for your knife
- Don’t rock/walk the blade along the board; you risk catching the tip and damaging the knife
- Rinse and dry your knife often while in use
- Avoid putting your knives in the dishwasher
And there you have it: the good, the bad, and the ugly about electric knife sharpeners. They certainly are useful devices, and fairly simple to operate. For many people, this will be an entirely suitable addition to the barbecue (and general kitchen) arsenal.
Do you have a sharpener you just love? Tell us all about it in the comments below!
Or maybe it’s just the opposite: if a sharpener chewed up your blade, or just failed to perform, we’d like to know about that, too. We can all learn from each other’s failures and successes. In fact, if you have any questions or comments at all, please send them our way.
If you know someone who’s in the market for a knife sharpener, or probably should be, please hook him or her up with this article. (We’re not Netflix; we don’t mind when you share!) Copy/paste the link into your email, or share it on social as much as you like.
Now get out there, barbecue hard, and give it 110%!
Product image credits: © Amazon.com