If you’ve ever tried to chop something with a dull knife, you’ll likely appreciate the benefits of a sharp one.
The better polished a knife’s edge is, the less resistance you’ll experience when using it. This will typically translate into quicker, easier, more accurate cooking – or to put it another way, satisfyingly sliced tomatoes rather than slightly mangled ones.
There are various types of knife sharpener on the market, geared towards various types of cook. At the more basic end of the spectrum, handheld wheel-based designs provide the easiest way to hone your blades – perfect for the casual user. Moving up the scale, sharpening steels and other honing rods provide a higher level of control, but also require more skill and knowledge. Finally, sharpening stones are widely held to create even better results, but are once again more difficult to master.
So, how to pick the right type of sharpener for you? We suggest you consider just how sharp you’d like your knives to be. The more expensive types of sharpener tend to deliver a finer, shinier edge – but there are models towards the lower end of the price rage that can do a very decent job too. You’ll also want to think about ease-of-use, with many of the lower-priced models better-suited to casual users who don’t want to sharpen frequently or pick up a new skill.
TOG – 10″ / 25cm Ceramic Honing Rod with Shock Absorber
Best for: keen cooks
TOG’s ceramic honing rod is an excellent, efficient choice for professional or keen amateur cooks. Designed for short bursts of daily to weekly use (depending on how frequently you use your knives), it helps make sharpening an easy matter of routine.
Its roughness is barely visible to the naked eye – and that’s a clue to the fine surface that makes it so effective. We found it put a keener edge on our knives than most other sharpeners we tried.
The benefit of this sharpener’s ceramic material is that it will wear your blades down less than an equivalent steel or diamond-edged product. You can get your blade superbly sharp, more times over. A common problem with ceramic utensils is their tendency to shatter easily – but thanks to its in-built shock absorption mechanism, TOG’s sharpener is better equipped to withstand being dropped or knocked.
£45 | Amazon | Buy it now
Robert Welch Signature – Handheld Sharpener
Best for: ease-of-use
Robert Welch Signature’s handheld sharpener is simple-to-use and far safer than just about any other sharpener, with a single-wheel design that keeps the blade in a controlled position during use. We tested it with the Robert Welch Santoku knife – a great fit both practically and stylistically.
To use this sharpener, simply slot your knife into the groove heel-first, then run it back and forth over the Japanese ceramic wheel within, 10-12 times. We were impressed with the ease and comfort of the process. The handle is ergonomic and ambidextrous, the base non-slip, and the technique utterly fool-proof.
£24 | John Lewis | Buy it now
Richardson Sheffield – Essentials 3 Stage Knife Sharpener
Best for: sharpening that suits your knives’ current condition
This versatile, excellent-value-for-money sharpener from the Steel City provides convenient sharpening options for knives in various states of repair.
It features three grooves fitted with materials of varying hardness – ceramic stone for finishing off already-reasonably-sharp blades, tungsten steel to hone well-worn blades, and a diamond-surfaced material for applying a new edge to completely dull knives. Simply run the blade back and forth across the appropriate groove to sharpen to the point of satisfaction.
Features a non-slip base, comfortable handle and ambidextrous design – just turn it whichever way suits your grip.
£13.49 | Argos | Buy it now
Kai – DM-0708 SHUN Combination Whetstone
Best for: sharpening like a pro
If you’re invested in the idea of a supremely sharp blade – particularly if you’re planning on making sushi or another cuisine that demands high finesse – you could do no better than to buy a real Japanese whetstone. Kai’s double-sided models, with different grades of grain on either side, are among the very best. The coarser side sharpens the knife; the finer polishes.
There’s a relatively high level of technique involved in sharpening a knife with a whetstone. You soak the stone before use, wet it immediately beforehand, then sharpen by running the knife back and forth across the stone, at an angle, always aiming to use the full face of the stone to ensure it retains a flat surface.
Some less-passionate chefs might find this process a little time consuming; others will find it hugely satisfying. If the whetstone has been used properly, the results will be undeniably outstanding.
£60 | John Lewis | Buy it now
Kai – DM-0600 SHUN Combination Whetstone
Best for: professional use
Kai DM-6000 adds a level of shine we’ve not been able to achieve with any other sharpener. It’s a step up that only a professional really needs, but could also make for a superb cooking experience at home.
Like the DM-0708, this double-sided whetstone features a different grade of grain on either side – one intended for sharpening and the other for polishing. Both sharpeners come with a smart-looking stand, designed for use on a kitchen work surface.
Whetstones of this type and grade are almost certainly being used at this exact moment by professional chefs around the world. If you think you aspire to the same standards they do, the DM-0600 is the tool you need.
£95 | Richmond Cookshop | Buy it now
Sabatier – Maison 4-Piece Edgekeeper Self-Sharpening Kitchen Set
Best for: maximum convenience
Here’s a thought: what if, instead of being sharpened by you, your knives could just sharpen themselves? Doesn’t that sound a whole lot easier?
Sabatier have achieved this effort-efficient arrangement, using a knife-block fitted with sharpening grooves. Whenever a knife is removed from the block, it hones itself on the way out. This doesn’t provide a level of control comparable to Kai’s or TOG’s products, but it will do a good enough job to satisfy most users.
The knifeblock itself is made of great-looking bamboo, and comes with a 6" chef knife; a 5" chef knife; a 4.5" utility knife; and a 3.5" paring knife.
£73.47 | Amazon | Buy it now
Anolon – Classic Japanese Stainless Steel Sharpening Steel
Best for: a familiar option
What’s wrong with a good, old-fashioned sharpening steel? This model from Anolon is supremely durable (it comes with a lifetime guarantee) and perfectly crafted for comfortable use. There’s no quicker way to sharpen a knife to a high level than with this style of sharpener.
The downside to sharpening steels like this one is that they can create the wrong result when used improperly. For this reason, we’d advise carefully watching or reading a couple of tutorials before you launch in. Once you’ve got the knack, sharpening can become a part of your culinary routine.
£34 | John Lewis | Buy it now
The TOG Honing Rod is our pick of these sharpeners. It creates exceptional results, without demanding an exceptional level of time, effort or spending from the user. Add to that its innovative design and knife-friendly material, and you have a recipe for the perfect sharpener for home or professional use.