You can’t beat the feeling of using a freshly bought set of kitchen knives for the first time. However, to ensure they stay as sharp as the day you bought them, you might want to consider investing in a knife sharpener.
This simple kitchen gadget comes in many different forms, with some being easier to master than others. Starting from just £9.99, they’re relatively inexpensive and don’t take up too much space either.
Before you get started though, it is worth a word of caution. If you misuse a knife sharpener, there’s a risk you’ll damage your knife. However, you should pick up the technique fairly quickly, and a sharp knife is much safer to use than a dull one. If you’re just starting out, we’ve included a range of handheld or sturdy hands-free options that will sharpen without requiring any special skills.
When putting our selection to the test, we wanted to see which gadget sharpened the most effectively, with the least amount of effort. Using a range of knives, we sliced through a selection of hard veg before and after each session, to see which provided the most noticeable improvement.
Before deciding on the best knife sharpener for you, consider what type of knife you’ll be using it on. While some can be used across many styles (serrated, straight, etc), others can only be used on European knives with a 20-degree angle. If you have a wide range of knives that could do with a spruce up, it’s probably best to go with a multipurpose gadget.
Although brands differ, generally you’ll need to sharpen knives once or twice a month to keep them in tip-top condition, with some suggesting a few maintenance sessions in between. This shouldn’t take more than a few minutes each time though – just a few simple strokes will get your favourite knife back to being scarily sharp again.
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AnySharp knife sharpener
Billed as the “world’s best knife sharpener”, this budget gadget claims it will work on any blade – whether serrated or straight. It has a non-slip suction pad base and is small enough to fit in even the most overpacked kitchen. Once secure on the kitchen countertop you just pull the knife through the “v” a couple of times and voila – sharp knives. We were particularly impressed given the price and found it extremely easy to use.
Buy now £9.99, Lakeland
2 water-wheel knife sharpener
If you like the sound of a whetstone but are still a little apprehensive, this could be a good middle ground. It works in a similar way, using water and rough stones, but they’ve been pre-placed at the optimum angle within a plastic cover for ease of use. Similarly to the AnySharp, there are two slots for blades – a coarse one for the dullest of knives and a finer pink one which is designed for maintenance. After about six strokes, blades were noticeably sharper. However, unlike our winning sharpener, this shouldn’t be used on serrated knives.
Buy now £27.00, Sous Chef
Kitchen Provisions ceramic steel for knife sharpening
Ceramic steels are used to hone the edge of your knife, in between sharpening appointments (Kitchen Provisions can do this for you, priced at £8 per knife). So although they won’t sharpen a blunt knife, using one will maintain the sharpness of a sharp knife. The idea is that, being made from ceramic, they are gentler on the blade, and therefore you won't run the risk of chipping the edge of your beloved tool. Using one also makes you feel like a badass butcher – win, win.
Buy now £45.00, Kitchen Provisions
Robert Welch signature hand held sharpener
Robert Welch makes some of our favourite kitchen knives, so you might want to keep it in the family with this inexpensive sharpener. It works in exactly the same way to the handheld Lakeland version below, but has been designed specifically with the Robert Welch knives in mind, which should give you peace of mind if you’ve recently invested in a set. Quick and easy to use, our knives felt more defined after just a few strokes. For peace of mind, it also comes with a 25-year guarantee, and you can replace the internal ceramic wheel if it gets a bit dull.
Buy now £24.99, John Lewis & Partners
Joseph Joseph rota sharpener
Most of us have got a Joseph Joseph gadget in the kitchen. Experts in creating user-friendly, cleverly designed pieces, this sharpener is no exception. To use, twist out the first section (which turns into a sturdy handle), to reveal the sharpening slots. There are both coarse and fine wheels (perfect for sharpening and maintaining) and it’s small enough to fit in the kitchen drawer. Simple and easy to use, the non-slip feet on the base give added stability for those just starting out.
Buy now £20.00, John Lewis & Partners
Shapton whetstones for knife sharpening
A sharpening stone can be a great way to keep your knives super sharp, but you do need to pick up the technique to use it. It isn't rocket science, but you have to consistently maintain the angle of the knife. As with anything, practice makes perfect!
Shapton makes some of the best whetstones on the market. They are available in three different grit levels (much like sandpaper) and we’d recommend starting with the 1,000. As the name suggests, you start by splashing it with water, laying it on something like a tea towel so it doesn’t slip, and then gently pulling the knife across the stone at roughly a 20-degree angle. Still not sure? There are loads of YouTube videos to get you started. We were a little tentative to start with, but once we got to grips with it, we were extremely impressed with the razor-sharp edge it produced. One for the confident cook.
Buy now £40.00, Kitchen Provisions
Lakeland international knife sharpener
Split into four sections, this hand-held sharpener has a fine and coarse setting for blades with a 15- and 20-degree angle for Japanese and European knives respectively. The coarse side is best for sharpening dull blades once or twice a month, while the fine side is designed to keep them polished in between sessions.
Applying gentle pressure, you simply run the blade through the sharpener from heel to tip about eight to 10 times. The non-slip rubber base feels secure, and there’s a large handle to grip onto. It’s an ideal bit of kit for those with multiple blades.
Buy now £14.99, Lakeland
The veridict: Knife sharpeners
It might be one of the smallest sharpeners we put to the test, but the AnySharp knife sharpener lived up to the hype. It couldn’t have been easier to use, works on all knives and produced super-sharp blades in no time.