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The 4 best knife sharpeners we tested in 2021

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Our knife sharpener testing methodology

A line of knives sits next to a bowl of tomatoes as part of testing for the best kitchen knife set in 2021



Owen Burke/Insider


We dulled a few different types of knives for this guide, ranging from lower-quality 440 stainless steel (including a cheap pocket knife) to mid-quality X50CrMoV15 steel to finer VG-10 (relatively high-carbon steel with vanadium and


chromium

and molybdenum for a hybrid between German- and Japanese-style blades).

We then ran each knife through every sharpener we tested (11 in all), weeding out ones that clearly, off the bat, weren’t working as well as others.

After we were pleased with the sharpness of the knife, we ran it through a sheet of paper and along the outward sheet of a folded high-gloss magazine, which is Bob Kramer’s method for testing sharpness. We then took them back to the kitchen where we made sure they could slice tomatoes and skin-on onions under little to no more than their own weight.

We also spoke with metallurgist and MIT senior lecturer Michael J. Tarkanian, as well as Pat LaFrieda, the famed butcher behind LaFrieda Meat Purveyors, to learn what types of sharpeners work best, and which ones should be left to the professionals.

While whetstones and grinding wheels reign supreme, we found through experience and interviews with the experts above, as well as others, that they require a certain level of prowess most home cooks don’t have. Grinding wheels can also be very, very dangerous.

If you’re really after a whetstone, the ones we recommend based on past testing are Smith’s TRI-6 Arkansas TRI-HOME Sharpening System, but generally, we’ve found that electric, pull-through, kits (specifically, jig systems), and portable options are best for most people.

Our general criteria for consideration included:

Convenience: Above all, a sharpener has to be simple enough to use that it doesn’t prevent you from ever putting it to use at all. We made sure that each sharpener we tested worked with basic instructions. A whetstone, on the other hand, requires a level of expertise that most home cooks don’t have. Further to that point, a grinding wheel is incredibly dangerous and has no place in most homes. We also took note of efficiency: how long did it take to sharpen a knife sufficiently? Although, convenience and quality are generally non-correlative. Specifically, when pull-through sharpeners were quick to sharpen, they usually left edges fairly rough and jagged.

Safety: Sharpening knives can be dangerous, so a stable device is paramount to ensuring safety. Some options we tried didn’t necessarily inspire confidence in that department, so they were set aside. Each of the sharpeners we ended up recommending is on the sturdier and safer side.

Materials: We found that kits with whetstones offered the most precision, but a combination of diamond and ceramic pull-through options offered a lot for the relatively quick pass most home cooks are willing to give their knives.

Versatility: Some sharpeners — including most pull-through options — only offer a single setting. These work in a pinch, but we found that at least three options (one for coarse sharpening, one for fine sharpening, and one for polishing) serviced a knife best, while a fourth, for scissors and serrated blades, offered the most versatility.

Size: We considered sharpeners based on size depending on where one might keep them. Some fit in drawers, some required a devoted shelf within a cabinet, and others fit in your pocket. Larger sharpeners performed better almost across the board, but we also considered the needs of those looking for a portable sharpener.

Courtesy By INSIDER

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