Ever deal with a dull knife? Maybe you attempt to slice a tomato, but the knife struggles to cut through the vegetable and instead, you end up splattering yourself with tomato juice! If you struggle to cut through everything from a tomato to a loaf of bread to butternut squash, consider sharpening your knives.
Dull knives aren’t just a mere inconvenience. Dull knives require more physical effort in cutting, giving you less control and increasing the risk of injury. Luckily, there are many different options for sharpening your knives quickly and efficiently.
Of the various knife sharpening techniques, electric knife sharpeners are an important choice to consider. Electric knife sharpeners use a motor to shave the metal off the dull parts and expose a new sharp edge. As a result, these gadgets are quite powerful.
Electric sharpeners can include multiple slots, each corresponding to a stage of sharpening. Usually, 2-stage sharpeners have both coarse and fine slots, and 3-stage sharpeners have coarse, fine, and polishing (or fine honing) slots for further control.
The Pros and Cons of Electric Knife Sharpeners
Compared to other forms of knife sharpening, electric knife sharpeners have a few benefits.
- Electric knife sharpeners have an easier learning curve than, say, a whetstone.
- They quickly sharpen knives.
- They typically accommodate different types of knives, from chef's knives to paring knives.
- They allow you to sharpen your knives at home without paying for a service.
There are, however, some drawbacks to this tool.
- Electric knife sharpeners more aggressively shave off metal compared to a whetstone.
- Though they are easy to learn, they do require some finesse. You need to follow the instructions outlined in your manual very carefully. If you miss a crucial instruction, you can severely damage your knife.
- They don't always evenly sharpen knives. In some models, the part of the blade closest to the heel may struggle to fit snugly, preventing it from sharpening properly.
What Kind of Electric Knife Sharpener Should I Purchase?
Because of the above concerns with electric knife sharpeners, you should make sure to research the product thoroughly before purchasing. Check both user reviews and expert reviews.
In my own experiences, I purchased the Presto Electric Sharpener, and while it left a nice, sharp edge on the blade, I (along with other reviewers) had trouble evenly sharpening the knife. The part of the knife closest to the heel did not fit properly into the slot, and left an uneven edge.
Recommended Choice: The Chef's Choice Trizor XV consistently performs the best across multiple expert reviews, including our own guide to the 7 Best Knife Sharpeners in 2021. It is pricier than some of the other options, but a worthwhile investment for a clean, even, and sharp edge on your knives.
How to Use an Electric Knife Sharpener (Step-by-Step Instructions)
Because all electric knife sharpeners are a little different, you should use these instructions as a guideline. Be sure to carefully read your own instruction manual before sharpening your knives.
1. Set the sharpening on a stable surface: Make sure your knife sharpener is on a stable surface before plugging in and using.
2. Adjust the blade selector: If necessary, adjust the blade selector to the corresponding category (thin, medium, or thick).
3. Assess what stage to use: Turn the unit on and assess what stage you need to sharpen your knife. For example, very dull knives will need to go through the coarsest setting, while sharper blades should only need a polish.
4. Begin in Coarse Stage 1: According to your manual, place the knife into the appropriate slot and slowly pull it towards you. Repeat the same step on the alternate edge of the blade - most electric sharpeners have two slots, one for the right side and one for the left side of the knife.
Repeat 1 to 2 times in stage 1 until you can feel a burr (rough metal) on the edge of the knife.
5. Repeat in Stages 2 and 3, if necessary: Repeat the sharpening process with stages 2 and 3 (if applicable). You will likely only need a couple of pulls in each of these stages.
6. Wash and dry your knife: Turn the unit off, and wash and dry your knife thoroughly. Test that the knife is sharp enough by slicing a tomato or cutting through a piece of paper.
How to Store and Care for Electric Knife Sharpeners
Electric knife sharpeners should never be in contact with or immersed in water. Keep the unit unplugged when not in use. Some sharpeners have receptacles to collect any built-up metal shavings; you will likely need to empty these about once a year to clean the slots.
Alternatives to Using Electric Knife Sharpeners
Electric knife sharpeners can be an excellent option for home cooks, but there are a few other alternatives:
- Manual knife sharpeners operate similarly to electric ones, but you control the knife's movement through the slot. Manual sharpeners are also more affordable.
- Whetstones have a steeper learning curve but allow for better control and precision. To learn more about whetstones, head to this guide on How to Sharpen a Knife with a Whetstone.
- Professional service: Local kitchen stores and bladesmiths often offer knife sharpening services, typically ranging from a $5 a knife to $20 a knife.