Electric knife sharpeners promise to make knife sharpening super quick and easy. But do they really work?
I’ve tested out a lot of different sharpeners, on a lot of different knives. And whilst electric knife sharpeners certainly have their benefits, there are some cons too.
The Quick Answer
Electric knife sharpeners do a decent job of sharpening kitchen knives. Even cheap electric sharpeners do create a pretty sharp edge, and for home cooks who aren’t too concerned about perfect sharpening then electric sharpeners are a great option.
My low-cost electric sharpener recommendation
Costing around $30, this inexpensive knife sharpener is able to sharpen super dull knives in under 60 seconds. It has two sharpening stones at two different levels of coarseness and is small enough to easily store away, although it is a little loud when using it!
Pros and cons of electric sharpeners
|Very user friendly and easy to use
|Can be difficult to maintain a constant edge to the knife
|Even cheap electric sharpeners can do a good job of sharpening
|Electric sharpeners remove a lot of material from the knife
|Minimal set up required, allowing you to sharpen multiple knives very quickly.
|For knives with a bolster, sharping the blade near the bolster isn’t usually possible
How do electric knife sharpeners work?
Electric sharpeners are actually quite simple devices.
They usually work by using a circular sharpening stone attached to the motor. This spins the stone super-fast and that friction will remove steel from the blade of your knife, creating a new sharp edge.
Think of movies set in medieval times when they sharpen their swords on a rotating stone wheel, it’s basically a smaller, electric version of that!
Almost all electric sharpeners will have stones of varying grits. Grit is the coarseness of the stone, the more coarse the stone, the more material it will remove from your knife. The lower grit (more coarse) stones are used first, to quickly grind a new edge, then the higher grit (less coarse) stone is used to make the edge more fine, or even polish it depending on the sharpener.
There’s really nothing that fancy about electric sharpeners. It’s basically an age-old, tried and tested method of sharpening that still works well today.
Is it worth buying an electric knife sharpener?
Everyone should have some type of sharpener. Sharpeners tend to be pretty inexpensive compared to the cost of knives and they will help your knives to perform so much better and last much longer.
Should an electric sharpener be the type of sharpener you buy? I think it’s a good choice for the majority of home cooks. In my experience, people find them quicker and easier to use than most manual sharpeners and it is way easier than learning how to use whetstones.
If you’re trying to keep your knives in perfect condition, then an electric sharpener would not be the choice for you. If you’re willing to put in the time then whetstones would be the very best option, or a sharpener like the Work Sharp Precision Adjust is a good option for those who do want to go fully down the whetstone route.
Is an electric knife sharpener better than manual?
It depends on which manual option you’re choosing.
I’ve found that electric sharpeners are almost always better than the cheaper manual options. Any manual sharpener around $30 or below generally won’t be as good as a $30 electric sharpener.
The exceptions to this are the more premium manual sharpeners, which are very different from the standard pull-through sharpeners.
For example, the Work Sharp Precision Adjust is a manual sharpening device that costs around $60-$70 but in my opinion, it’ll do a better job than almost any electric sharpener. The drawback is that it also takes a bit more time to set up and use.
Do electric sharpeners ruin knives?
It’s often said that an electric sharpener will ruin your knife.
It’s kind of true because they certainly can ruin your knife. A lot comes down to the user. If you hold your knife at a poor angle, or you push the knife too hard against the sharpening stone then you probably will damage the edge.
Any damage though can be rectified by re-sharpening properly. In truth, you could ruin a knife using pretty much any sharpener if you don’t use it correctly.
The key is to carefully follow the instruction, and maybe try it on a knife you’re not too bothered about to begin with, just until you understand how the sharpener works. Electric sharpeners are pretty simple devices, so it won’t take you long.
If you use an electric sharpener properly then it won’t ruin your knife.
It is important to not over-use an electric sharpener. You should only really need to sharpen your knives every 6 – 12 months, in between that you just need to use a simple honing steel to keep the blade edge aligned.
Overusing an electric sharpener will end up removing way more material from your knife than is necessary and will wear the knife down quickly.
Best cheap electric knife sharpener
I’ve tried and tested this VonShef electric sharpener and I think most home cooks would be happy with its performance.
It has two sharpening stones of different grits (coarseness), and it’s super simple and easy to use. It doesn’t take up too much space either which is a bonus. Although it is super load when you’re using it!