Electric Knife Sharpeners – A Definitive Guide
When it comes to keeping your kitchen knives sharp, many people turn to Electric knife sharpeners. Of course, there are a wide array of makes, models and types on the market to suit all needs and budgets. So if you are looking to buy an electric knife sharpener, the team at Blade-Sharp have put together this definitive guide to help you make an informed purchasing decision.
At the end of this you should have a good understanding of…
- What to look for in the best electric knife sharpeners
- What knives you should and shouldn’t sharpen using an electric sharpener
- Why you might choose an electric sharpener over a sharpening stone and…
- How much you can expect to pay
But before we delve into the idiosyncrasies of what makes the perfect sharpener for you, let’s talk about the basics…
Why should you keep a kitchen knife sharp?
In a word safety…
It may seem counter-intuitive to consider a sharp kitchen knife as a safe knife but look at it this way…
When a knife becomes blunt or dull, it can easily slide off any food you are trying to prepare. As a result you have less control. In addition to this you’ll also need to apply more force to achieve the desired cutting action. This makes tasks like chopping and slicing a far more hazardous process.
A sharp blade on the other hand is predictable, so when the knife is drawn back across the surface of the food, it won’t slip. This makes it easier and safer to control how the blade of the knife moves through food. Greater control equals greater safety!
Of course, aside from the safety aspect, a sharper knife makes food preparation effortless as you slice, dice and julienne with consummate ease allowing you to get on with the enjoyable task of creating delicious dishes.
So whether you’ve spent several hundred dollars, pounds or euros on a high end chef’s knife , or under a tenner on a basement pairing knife, keeping it sharp is key.
The issue is that many people shy away from the task because for the beginner at least, it can seem like a daunting prospect.
You may have seen images of chef’s painstakingly and methodically moving a blade up and down a Japanese sharpening stone with more attention to detail than a Dutch masterpiece; or alternatively, thrashing a knife blade ferociously against a honing steel. Either way it can be a tough task to master. This is why electric knife sharpeners offer an easy, yet effective solution.
Electric sharpeners – An introduction
When you consider that stones have been used for centuries to sharpen blades, electric knife sharpeners are a relatively recent addition. The question is..
Are electric sharpeners any good when compared to manual sharpening options?
Unfortunately, early versions had a bit of a bad reputation. They would knock the edges off knives or worse still, chip them, thus rendering your kitchen knife useless.
Nowadays however, a lot of progress has been made and the best electric knife sharpeners have the ability to restore a razor sharp edge on even the dullest implement. So in the current market, a quality electric knife sharpener absolutely does work.
The Benefits of an Electric knife sharpener
While we’ve already mentioned the effectiveness of an electric sharpener vs a traditional sharpening stone, there are also several other benefits you may want to consider. Let’s take a closer look at some of them…
They achieve speedy results
Some of the very best commercial electric sharpeners have the ability to put an edge on a dull knife in seconds. Even quality electric knife sharpeners you can buy for home use, have the ability to sharpen even the dullest of knife in a matter of minutes.
Alternatively, when you use a sharpening stone, some will need to be pre-soaked in water first. Even in those that don’t, will need to be properly prepared before a knife even touches the surface.
Even then, it can take a skilled sharpener around 10-15 minutes of continual work to achieve the desired results – particularly if the blade is exceptionally dull.
Electric knife sharpeners are simple to use
When you use a sharpening stone, the real skill is in perfecting the right angle to hold the knife at in order to maintain an even sharpening. This can take time to master – in some cases, many hours.
Conversely, electric knife sharpeners come with a selection of sharpening and finishing disks depending upon whether it’s a one, two or three stage sharpening tool. Either way, the process is the same.
Because most machines contain precise angle guides, you don’t have to worry about getting the angle right because all the hard work has been done for you.
Instead, all you need to do is to pass the knife through the various slots as per the model instructions and you should end up with a sharp blade, no matter how dull your knife is.
In other words, you can achieve a sharp blade in next to no time at all with practically little or no skill. The only part you really need to worry about is to empty any shavings out of the machine bin, once in a while.
Electric knife sharpeners Sharpen knives without flaws
One of the dangers of knife sharpening is that if you don’t know what you’re doing it’s easy to do more harm to a knife than good.
Use a sharpening stone with too low a grit level for instance and it’s likely that your expensive hand-forged Damascus steel Japanese chef knife has been ruined.
Likewise, hone a kitchen knife at the wrong angle with a sharpening steel and while it won’t be permanently ruined, you probably won’t do it any good.
Alternatively, buy a quality electric knife sharpener and it has the ability to sharpen knives without any flaws. While electric sharpeners can and do remove the immediate surface layer from the blade, modern versions do so without causing any bending, denting or broken edges.
Move between course and fine grits with ease
We’ve already mentioned that electric knife sharpeners have between 1-3 slots depending upon the type you buy. Each slot contains a coated disc with varying grit levels.
With a sharpening stone for example, a grit level corresponds with the spacial density of the abrasive particles contained within. The higher the number, the higher the particle density and therefore the lesser the ability to grind. A bit like sandpaper, higher grit numbers mean a finer finish. For this reason, you can buy sharpening stones with grit levels ranging from 100 grit right up to 30,000 grit and above.
if you’d like to find out more information about sharpening stones, and in particular, grit levels and how they work, I’ve created a useful page on Japanese sharpening stones
But getting back to electric knife sharpeners…
Similarly each slot contains a disk with a different grit. This may include diamond coated disks with lower grit levels for sharpening, moving onto higher level stropping, polishing and finishing disks for the latter stages.
As a result, a quality electric knife sharpener allows you to move between course, medium and fine knife sharpening with relative ease. You don’t need to worry about what grit levels to use at a particular stage because the hard work has been done for you.
In essence, modern-day electric sharpeners take the hard work out of sharpening knives, making it easy for everyone to achieve a super sharp blade whenever they need it.
So now we’ve talked about the pros of electric knife sharpeners, it’s only right and proper that we take a look at some of the cons.
The disadvantages of electric sharpeners
They lack that hands on feel
Perhaps one of the most satisfying things about sharpening knives using a Japanese whetstone is that they enable you to get really hands on. They give you absolute control and many knife aficionados will say that nothing gives you that ‘feel’ like a quality whetstone does.
An electric knife sharpener removes that hands on feel, in exchange for an automated approach, meaning the end result for some, simply isn’t that satisfying.
That said, if you don’t have the motor skills or the patience needed to perfect Japanese whetstone sharpening, then a quality electric sharpener may well be a better option.
Not all knives are good for all electric knife sharpeners
If you know anything about knives you’ll know that they come in single and double bevelled forms. Some Japanese knives for example are single-bevelled meaning that the blade is tapered to a single point of sharpness.
Typically, many European knives and indeed, some Japanese knives are double-bevelled. This means that they have a bevelled edge on both sides of the blade. Normally this is a 50/50 ratio.
As a result, if you put a single-bevel knife through a two-sided electrical knife sharpener it’s very probable that the knife will be wrecked.
While the majority of knives will be okay, it’s important to check whether your knives are single-or double-bevel, and whether your knife sharpener is two-sided or single-sided.
The space issue
As kitchen gadgets are increasing and many kitchens are becoming smaller. there might not be the worktop space to house an electric knife sharpener. While they aren’t huge, they do take up more space that a honing steel or a set of sharpening stones which can conveniently be put away in a drawer. As a result, they might not be for everyone.
That said, those that do invest in a quality electric knife sharpener will tend to use it often. As a result, other (lesser used) kitchen gadgets will often be relegated to the cupboard to make way.
So we’ve addressed why you might choose an electric sharpener vs a sharpening stone and what knives you should and shouldn’t sharpen this way. We’ve also addressed some great advantages or benefits of an electric knife sharpener and even some of the disadvantages. But now it’s time to move onto to what to look out for in the best electric knife sharpeners. Moreover, we’ll also address what you can and should expect to pay.
The best electric sharpeners – Points to consider
Consideration #1 – Safety
When dealing with knives, you really need to think safety. There are many electric knife sharpeners on the market but some are more sturdy and have added safety features than others. Look for ones that appear rugged or well made and avoid those that appear flimsy and cheap. Many quality electric sharpeners come complete with safety covers or guides to protect the hands, so it’s worth taking a closer look at what you get for your money.
Consideration #2 – Compatibility
We’ve already touched on this, but we’re going to mention it again because it’s very important…
Always ensure that the knives you want to sharpen are compatible with the electric knife sharpener you’re looking to buy. Remember some Japanese style single-bevel blades are not compatible with dual-sided electrical knife sharpeners. So, if the majority of your knives are single-bevel then you should invest in a quality whetstone or whetstone set for sharpening.
Likewise, knives come in varying degrees of bevel so you might want to consider choosing an electric sharpener with adjustable sharpening angles. This should ensure it can handle the vast majority of double-bevel knives.
Consideration #3 – Multiple stage sharpening
For best results, you should opt for an electric knife sharpener with multiple stage sharpening. While one-stage electric sharpeners will grind out an edge, it’s possible to achieve better professional results using 2 and 3 stage products
Knife sharpeners with 2 stages have the ability to grind and hone, while a 3 stage sharpener will also polish and refine. This has ,the ability to create a super sharp edge.
Note that 2 and 3 stage electric knife sharpeners generally cost more, but in he vast majority of cases, you can expect to achieve far better results.
Consideration #4 – Price
The final purchasing consideration is of course price. You can pay as much or as little as you want for an electric knife sharpener. That said, it’s a good idea to pay for what you need.
For example, if you have expensive knives or you cook often, then it won’t pay to buy a cheap one-stage electric knife sharpener. On the other hand, if your knives aren’t used that frequently, do you really want to pay hundreds of dollars euros or pounds for a model with extensive features? The key is to strike a balance between features and use.
Talking of price, in this last section we’re going to answer, what you can expect to pay.
Electric Sharpeners – What you might expect to pay
Of course, when it comes to price, the sky’s the limit! however as mentioned in the last section, the key is to pay for what you need.
For example, if you are looking for a simple one-stage electric knife sharpener, then these can be purchased for well under $20.00. However many of these at this price are battery operated and are only really any good for cheaper knives.
Two-stage electric knife sharpeners on the other hand can range from $20.00 up to $150 or more, depending upon your needs.
Finally 3 stage electric knife sharpeners can range from $50.00 up to $300 or more for a top brand high quality piece of machinery.
So there you have it, everything you need to know about home use electric knife sharpeners. Hopefully it gives you all the information you need to address your buying needs but if you still need assistance or have any questions then don’t hesitate to drop me a line.
In the meantime, don’t forget to stay Blade-Sharp!