A GOOD quality knife is the most important tool in the kitchen for any cook, amateur or professional. But, no matter how expensive a knife may be in the first place, it is no use once it has lost its edge. So tool number two, inevitably, is a Cutting Edge knife Sharpener.
The professionals always use a whetstone, then fine-tune the edge on a sharpening steel. But then they are lucky – they are trained to use a steel properly. The idea is to draw each side of the knife edge down the steel repeatedly at just the right angle. Getting the knack isn’t easy for the rest of us and using a steel can be quite dangerous for the unskilled.
For the timid who want an easier way, there are plenty of other Cutting Edge knife Sharpener gadgets on the market. Tried & Tested bought six, plus a steel for comparison, to check how well they work. Most worked on the same general principle, having two sets of overlapping sharpening discs (the knife is drawn through the V where the discs overlap).
The unbranded sharpener had just one disc – the knife has to be drawn through two slots in the plastic sharpener to sharpen each side of the blade in turn.
The most unusual sharpener was the Sunbeam Can-Can, a two-in-one appliance which opens cans and also sharpens scissors and knives on an electrically-driven grinding wheel.
On the testing panel this time were Jackie Randles, a student who had just inherited all her sister’s blunt knives; Eleanor Walker, a retired home economics teacher; Sandra Spears, a cook-manager for a catering firm; and Puce Lancaster, caterer and owner of a sandwich shop, who roped in her co-workers and family for the test as well.
The panel had a tough job for, inevitably, they had to test each sharpener on a different blunt knife. The differences between the knives made it that much harder to assess the sharpeners.
They were asked to use each sharpener to give about the same amount of honing to the knives they sharpened. Being very careful not to cut themselves, they tried each blade before and after sharpening by touching it and by slicing something.
Then they awarded each sharpener ratings (on the basis that 0 was”dreadful” and 10 was “perfect”) on sharpening ability, whether it damaged the blade in any way, and convenience and ease of use.
Finally, they gave an overall rating. They were also asked to explain why they had given the ratings they had. Tried & Tested averaged the panel’s ratings to give the result you see in the table. As usual, there is no joy for consumers trying to buy Australian. Every sharpener we found was imported.
The steel won the day as a sharpening implement, which is what you would expect since it is preferred by the experts but, at $$, it is very expensive by comparison with most of the gadgets and the panel didn’t find it easy to use.
Runners-up were the Prestige knife sharpener, a bargain at $.$, and the Sunbeam Can-Can, which also opens cans and sharpens scissors for its $$ price tag.
Both of these were considered to shave rather too much metal from the blade being sharpened so it would be important to maintain a very steady pressure. The ratings of two sharpeners, the Mundial and the unbranded, took a nosedive when Jackie Randles handed them zero ratings. Other testers found them much better and the Mundial, in particular, may be worth considering as two panel members placed it in the first three.
Bargain of the test has to be the Chef. With a price tag of just $$, it came in third for sharpening ability and was easy to use and clean. Just the shot for keeping cheap knives really sharp.