Sometimes the best way to get an unbiased review of something is to hand it to someone who doesn't know how to use it, and see what happens.
That's what I did with the Wüsthof Precision Edge Knife Sharpener ($185). I grabbed a bunch of cheap kitchen knives and let my husband have some fun. I had Band-Aids ready just in case.
I have several sharpening stones, and I know how to use them, but I've also got some inexpensive knives that don't hold an edge really well. They're handy for some things, but they don't necessarily deserve the time it takes to hand-sharpen them. A faster way to get an edge would be great.
So I handed over the knives and they came back sharp. Just like that. Magic.
My husband said the instructions were really clear and the process was simple and relatively fast. Just slide the knives in the slots and they're sharpened at the correct angle. For really dull knives, you start with the coarser grind, and work your way to the finest grind. For less-abused knives, you can use the finest grind.
The nice thing about this unit is that you can also use it for sharpening serrated knives, which many sharpeners can't do. For those, you just use one of the slots on the finest grinding setting.
I'm still not set on the idea of using an electric sharpener on my favorite, more expensive knife. There's something about hand sharpening that's sort of pleasing and zen-like—it's nice to sharpen a knife the way they've been sharpened for so many years. But not everyone knows how to hand sharpen a knife, and in some areas it might be hard to find someone trustworthy to do your sharpening for you. And not everyone has knives that they want to baby—they just want a sharp edge and not a lot of fuss.
No electric sharpener is going to match a skilled expert, but this sharpener does a good job. It's so easy to use, you can get a sharp edge even if you don't really know what you're doing.
About the author: Resident yeast whisperer and bread baking columnist Donna Currie also has a serious gadget habit. When her father-in-law heard about this column, he upgraded the nickname for her kitchen from "gadget world" to "gadget heaven." You can find her on her blog, Cookistry or follow her on Twitter at @dbcurrie.
Disclaimer: Testing samples were provided to Serious Eats.