The new Cook’s Illustrated presents readers with a question so monumentally awesome that it’s remarkable that it was answered in a mere three-page spread.

The question: “Do Manual Knife Sharpeners Work?”

In one intensely detailed article, Cook’s Illustrated has served up a textbook example of the obsessive-compulsive fussiness that makes them the Adrian
of food magazines. Get a load of this hot copy:

Most sharpeners, both electric and manual, start their work with a coarse material and progress through stages of finer material to polish the edge. In general, the hardest material is diamond, followed by tungsten carbide, followed by high-alumina ceramic, followed by steel.

Flanked by inset tables including the make and models of 18 different sharpeners (including price, sharpening material, strokes to sharpen, testers’ comments, and three different star-rating fields), this article is the sine qua non of knife-sharpener-review articles.

The thing is—and I appreciate, like most amateur cooks, that Cook’s Illustrated is out there plugging away to do the hard reporting on boring but important food-related issues—they could’ve just run a one-inch box with “The four best knife sharpeners,” and we would’ve taken their word for it. For the intensely distrustful or
bored-at-work reader, they could’ve posted all the work online.

Make no mistake: When’s Cook’s Illustrated is good, it’s about as good as cooking magazines can get. It’s clear, thoughtful, precise, and admirably clear-headed, and their recipes have a lower failure rate than the Pill. But a little judicious editing of any given issue’s dullest feature would go a long way.

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