The Best Steak Knives: Serrated vs. Non-Serrated
Just imagine sitting down to enjoy that juicy, perfectly cooked steak with its distinct aroma inviting your taste buds to savor the flavor of each bite. You reach for your steak knife and are just one slice away from enjoying everything that makes a steak great, but your knife has a different agenda in mind – it either doesn’t cut at all or rips through it, leaving its flavorful juices in a puddle on your plate.
Before blaming the cook, or the steak itself, take a look at that steak knife you’re holding and ask yourself whether it’s the best knife for the job. If the answer is a resounding “No!”, then it may be time to invest in a better set of steak knives.
Choosing a Steak Knife
When you’re in the market for a new set of steak knives, you’ll likely find a variety of shapes and sizes to choose from, including variations in the blade. Most people tend to distinguish steak knives by looking for serrations on the cutting edge and may have even gone their whole lives believing steak knives should always be serrated since they “cut better” and “stay sharp longer”. While this could be true depending on the knife, it certainly doesn’t have to be.
So, before you set out on your search for the best steak knives, let’s take a look at both sides of the serrated vs. non serrated blade debate.
Serrated Steak Knives
Traditionally, serrated blades have been the most common choice for steak knives. A serrated blade features scallops, also called ‘gullets’ along the cutting edge – and no, we’re not talking about shellfish. We’re talking about the almost ‘toothlike’ edge designed to cut through foods that have a tough exterior but are softer on the inside.
Breads like baguettes, boules, and other crusty loaves are the ideal candidates for serrated knives as the scalloped edge allows for a clean, smooth cut as the blade saws through the tough crust without crushing the delicate interior. This is why you will probably never find a non-serrated bread knife.
But, are serrated steak knives really better? It really is a matter of personal preference. Some choose serrated steak knives because of the illusion of sharpness. They believe serrated edges make for a sharper blade and will stay sharp longer than straight-edged blades since the edges between the scallops never touch their plates (while essentially sawing through their food). While this is partly true, serrated knives are also much more difficult to sharpen and usually require a professional to maintain the edge. This means many people go through life using dull steak knives, regardless of their serrated blades.
How to Sharpen Serrated Blades
Serrated knives do not have ‘equal bevels’, which means one side is thinner than the other (usually the scalloped edge, and each serration must be sharpened separately).
In terms of sharpening tools, a ceramic sharpening rod is the most commonly used tool for maintaining serrated blades, although it doesn’t actually sharpen but rather hones the edge instead. Electric knife sharpeners should definitely be avoided for sharpening serrated blades due to their preset angles and even greater potential of destroying the cutting edge. While whetstones can be used, they’re mainly for sharpening the straight edges of the blade, if any, and it takes even more time and patience to sharpen serrated blades. If your serrated steak knives are of very high quality, your best bet is to leave the sharpening to the professionals.
Non-Serrated Steak Knives
Also known as ‘straight edge’, non-serrated steak knives feature a razor-sharp edge that slices right through meats without tearing the fibers, like their nemesis (serrated blades) tend to do. This means you'll get a much smoother, cleaner cut. Steak enthusiasts prefer these clean cuts as they keep all of the meat’s flavorful juices intact with each slice, rather than in a puddle on the plate. If you need proof, try experimenting with this recipe for T-Bone Steak and Potatoes with Espagnole Sauce.
The only “downside” you’ll come across when it comes to straight edge steak knives is they must be sharpened often since they’re generally used on very hard cutting surfaces (think ceramic plates). However, they are also much easier to sharpen than serrated steak knives as long as your familiar with the specifications of the knife, such as the edge geometry and the type of steel used to create the blade. Then, you'll want to take the time to learn how to properly sharpen them – and practice, practice, practice!
How to Sharpen Straight Edge Blades
Straight edge steak knives are sharpened like any other knife, but learning to sharpen knives properly is an art form that takes considerable practice, along with the right tools in order to restore your blades to a like-new state. Sharpening rods and whetstones are fine once you get the process down. But, do try to avoid electric knife sharpeners as they are limited to what style of knife they can sharpen, plus their preset angles and sharpening slots makes it easy to wear the blade down by taking off more metal than intended.
At F.N. Sharp, we prefer cleanly slicing through our meats and keeping all of the flavorful juices intact, which is why our steak knives feature a straight edge – an exceptionally sharp straight edge, at that.
From our chef knife to our steak knife, all F.N. Sharp Damascus steel kitchen knives are crafted from premium VG10 Japanese steel and boast a Rockwell Hardness rating of 60 +/- 2 (the industry standard is around 50 to 55 HRC), which means these knives hold up to everyday use and even the toughest cuts of meat with efficient elegance.
Where is the Best Place to Buy Steak Knives?
We might be biased, but you’ve already found where to buy the best steak knives! But really, decent steak knives can be purchased from any big box or department store. However, this is one of those things where you really DO get what you pay for.
The last thing you want is a steak knife snapping in half or injuring a dinner guest! Quality knives can usually be found at a store that sells high-end cookware. Just keep in mind that not all sales clerks will be able to recommend the best knives for you, the way you cook, or your budget. So, do your homework online and have three or four brands pre-selected before you go shopping.
If you are buying a set of knives in-store, hold each one in your hand and feel if it is balanced or ‘end’ heavy, which means the handle is too heavy or too big for your hand. Make sure you read the return policy if they don’t live up to your expectations for fit, form, and function. All F.N. Sharp knives come with a 100-day return policy, ensuring you plenty of time to truly feel the F.N. Sharp difference.
F.N. Sharp Tips How to Care for Your Steak Knives
In most households, steak knives are treated much differently than the knives used for prep. They’re often tossed in drawers and dishwashers with the rest of the silverware – and not many people ever think to have them sharpened (unless you read the first part of this article). The truth is, steak knives go dull as well, leaving your dinner guests to saw and rip through their steak as if working out was part of the dinner deal.
Instead, try to follow these tips:
- Be nice to your steak knives (and your guests) by making sure you take care of them.
- Always wash your knives by hand if you can, and be sure to thoroughly wipe them dry.
- Take notice of the signs of a dull knife, and if your knives aren’t performing as well as they should, then it’s time to get them sharpened.
- Don’t throw them in that drawer! Instead, invest in some proper knife storage, like in-drawer knife blocks – or you can grab one of our handy magnetic knife blocks and keep all of your knives safe and in one place!