All About Steak Knives

When I got engaged to my husband seventeen years ago, I received a set of four steak knives from my boss. I was not impressed by the gift. Steak knives? However, I’ve come to realize that they are one of the best gifts we received. After seventeen years, their serrated edges are still quite sharp and cut perfectly!

What Is a Steak Knife?

Steak knives are made to cut easily through steaks, chops, and chicken breasts, and are seen on many dinner tables. The blade’s edge could be serrated or smooth.

What Does a Steak Knife Look Like?

Steak knives vary in thickness but are narrower than most blades. The blade’s edge may be either straight or serrated, dependent on the manufacturer. They often have wooden handles and come to a point, though restaurants are trending blunted edges.

What is the History/Origin of Steak Knives?

The only things people used to eat in medieval Europe were hands and a good, sharp knife, which they carried with them to every meal. The fork and King Louis XIV, however, changed the European’s relationship with knives. In 1669 King Louis XIV made pointed knives illegal in France. Most were blunted, evolving into the common table knife we use today. The sharp table (steak) knife wouldn’t emerge until after World War II. Some gifted letter openers were later sold as steak knives. Their advertisement boasted the advantage of putting a lovely steak knife next to each plate, just like in the restaurants.

How Long Is a Steak Knife?

Steak knives have 4 to 6-inch blades, though some are as long as 7 inches. The handles should be the same length as the blade, totaling around 10 inches long.

What Makes a Good Steak Knife?

The size of a steak knife’s blade should be proportionate to its handle. This offers good balance and is aesthetically pleasing. One can judge a knife by holding it in hand. Is it easy to grip? Does it feel well balanced for optimal use? Does a wooden, metal, composite resin, or laminate materials handle feel better? Is the grip comfortable or awkward? Would it feel extra manly to hold this knife? Preference is key. There are other factors in deciding what makes a great steak knife. Ideally, a steak knife blade is between 4 and 4.5 inches long, and the handle should be the same length. Handles should be tapered from end to end and have a wider butt to allow for a better grip. As far as blades go, there are two types to consider: stamped and forged. Stamped blades tend to be cheaper than forged, but forged blades are stronger and are easier to sharpen. It is difficult to tell a forged blade from a stamped, so one should read the description carefully before purchasing a knife. Also, a tanged knife has less chances of breaking since the blade continues down the middle of the handle.

What Is a Steak Knife Used For?

A straight-edged steak knife could be seen on the same level as a utility knife and used for many things. It will cube cheese, half a sandwich, core an apple, split cherry tomatoes, trim fat from meat, and much more. Its primary function, however, is to slice into cooked meats like pork, chicken, and, of course, steak.

When to Use Steak Knives?

Steak knives can be used anytime, day or night, to cut through various food items. The most appropriate time, however, is steak time. We generally only use steak knives at dinnertime, but that is because it’s the only time we eat cooked meat.

How to Properly Hold a Steak Knife?

To hold a steak knife while eating, one should grip it in their dominant hand with the index finger placed on the base of the knife. A fork is used in the non-dominant hand, prongs faced downward. Hold the food down with the fork and slowly cut the meat. When taking a bite switch hands, placing the knife in the non-dominant hand and fork in the dominant hand.

What Is the Purpose of a Serrated Steak Knife?

Serrated steak knives are found most commonly in America. This type of blade allows you to cut through meats that have a tougher exterior and a tenderer, juicier interior; similar to a medium well-done steak. Serrated edges require a sawing motion to cut the meat as opposed to just pressing down like straight blades. Therefore, it turns out to be more of a clean tear than a precise slice.

Can Steak Knives be used to Cut Vegetables?

Non-serrated steak knives are similar to utility knives and can handle vegetables, fruit, peeling, and dicing just as well as cutting through steaks. However, I would not use mine to cut firmer vegetables like carrots because I would have to see through them. And though straight-edge steak knives could easily cut any vegetable, I would avoid using them too much so as not to dull the blade that much faster.

How to Care for a Steak Knife?

It’s important to keep a steak knife clean and dry to prevent corrosion. Hand washing is preferred with a non-abrasive sponge as harsh dishwasher detergent can dull knife blades. It is not recommended to put a steak knife in the dishwasher at all or soak it in water. Paper towels work best for drying, but any clean, soft towel would do. Using steak knives regularly ensures proper sharpening. Keeping the knife-sharp consistently helps prevent slippage and accidents while using the knife. It is important to safely store the steak knife to prevent dulling the blade. It can be stored in an in-drawer or countertop wooden knife block, a magnetic knife strip, or a knife guard cover. A cheaper option is to fold them into a tea towel or make sheaths from emptied cereal boxes. The type of blade also determines how to fully care for the knife. For example, carbon steel requires rinsing right after contact with tomatoes, onions, citrus, or any other acidic foods. If not rinsed right away, the blade will begin to corrode. It is recommended to oil the blade after each use. On top of all of this, a yearly professional tune-up will keep the knives in top shape.

How to Sharpen a Non-Serrated and Serrated Steak Knife?

Many things dull steak knife blades, like ceramic plates, wooden cutting boards, metal countertops, and poorly-made knife blocks. Keeping blades sharp retains their like-new performance and lessons the probability of an accident by slippage. An accident with a knife could cause injury to the one using it or to the knife itself.

A non-serrated steak knife should be sharpened every two weeks, at least. Start by sliding it through the course side on a quality knife sharpener, making sure to hold the knife upright while applying a firm, even pressure the whole time. A few swipes on each side should be plenty. Using a whetstone, soak it in water until no more bubbles escape. Hold the knife at a 20-degree angle, then drag the blade tip firmly in a gliding motion from heel to tip, swapping sides each swipe. Like the knife sharpener, start with the coarse side for a few swipes then swap to the finer side for another few swipes. As long as the blade isn’t too incredibly dull, that should suffice.

Serrated knife blades were designed to preserve their edges better since such a small portion of the blade makes contact with hard surfaces such as plates and cutting boards. They have one side that is straight and the other that angles in. They can be sharpened by pushing the angled side down over the chef sharpening steel, making sure to press down over each serration. If burrs appear on the straight side, honing it over the sharpening steel a couple of times should remove them.

Different Types of Steak Knives

Basic steak knife blades come in serrated edge, micro-serrated edge, straight edge, and hollow edge. Hollow edge knives sport measured indentions on the blade’s surface. Blades can be forged from stainless steel, high-carbon stainless steel, or cheaper high-carbon steel. Some blades are longer than the handles, but most match in length. Handles could be made of wooden, metal, composite resin, or laminate materials.

Non-Serrated Steak Knives

The non-serrated steak knife, also called a “plain” or “straight” steak knife, has a flat blade edge. The plain knife blade is much more popular in Europe than America, but some hold it as a firm favorite. This knife most resembles the dinner knife that people used to use in medieval Europe.

Advantage of Non-Serrated Steak Knives

A good quality plain edge knife that is sharpened cuts meat like butter. The entire blade touches the surface, resulting in a much cleaner cut than the cut made by a serrated knife blade. The cleaner cut allows more juice to stay within the meat and looks nicer. Another advantage of plain knife edges is that they are much easier to sharpen than serrated edges.

Disadvantage of Non-Serrated Steak Knives

A disadvantage of the plain steak knife is that they dull very easily and require frequent sharpening. Since they dull more quickly, there is a greater chance of injury and damage to the knife blade.

Serrated Steak Knives

Joseph Burns invented a bread knife with serrations in 1919. This improved baker’s lives worldwide, allowing them to slice bread without smashing it. Most restaurants in America prefer serrated steak knives for similar reasons: because they cut through steak so nicely. Also, maintenance is easier than non-serrated blades.

Advantage of Serrated Steak Knives

One great advantage of a non-serrated steak knife is that the blade stays sharp longer and it does not require sharpening as often. In my case, sharpening knives has always intimidated me. I think many Americans feel this way and so choose serrated blades. Overall, cutting through a steak with a serrated blade is easier than a plain edge, and there is less maintenance.

Disadvantage of Serrated Steak Knives

The serrated steak knife tends to tear through the steak, releasing more of the meat’s juices than the clean-cut of a non-serrated edge. Also, sharpening a serrated steak knife is more time-consuming since you have to press into between every single serration.

Japanese Steak Knives

Traditionally, Japanese steak knives, or “gyutou,” are non-serrated and get sharpened to an 11-degree angle. They are generally lighter, well balanced, and feature harder, thinner steel that holds their sharp edge. They are very popular among professional chefs and connoisseurs of fine cutlery. In fact, they are so popular that oftentimes supply outnumbers the demand.

Advantage of Japanese Steak Knives

I have personally witnessed that Japanese craftsmanship is usually top-notch, and their serrated steak knives are no different. One can rest assured that each tooth is sharp enough to cut through meat effortlessly. They have a single, narrower bevel that results in smooth, precise cuts. Also, Japanese knife makers can put a lot of love into the knives and they can turn out quite beautiful.

Disadvantage of Japanese Steak Knives

One disadvantage of a serrated Japanese steak knife is that it is more prone to rust and requires extra care. The firmer metal is also more prone to receive chips and cracks.

German Made Steak Knives

Germany has produced premium knives since the 19th century, and many chefs around the world prefer their nearly flawless cutlery. Their steak knives are no different. German steak knives are a good bet for beginners as well as novices in the kitchen. They usually have a full-length tang, which improves durability and bolster. They tend to be heavy but the blade grind is symmetrical.

Advantage of German Made Steak Knives

German serrated steak knives are heavier and would tackle a tougher steak more easily. They don’t require weekly cleanings or sharpening each year. Another big plus is that they are dishwasher safe, which is great for people like me who hate to wash anything by hand. Since they are so solid, the blade won’t chip as easily as a Japanese steak knife.

Disadvantage of German Made Steak Knives

Since they are heavier, it may be less comfortable to lift and cut into small steaks. They come with a 20 to 22-degree angle, which won’t cut as precisely as a Japanese knife.

Damascus Steak Knives

Damascus steel forging knowledge was once guarded by very few people, but this Near East and the Middle East forging method has reemerged today. Scientists have discovered ways via modern technology to recreate the resilient and finely intricate Damascus steel. Damascus steak knives are commonly made from steel grades VG-1, 2, 10, and AUS8. Damascus Steel has a feather pattern.

Advantage of Damascus Steak Knives

The feather pattern is unique and aesthetically pleasing. They have excellent sharp edge retention, which means less laborious sharpening between each serration. The wider angled edge increases durability and means less chips and cracks in the blade. Damascus steel provides the perfect ratio of carbon and elements of stainless steel to balance corrosion resistance, ductility, and sharpness.

Disadvantage of Damascus Steak Knives

Carbon Damascus blades, like Japanese blades, are prone to rust and corrosion. Hence, they require greater maintenance. The thicker blade and wider angle also produce less precise cuts.

Stainless Steel Steak Knives

The many benefits of stainless steel steak knives make them a popular favorite. Stainless steel contains carbon and iron along with other elements, such as chromium, to increase corrosion resistance. The higher the chromium content, the better its resistance to corrosion.

Advantage of Stainless Steel Steak Knives

Stainless steel blades are durable, they cost less, and are rust and stain-resistant. Considering knives are mostly used in very wet environments, this is a huge bonus. They resist fire and heat, which is a comfort in the kitchen. Also, a stainless steel knife won’t contaminate food, which is convenient at home and for professionals.

Disadvantage of Stainless Steel Steak Knives

A stainless steel knife isn’t as easy to sharpen because they are so flimsy and, unfortunately, does not stay as sharp as other blades like carbon steel. Sharpening them also destroys their edge.

Dishwasher Safe Steak Knives

Many steak knife manufacturers are producing dishwasher-safe knives. They are made of high-quality stainless steel which is highly resistant to rust, corrosion, and scratches.

The best dishwasher-safe knives are undeniably sharp, thick in the belly, and curved in the handle and at the tip. They can be serrated or non-serrated or a combination of both.

Non-wooden handles assure the longevity of the knife as a whole. One should use the shortest time cycle in the dishwasher.

Advantage of Dishwasher Safe Steak Knives

Many dishwasher-safe steak knives are coated with a protectant like PTR or titanium.

Many are made with high carbon stainless steel, which provides the best performance.

Many glides through steak easily, don’t scratch, and (best of all) can be cleaned in the dishwasher!

They come with a full tang option and some even guarantee that the serrated blade will never dull. That promise for a dishwasher-safe knife? Unbeatable!

Disadvantage of Dishwasher Safe Steak Knives

One still needs to remember to wipe the blade directly after the dishwasher cycle.

The handles of dishwasher-safe steak knives are usually made from steel and many may feel non-wooden handles are unsightly.

Knives can become dull quickly if not of very good quality steel and protective coating on the blade could sometimes easily be worn off.

Final Verdict

Luckily, my seventeen-year-old steak knives have kept a sharp serrated edge, even after only being washed in the dishwasher. I wish I knew what brand they were, but they came without packaging. The many aspects of steak knives are fascinating, and when the time comes to replace our current ones, I am now better equipped to choose the perfect set!

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