Steak knives are one of the most over-looked, and least-understood blades in the entire cutlery world. Few people, even professional chefs, actually understand what is really required in a steak knife. Many regard them as simply cheap knives that cut good enough to hack off a chunk of meat, and most are not even as good as a stone hand axe for the task (actually, obsidian has the sharpest edge of anything in the known world…). Even up-scale restaurants seldom have proper steak knives, and I am likely as not to whip out my Mora, Finn Bear, or Kudu, to give proper respect to the expensive and perfectly prepared piece of meat I have ordered.
WHY YOU NEED A GOOD STEAK KNIFE SET AT HOME
Is a good-quality steak knife really that important? After all, you could just pick up your steak and bite pieces off of it, right? In the bush, where the best recipes just have 2 ingredients, meat and fire, you use what you have. But getting a steak at home, or in a nice restaurant is more than just eating. You’re spending some serious coin on an exquisite culinary delight, lovingly and expertly prepared. The side-dishes, tableware, and cutlery should reflect this. It needs to be a complete dining experience. You don’t want the experience ruined by having to fight the cutlery to get a decent bite of steak. You need a good steak knife.
Here you can find my favorite sets:
|The Best Steak Knives||Pieces||Price||Rating|
|Laguiole Set of 8 Steak Knives||8||$$|
|Wusthof steak knife set||4||$$$|
|Tyrellex Steak Knives||6||$$|
WHAT MAKES A GOOD STEAK KNIFE?
The first misconception is that steak knives are just kitchen knives. They are most certainly not. Kitchen knives are used on a wooden or poly cutting board, which is easy on knife edges. Steak knives are used on hard plates, which can dull an edge very quickly. That same 420 stainless steel that makes a workable chefs knife will be horrible in a steak knife. You need a tough steel that can still take a mean edge. I recommend nothing less than VG-10, 4116 Krupp, T-12, 12c27, or similar steels. And they need to be stainless, not carbon, because of the salt content of meat (plus the additional salt a lot of us add at the table…). No one is going to stop in the middle of eating, or leave the table immediately upon finishing, to clean, sharpen, and oil their steak knives, which would have to be the case with high-carbon blades. They can stain in as little as 30 minutes. I also do not recommend steak ceramic knives. They do not have a good edge, are very difficult to sharpen, and are extremely brittle.
Next, the steak knife set needs to look and feel good. And you do use sets… serving people with all different knives is the height of bad taste in my opinion. If your atmosphere is Western Steakhouse, you want matte-finished wooden handles. If you are going up-scale, you want Laguiole-style handles of bone, nice wood, horn, and others. For a modern look, brushed aluminum scales are the trend in better restaurants. They should have a little weight to them, and have a nice balance. They should feel like an extension of your hand, and make you want to use them. My personal steak knives at home feel so good in the hand that sometimes I fix steaks just so I can use them…
BENEFITS OF HAVING A STEAK KNIFE SET
Cutting made easier. The first and most obvious benefit to having a great set of steak knives is that eating a steak, or any other food item requiring it to be cut as it is eaten, such as 1/2 chickens, leg quarters, cornish hens, ham steaks, etc…will be a lot easier and more enjoyable. There is nothing more exasperating and embarrassing as having your cut of meat go flying off the plate while you are trying to cut it. Good steak knives can even cut through tough meat and gristle easily.
Be proud of your steak knives. The next benefit is that good steak knives will give you a sense of pride in your kitchen, and culinary abilities, whether they are real or perceived. As a rule, when you feel good, you prepare food good, or at least as good as your skills permit. It will also impress your dinner guests and show them that you have enough respect for them and your food to only offer the best.
There are many other intangible benefits, too many to list here, and they will be different for each person. But I feel confident in saying that there is absolutely no down-side to owning a good set of steak knives, and no benefit what-so-ever to owning a cheap, poorly made and designed set. Well-prepared food is deserving of respect, and should be eaten with the very best cutlery and tableware possible. Leave the cheap stuff at the bargain stores, and do your kitchen and dining room a favor. Give them the cutlery they deserve.
GETTING THE EDGE: WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A STEAK KNIFE
With steak knives, you have a few choices of grinds. We’ve already discussed the steel, so now, we have to decide on a grind. Chisel-grinds are OK, and will certainly stay sharp longer than some other edges, and they are easy to re-sharpen because they are only ground on one side. But, the acute angle will not allow for a really wicked edge. It is a good compromise if you don’t want to have to do a lot of upkeep on your knives. This is a very common grind on a lot of Japanese chef knives.
Hollow-grind would be next up the scale, and is a perfectly good edge for cutting meat. It is the most common grind on European-style steak knives you will encounter. The very best grind is the outstanding Scandinavian grind, used on Moras, Laguioles, and higher-end cutlery. This takes a surgical edge, but will require a little upkeep. You will find the small amount of extra care is more than worth it.
The next thing to decide is type of edge. Here, you have three choices:
We can immediately rule out micro-serrated blades. The serrations are too small to get any kind of sharpening instrument between the points, where the actual cutting is done, and they will dull quickly and become worthless. They cannot be sharpened to any decent degree. They also rip and tear a lot worse than a standard serrated blade. Micro-serrated blades are common on cheap steak knives, and in my opinion, are best avoided.
As to the rest, there are two schools of thought. Many feel that serrated blades cut much more efficiently, stay sharp longer, and the cutting edges do not actually contact the plate, so they do not dull as quickly. For the most part, all of this is true. And, serrated blades are not that hard to sharpen with modern sharpeners, many of which are designed specifically for serrated blades. But they do tend to rip and tear more than a plain blade, so they will not make as pretty a cut. Logically, you are about to pop that slice in your mouth and immediately chew it into oblivion, with great pleasure and satisfaction, so that’s really not much of an issue. There is nothing wrong with a serrated steak knife.
Plain blades will slice through meat like butter, but they will contact the plate surface and can result in very unpleasant friction squeaking in some cases, and they will dull more quickly than serrated blades, but again, they are easily re-sharpened. It comes down to mostly personal preference. I use both equally.
THE BEST STEAK KNIVES: MY FAVORITE OPTIONS
To recap, you want steak knives with good steel, good feel, and good looks. If you have ever eaten a perfect steak with a good steak knife, you will never want to even look at a cheap one again. It may be subjective, but steak really does taste better when you cut it with a good knife. I will conclude this article with a few reviews of what I believe are the best values for good steak knife sets, from best to minimal. These are not the only good ones, and my opinion probably differs from others, but it will give you a good place to start in your quest for the perfect steak knives.
Laguiole En Aubrac: My personal favorite
At the top of the list is this classic from France. No other steak knife has the style and feel of a Laguiole. Of course, Laguiole is not a brand name, but a style of knife invented in the Laguiole region of France a long time ago. Many companies manufacture Laguiole-Style knives, but Laguiole En Aubrac is one of
the best. All real Laguiole knives are still made by one of a few small companies in Laguiole, France. Others are Forge de Laguiole, La Coutellerie de Laguiole, and
Laguiole de L’Artisan. Their blades cut like a Mora or Opinel, are reasonably tough for what they are made for, and are absolutely beautiful. They have a balance and fit like no other culinary knife I can think of. They are the Snap-On tools of the culinary cutlery world. The scales range from stainless steel, with their simplistic beauty, all the way up to bone, and exotic woods. And the really great thing about Laguioles is that, like their cousins, the Opinels, they are not hideously expensive. They come in an exquisite wood presentation box. The price is not bad at all for the quality. But beware…there are dozens of cheap Chinese-made knock-offs (read; counterfeit), and lesser quality models made by many companies and advertised as “Geniune Laguiole-style”, circulating everywhere. Laguiole knives will have the brand name on them, and the word France, or Made In France on the blade. Regarding the steel, is T-2 as durable as VG-10? Of course not, but except in a very extreme situation, it is unlikely you will need to be using these for batoning wood for a fire, or field dressing a mastodon. They are made to cut steak, and they do it better than any other culinary knife I know of.
Shun: Japanese quality set
From the Land of the Rising Sun, and the people that brought you the Katana, comes a set of steak knives that can come very close to rivaling Laguioles. The secret to the Katanas cutting ability is layered steel, and Shun has applied that same artistry to their steak knives. They start with Japan’s incredible VG-Max super-steel, and layer it with legendary Damascus stainless. This creates a blade that not only looks exquisite, but also takes a wicked edge, and holds it very well, even with severe abuse. They take this full-tang blade and mate it to beautiful pakkawood scales, polished to a beautiful mirror-like sheen. They have a great feel, balance, and simply glide through just about anything they encounter. Shun steak knives come in several blade shapes, so you can select the style that suits you best. They are not cheap, but they will last several generations, and are absolutely heirloom-quality.
Wusthof Classic: High quality german steak knives
With Old-World German styling and workmanship, Wusthof Classic steak knives are the unofficial industry-standard. With sharp and durable A-2 Stainless blades, and gorgeous, almost indestructible composition scales, these knives are at home on any table. They come with a Lifetime Guarantee, and are very elegant-looking.
Victorinox: Great steak knives for the right price
The same people that make the wonderful Swiss Army knives. They make a set of steak knives that, even though they fall into the, “Bugdet” category, are absolutely incredible, and can hold their own against knives costing 4 times more. Victorinox uses their own stainless steel, which is superior to both 420j and 440c. They take an almost surgical edge, hold it well, and sharpen easily. The blades are mounted in beautiful rosewood scales. The fit and feel is as good as any of the premium-quality sets from other manufacturers. With a good sticker-price for a set of 6, it is hard to see how you could go wrong with these.
Tyrellex: Cheaper but still good
Mostly sold online, it was very difficult to get any real information on these other than they cut well, and seem to have very good reviews. After much searching, they appear to be of Chinese manufacture, with 8cr13MOV stainless steel, full-tang blades. 8cr13MOV is a good cutlery steel from China, superior to 420j in most respects, and equal to AUS 8. If you remember history, steel was originally invented in China, and while they do make some really sorry steel for low-end knives, they also make some that is as good as any made anywhere else in the world. 8cr13MOV is one of the better ones. These knives take a great edge, hold it reasonably well, and sharpen easily. The scales are made of pakkawood with a matte finish, which I actually prefer over a gloss finish. It lets the natural beauty of the wood show. The set I looked at had a great feel and fit, and the weight was just right. I would rate them at least as good as the Victorinox set, maybe even a little nicer. The price is right for a set of 6, with a beautiful and well-made wooden presentation box, I don’t see how you could miss with these. Oh, and they come with a lifetime replacement warranty. What more could you ask for at that price?
CONCLUSION: IT’S TIME TO CHOOSE
Of course, only you can decide what steak knife set is really best. The sets above should show you what a good set of steak knives should look and feel like, and about how much you may have to spend. But don’t limit your search to only these knives. Sometimes, the search is a good part of the fun. Enjoy it, and leave a comment if you need further help and recommendations.