Which is the best knife for your steak?

The market offers such a large variety of steak knives to choose from that it can be confusing at the time of purchase. We will try to help you pick the right one by clearing up some doubts you might have.

The first thing to consider is the blade edge design.  The options are either smooth or serrated, and each works differently when slicing through different kinds of steak.  The second consideration is the width of the blade: narrow (around 1/2”), medium (3/4”), or wide (3/4”).  Although you can cut a porterhouse steak with a thin Laguiole blade or a thin breaded steak with a large knife, it makes sense to keep some correlation between the blade width, knife size, and steak thickness.  There are aesthetic considerations as well so, at the end of the day, the best knife is the one that performs better considering the kind of cut, its thickness, and the setting for the dining experience.

Let’s begin by explaining what “kind of beef” and “beef thickness” mean. The kind of beef refers to how firm or soft is the piece of meat, which depends on the cut and cooking method.  Although there are many beef cuts, recipes and thicknesses, we will concentrate our analysis on the 3 most common beef cuts.

Thin piece of beef, firm or soft meat, corresponds to a thin piece, around ¼” thick, like a breaded steak, skirt steak or brisket, which is easy to slice, even if it is a firm cut. In this case, any knife included in your dinnerware set will work well so you don’t need a specific “steak knife”. However, if you prefer to have a “steak knife” for improving the dinnerware presentation, you can do it considering a reasonable proportion between the steak thickness and the blade width.  A smooth edge is better for keeping moisture within the cut surface. Please bear in mind that if the knife is too big, it may look unrefined, like a machete cutting a piece of ham.

Medium piece of beef, soft meat, corresponds to a medium thickness beef preparation, which is in the range of ½” to 1” thick of a soft beef cut, like a short loin, sirloin, or tenderloin. In this case, the best steak knife has a smooth edge blade, thin or medium width. The smooth edge produces a soft cut surface, which is part of the full tasting experience. A serrated knife would produce a rugged surface which is not the best option.                                                          

Thick piece of beef, firm meat, corresponds to a thick beef preparation, which typically is in the range of 1- ¼” to 2” thick of a firm cut, like prime rib, rib eye, T-bone or porterhouse steak. In this case, the best steak knife has a serrated edge, medium or wide blade, which facilitates the cut through tough muscles or fibers within the meat. The smooth edge blade is less recommended because it requires a bigger effort, without any advantage in tasting.

Finally, there are some details that you should take into account:

  • Serrated design - It’s better to use a fine tooth blade, so the cutting movement will result in a rather smooth cut surface. If the blade teeth are on the bigger side, the cut surface will feel ragged like a towel instead of smooth. There’s no problem if you are in a survival contest. But if you are planning a gourmet dinner, you will try to enhance the tasting experience as much as possible.
    • Serrated knives never need sharpening.
    • Smooth edge knives need sharpening every 1-5 years, depending on how frequently they are used.
  • Blade shape- There are many options, but the most common are: drop point, trailing point, straight, and rounded point. Choose the one you like best, but consider that the cutting edge has to be curved for helping the cutting process.
  • Handle material- A variety of materials are available: metal, resin/plastic, wood, and stag horn, among others.
    • Wood is the warmest and most ecological material, but it is only practical for a home setting, where steak knives are used from time to time and you can hand wash them. The wood handle is not recommended for a restaurant or for high frequency use. Wood finishings, like lacquer, will degrade with time, and after a while the handle will look dull, like driftwood (maybe it is not a bad option, but you need to know this when you make your choice).
    • If you require a dishwasher-safe knife, you should consider a steel or resin/plastic handle. They look great and will stay in good condition for many years.
  • Knife weight- Too light a knife will look cheap, and one too heavy will be uncomfortable to handle, and look unrefined.  A good weight is in the range of 1.5 to 4 oz.
  • Style - Remember to think about the dinnerware you are planning to use with your steak knives so they look balanced and great together.

Now go and enjoy a wonderful steak meal!  Remember food always tastes better when shared with the ones you love.

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