Serrated knives were originally invented to cut bread easily and without destroying the loaf.
So why are steak knives serrated? Well, they really aren’t. Steak knives are smooth bladed while utility bread knives are often serrated and used to cut through tough steaks.
Since so many people eat steaks from tough cuts, many people use serrated knives as steak knives.
So were serrated knives invented specifically to cut through the sinewy tissue of the tough meat? Geocuse, a website devoted to cultural culinary history, states that they were not.
Any good chef will attest to the fact that it is of the utmost importance to use the correct knife to perform the tasks they were designed to perform. When purchasing a new kitchen knife, one should take into consideration the reasons for buying it.
What qualities should one look for in a serrated steak knife
The America’s Test Kitchen video site features a segment that talks about what qualities to look for when considering a serrated knife.
The researchers there tested a large number of knives using participants with multiple skill levels who tried their hand at cutting various sizes and textures of bread loaves, whole sandwiches, cake, and even tomatoes.
Their conclusions were that the best-serrated knives had specific features. For example, they should have well-made, high-quality steel blades and feel good in the hand.
A bad knife can ruin the best steak.Bill Wusthof
A knife with a poorly-constructed handle will cause fatigue in the hands, especially when engaging in repetitive slicing.
The serrated knives that had short blades did not fare well in the evaluation, and it was concluded that one should select a knife that can go across the entire width of a loaf of bread.
This will help prevent the bread’s tearing as it is being sliced.
There are two different types of serrated edges on knives.
One type of serrated knife comes with dull or smooth scalloped edges rather than sharp points. The reasoning behind the invention of this type of blade was the idea that the blade with smooth serrations, more a more direct contact with the food.
This, however, turned out not to be an advantage and is less often chosen than the serrated knives with sharp points. The scalloped edges of the blade often tore the bread that was being sliced and did not produce uniform slices.
It also destroyed tomato slices, so the researchers noted that the preferred blade style was that that had points rather than scallops.
Serrated knives with pointed edges feature small gullies or dimples behind each point. The points help the knife sink easily into the food, and the gullies help lower friction.
Less friction means the knife will glide smoothly through the food without tearing it.
Should steak be cut with a serrated knife?
The toothed edge of the serrated knife enables the knife to slide through even the toughest steak with little effort by using a sawing motion, so naturally, one would consider this the best choice for cutting meat. However, there are different thoughts about this.
For instance, a representative from the Tharwa Bladesmithing School in Australia points out that meat is at its best when it has been allowed to rest after cooking it.
The purpose of doing this is so that the juice will be retained in the meat, resulting in a better-tasting, more tender cut of meat. Unlike a smooth-edged knife, a serrated edge will tear the fibers of the meat rather than seal them as a straight micro-edged blade would.
Thus, logically, if a serrated blade were used to cut the meat, it is more likely the liquid would escape and the steak would not be as juicy. The person who enjoys a dryer cut of meat might select a serrated knife, but a juicy steak is a more popular option.
Conversely, there are blades that are smooth toward the tip and serrated lower on the blade, creating a knife that can be angled to cut only the toughest sections of the meat with the serrated section.
Is a serrated knife better for meat?
Wusthof knives are rated highly as one of the top ten knife manufacturers in the world. They specialize in excellently-honed steel blades and carry a wide variety of steak knives.
- WÜSTHOF GOURMET SERIES – 6 Piece Steak Knife Set with triple riveted synthetic polypropylene handles that resist fading, discoloration, heat and impact. Precisely laser-cut stamped knives offer superb quality and value
- RAZOR SHARP – High Carbon Stainless Steel Blades, precisely cut with the latest state of the art technology for incredible sharpness and easy maintenance. WÜSTHOF kitchen knives are Hand Wash Only
- WÜSTHOF STEAK KNIFE SET – Includes six 4 1/2" Steak Knives. Ergonomic handle design made from a long-lasting synthetic material to resist fading and discoloration
- DURABLE – WÜSTHOF Cutlery is crafted to resist corrosion and dulling. This German made Kitchen Knife set measures approximately 10” x 5” x 15” and comes with a limited lifetime warranty
- CENTURIES OF TRADITION – Family owned for seven generations, WÜSTHOF was founded in Solingen, Germany over 200 years ago. WÜSTHOF’s cutlery carries the Solingen name, a designation reserved for products that meet the strictest quality standards
Their steak knives are all straight-edged styles. In their article that examines the best steak knives available, the New York Times lists Wusthof as one of the best knife manufacturers, claiming that these knives rely upon “well-constructed German engineering” to create smooth-edged steak knives that rely upon the strength and quality of the knife’s steel.
The blade is described as “sharp and tough” and is reported to be a good weight with good “hand-feel” The testers characterized this smooth-edged steak knife as “perfect.”
The same article listed Messermeister Avanta Pakkawood knives as the best steak knife for the cost. These knives are touted as being, not only beautiful to behold but among the highest performing steak knives available. These knives also feature smooth, sharp edges that enable them to easily conquer any steak.
- STEAK KNIFE SET - Avanta knives were developed for one of the leading culinary schools in North America. This set was designed with uncompromising attention to detail, featuring rounded, triple-rivet pakkawood handles for comfort and durability.
- BLADE WITH A PURPOSE - Smooth, fine edges are the most versatile for cutting. This edge can be used to cut, chop, slice & dice all firm and soft fruits, vegetables, meats and fish.
- HIGH QUALITY - Our blades are crafted from German X50 stainless steel for knives that are sharp, rust resistant, and easy to maintain. Plus, the solid bolsters and full tang construction give the knives great balance & heft.
- OUR STORY - Founded in 1981, Messermeister is a leading manufacturer of premium handcrafted kitchen cutlery. Today, we’re a family and women-owned company, continuing to bring innovation & creativity to kitchens around the world.
The Times listed the Chicago Cutlery Walnut Traditions steak knives as one of the best functioning steak knives available in the budget class. Like the two knives previously discussed, these steak knives also have smooth, rather than serrated, edges that are not serrated.
- Each knife features an ergonomic Fibrox Pro handle
- Material and workmanship
- Expertly crafted in Switzerland in 1884,
- High-carbon stainless steel blades feature our exclusive Taper Grind edge technology for optimum sharpness, edge retention and easier resharpening.
- Full tang blade extends from tip of the knife to end of the handle for added balance and strength
The Opinel No. 125 Bon Appetit (French) steak knives are also among the most highly touted steak knives and are created with an ultra-sleek, contemporary look. They were rated as one of the best steak knives in the world with “very functional” blades, which are smooth and not serrated.
- Hornbeam Handle
- Stainless Steel blade
- Dishwasher Safe
- 2 year Warranty
- Supplied box
Even though many of the best knives for cutting steak are smooth-edged knives, serrated-edged knives are still a popular choice. People enjoy the fact that long periods of time can pass before this type of knife needs to be sharpened and like the ease with which they can be used.
Serrated knives cut the meat at an angle rather than straight across, and are used in many fine dining establishments and are also the preferred knife by many families.
Can you sharpen a serrated knife?
Even though Serrated knives can go longer without the need to be sharpened, they do become dull after frequent use. They are also notably more difficult to sharpen the straight-edged knives, which can be sharpened with a few quick passes over a sharpening stone.
People often take their serrated knives to a professional knife sharpener to be sharpened because it takes special skills to sharpen them, and it takes special equipment.
Are steak knives supposed to be sharp?
The Food Quality and Entrepreneur Department at the Utah State Cooperative Extension published a guide for teaching knife skills in which there is a section about knife sharpening.
The guide notes that sharp knives are safer to use than dull knives because sharp ones are able to glide evenly through the food. This enables the user to be in control of the blade at all times.
When using a dull knife, the possibility that it will hang or tug exists, making it necessary for the user to apply additional force.
During this action, the user briefly loses control of the knife’s blade, which can lead to minor skin nicks or even severe cuts. Therefore, keeping a sharp edge on a knife is the user’s assurance of a safer cutting experience.
The knife experts at Knife Aid note that there are three main styles of serrated knives.
The single serration knife is usually used for soft fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes and bread, and typically features a single blade serrated on one side.
The upper side of the knife for a right-handed person features relatively small, scallop shapes along the edge that feature either the rounded or pointed tips that were previously discussed.
The opposite side of the knife is flat and is the side that is sharpened. This is the easiest of the three categories to sharpen.
To sharpen a single serration knife, the knife should be passed through a ceramic or steel round hone. It only takes a couple of passes on the flat side of the blade to leave the knife sharp and ready to use.
The micro serration knife can be used as a paring knife or steak knife. They are generally created from low-grade steel and are not designed to be sharpened. Once they become dull, they should be discarded.
A knife that has double serration is similar to a micro-serration knife in that it was not designed to be sharpened. The serrations appear on both sides of the blade and usually follow a regular interval of smaller, then larger, serrations.
What is the point of a serrated blade?
The point of using a serrated blade over a smooth-edged knife is that these knives are low maintenance and they are easy to use without too much effort. In some ways, they resemble saws, and they have specific purposes.
If a food has a resistant surface, for instance, a serrated knife can cut straight through it. Even after the points on the serrations become dull, a serrated knife can continue to cut.
A smooth-edged knife moves in one direction only. A serrated knife enables the user to saw the food back and forth, which in some cases is the best approach. A perfect example is their excellence in cutting bread.
Because of the serrations, these knives can maneuver their way through the tough outer layer of the bread without tearing it or causing it to collapse. Once it has made its way through the crusty layer, it does not compress the softer inner area of the bread.
The serrated blade incises the food and moves transversely over its surface and through the center, beginning as a parallel cut rather than the perpendicular cuts made by a smooth-edged knife. Serrated knives are excellent to use with fruits, such as pineapple, to remove the tough outer skin.
While a smooth-edged knife will help keep the juices in a tender steak, a serrated knife does work well with tougher cuts of meat.
When using a serrated knife, very little pressure is needed to cut through such meats as round tip steak, top round steak, the eye of round roast, bottom round roast, round tip steak, and chuck tender steak.
There is simply not one answer to every kitchen knife issue. Therefore, it is recommended to purchase both kinds and use each for its intended purpose.
As with any kitchen knife, one should choose a high-quality serrated knife. Even if the initial cost is somewhat higher, paying the quality can pay off in the end.
Higher quality knives last longer and do not need to be replaced as often, and as previously noted, they are safer, because they enable the user to maintain control over the knife at all times.
While both smooth-edged knives and serrated knives are both considered to be essential kitchen tools, think of a good serrated knife as a specialty item that has specific uses, but that is not required for all cutting.