Which set of steak knives can really cut it?
Published July 1, 2015. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 16: Pork Kebabs and Steaks Hit the Grill
When we learned that our favorite steak knife set, the Victorinox Swiss Army 6-Piece Rosewood Steak Set, increased in price from about $80 to about $170, we wondered if we could find comparable knives that wouldn’t slice into our savings. We knew from past tests that serrated knives—even those with minuscule serrations—mangle and tear meat, so we focused on smooth-edged steak knives. Smooth-edged knives can also be sharpened, giving them a longer lifespan than serrated knives. We rounded up sets of four to six knives (all were priced less than $18 per knife). Lefties and righties with large and small hands sat at dinner tables and tried each blade, slicing through rare and well-done steaks—including inexpensive, moderately tough shell sirloin and pricey, tender strip steaks—served on ceramic plates. Each knife made 525 cuts in total.
To measure the sharpness of each knife, we sliced through a single sheet of paper before and after testing, noting how easily the knife slid through. Most knives were sharp out of the box, with the exception of one set that struggled, making jagged, torn slices of meat. Surprisingly, another set was almost too sharp, rapping loudly against our plates and leaving permanent marks in the ceramic no matter how gently we cut. This set quickly dulled from repeated grinding into the plate and failed the paper test after 525 cuts. Only one other set was too dull to slice through paper by the end of testing. The remaining two sets were either just as sharp as when we started or showed only a minimal decrease in sharpness.
As for comfort, testers favored knives with contoured wood handles, which were lightweight and easy to grip. Some knives with plastic or metal handles were either too heavy or felt slippery in testers’ palms. We also preferred knives whose blades and handles were of nearly equal length, which made them easier to control. Our preferred products had less than a 3/4-inch difference in the length of their handles and blades; the lower-ranked knives had either handles or blades that were longer by an inch or more and therefore felt unbalanced.
While testers gave a slight edge to our winning knives for their comfortable, attractive handles and slightly sharper blades (we still recommend them as a top choice), our Best Buy performed almost identically at a savings of nearly $24 per knife. Our Best Buy's blades held their edge through more than 500 cuts and their thick wood handles were lightweight and easy to hold.
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