An Expert Guide to Steak Knife Sets

Published on 11/22/2023 · 10 min readSlice into culinary excellence with our expert guide on steak knife sets, exploring the best in sharpness, durability, and design for an enhanced dining experience!
Di Doherty, Kitchen Expert
By Kitchen Expert Di Doherty

Photo by Eight Photo

TL;DR: When buying a steak knife, you should consider what material the blade is made out of, your budget, and if it’s serrated.

I’m a self-described carnivore. I love pork, chicken, turkey, and especially steak. If you regularly have meat on the dinner table, it’s important to have a knife that can cut it well, or you’re sure to end up frustrated — and potentially with dents in your plates from a slipping knife.

I’ve also always been fascinated by knives. I think they’re beautiful, effective tools. I have several pocket knives, a collection of high-quality kitchen knives, and a Bowie knife. I’ve been learning more about them and collecting the right equipment so that I can properly maintain my high-quality blades.

What Is a Steak Knife?

A steak knife is a table knife that is designed to slice through meat. While “steak” is in their name, they’re excellent for all types of red meat, pork, and poultry. You can use them for fish, too, but it’s generally going to be more knife than you need.

Because it’s a table knife, they’re usually not very large, with a blade between four and five inches long. Steak knives generally come in a knife set, as it is assumed that everyone at the table is going to need one.

What to Consider When Buying a Steak Knife Set

Photo by George W. Bailey

You're probably going to use your steak knives regularly, so it’s important to consider carefully before buying a set. Here are some questions to ask yourself before making a purchase.

What’s the Blade Material?

Which material will be the best for your needs will depend on what matters most to you in a steak knife. Here are the most common blade materials and their pros and cons.

  • Stainless steel: This is the most practical choice. A stainless steel blade is rust resistant, durable, and holds an edge well. It’s also affordable and widely available.
  • Carbon steel: Carbon steel is harder than stainless steel, allowing it to be sharper and hold an edge for longer. However, it’s prone to rust, meaning that it needs to be dried immediately after use or washing, and can never go in the dishwasher.
  • High-carbon stainless steel: High-carbon stainless is harder than regular stainless steel, allowing for a sharper, lighter blade that is resistant to rust. This is a relatively new material, so it’s still quite expensive.
  • Ceramic: Blades made of ceramic caused a splash a few years ago, though they haven’t really taken off. Ceramic has the benefit of being extremely light and able to hold a razor-sharp edge for a long time. The downsides are that it’s still expensive, can shatter or chip if dropped, and requires different tools to sharpen than metal knives.
  • Damascus steel: Despite the name, Damascus steel isn’t a different type of steel so much as a different technique for forging. It’s made by hammering layers of steel together, resulting in beautiful patterns on the blade. While Damascus steel performs admirably, it’s prohibitively expensive, meaning that you’ll be paying for the aesthetics of the knife.

Is the Blade Stamped or Forged?

When looking at knives, you’re likely to see the description say that the blade is either stamped or forged. If you’re unfamiliar with knife construction, that might mean nothing to you. Below are descriptions of the jargon to help you make informed decisions and get good value for your money.

A straight-edged stamped steak knife. Photo by Di Doherty

  • Stamped: Stamping is an inexpensive way to produce knives that results in a light, flexible blade. However, they usually don’t hold an edge well, nor do they last very long. A stamped blade is considered to be of inferior quality.
  • Forged: Forging is the process of shaping a piece of metal into a knife. All forged knives will have a tang, either full or partial. In general, even a low-quality forged knife will be sharper, better balanced, and longer lasting than a stamped one. The best steak knives are going to be forged, not stamped.

Does It Have a Full or Partial Tang?

The tang is the metal part of the knife that goes into the handle. It’s important because it adds strength, stability, and balance to the knife. Tangs are usually only found on forged knives and are considered a sign of superior quality.

  • Full tang: A full tang extends the length of the knife handle. Most knives with a full tang will showcase it by having rivets, a visible tang, or a cap on the end. Full-tang construction gives the knife better balance and a longer lifespan, as the strain on it during use is spread across the entire tang. A knife with a full tang will have some heft to it.
  • Partial tang: A partial tang gives the knife some durability but not as much area for the strain to spread. These knives are more prone to snapping where the blade meets the handle. Also, their balance is not as good as with a full tang. However, most partial-tang knives will hold up very well to average use, and they’re lightweight.

What Type of Handle Do I Want?

While the blade is what really determines the quality of the knife, a good handle is also important. You want a handle that’ll last the life of the knife and has a secure and comfortable grip.

  • Wood: When buying a high-end knife, this is the most common handle material. Wood is durable, beautiful, comfortable, and easy to work with. However, it should only be handwashed and needs to be oiled every so often to keep it from cracking.
  • Synthetic: There are many different types of synthetic knife handles, ranging from plastic, fiberglass, ceramic, or modified wood. Many of these materials can be comfortable, durable, and attractive, but that depends on their quality. Most inexpensive knives will have plastic handles that look and feel plasticky.
  • Rubber: This may not be the most fetching choice, but it is a practical one. Rubber or rubberized handles are easy to grip even when wet, water resistant, and durable.
  • Metal: Some blades will have a metal handle, usually also made of stainless. They’re generally found on low-end or mid-range knives. While an all-metal knife can be chic, I find them less comfortable, as they have no give. They can also become slippery when wet. But they do fare pretty well in the dishwasher and don’t require a lot of extra care.

How Much Am I Willing to Spend?

As with most kitchen knives, there’s a huge range in price when it comes to steak knives. Some of that depends on how many knives come in the set, with the standard number being four. You can get a set that’ll perform well for $50 to $100. But if you want a high-end set of steak knives, then you can spend a lot more.

Types of Steak Knives

Steak knives come in two primary types: serrated and straight edged. Which one’s better is a matter of personal preference, as both knife types do the job very well.

Serrated Blade

Photo by THP Creative

While the best-known serrated knife is a bread knife, steak knives often have serrations, too. A serrated steak knife is almost exclusively Western style.

Benefits:

  • The teeth help to grip what you’re cutting, preventing slippage.
  • Serrated blades require less frequent sharpening.

Be Aware:

  • This blade type is difficult to sharpen.

Straight-Edged Blade

Photo by Evgeny Karandaev

A knife with a straight edge is the style for Japanese steak knives, but there are a lot of Western options, too.

Benefits:

  • Straight-edged steak knives are better for precise cuts.
  • This style is straightforward to sharpen at home.

Be Aware:

  • Straight-edge blades lose their edge faster.

How to Choose the Best Steak Knife Set for You

A steak knife with a visible tang and on with rivets. Photo by Di Doherty

There are countless options for steak knife sets, meaning that finding the one that suits you best will require some thought. To help narrow down the possibilities, I’m going to describe three different people and what my top picks would be for their needs.

Avery: Budget-Conscious Family Cook

Avery bought a set of kitchen knives that came with lackluster steak knives. She’s tired of her current knives not doing the job but doesn’t want to spend a fortune to get new ones. Appearance doesn't matter to her too much, so long as the knives are well made, don’t require too much care, and will last.

Features to Look For:

  • A forged blade, as that will be more durable and last longer
  • A serrated edge, as they don’t need to be sharpened as often

Recommended Products:

  • Henckels Modernist Steak Knife Set of 4, Stainless Steel. Henckels is a familiar name in knives, and they produce well-made, affordable blades. These serrated knives only have a partial tang, but they receive high marks from reviewers in terms of effectiveness and durability. They have a stainless steel handle, which is part of why the manufacturer labels them as dishwasher safe.
  • Misen Steak Knives, 4 Piece. Misen makes affordable cookware and kitchen knives. These blades are under $100, sleek, and made of high-grade stainless steel. They’re only safe for handwashing, but I recommended that for all knives, anyway.

Miguel: Knife Enthusiast

Miguel loves knives and is willing to spend his discretionary income to get a top-tier set of steak knives. He’s willing to take the time to care for his knives properly, including handwashing them, oiling them, and storing them properly.

Features to Look For:

  • Steak knives made of high-carbon stainless steel. It’s a relatively new material, but it has the best of both stainless and carbon steel in terms of durability and sharpness.
  • Japanese-manufactured knives. While there are excellent Western knives that would deserve a place in Miguel’s collection, Japanese knives tend to be showpieces. They’re made of harder steel than Western ones, so they’re sharper, with an edge on only one side to ensure a precise cut.

Recommended Products:

  • Miyabi Artisan 4-Piece Steak Knife Set. If Miguel is looking for a showstopper, these knives have a beautiful wooden handle, a finish that looks hand hammered, and a razor-sharp edge. They’re also a straight-edged knife, making it easier for him to do all the care and maintenance himself.
  • Shun Premier Blonde 4-Piece Steak Knife Set. Shun is known for making excellent knives, and these beautiful steak knives are no exception. They have stunning blonde pakkawood handles and a laminated blade that results in a gorgeous Damascus steel-like finish, and they come in a box for storage.

Jesse: Extroverted Cook Who Loves Company

Jesse loves having people over to her place and wants a good set of steak knives so that she can serve meat without being worried her guests will struggle to cut it. She’s willing to spend some money but doesn't want to get anything too fancy.

Features to Look For:

  • A larger set of knives, such as six to eight, so she can accommodate her guests
  • Classic knives that can go with any decor or place setting

Recommended Products:

  • WÜSTHOF Stainless 8-Piece Steak Knife Set. These knives are a bit smaller than most steak knives at only 4 inches, but they have a chic all-metal design and come in a pretty olivewood chest. They’re full tang and come in a set of eight to accommodate more people.
  • Cangshan TS Series 7-Piece Steak Knife Block Set. Cangshan’s knives are attractive with a slightly curved design. The black handle will match any silverware, decor, or flatware. A set of six will accommodate most dinner parties, and they come with a wooden block for storage.

Find the Right Steak Knife Set for You

Photo by Natursports

It can be daunting to try to find the right choice for your needs, particularly if you don’t have experience with steak knives. If you need more information or advice, reach out to one of our Kitchen Experts here on Curated! Any of our Kitchen Experts would be more than happy to help you find the steak knife set that’s just right for you.

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