Also Great: Opinel No 125 Bon Appetit Set
Several testers diverged from the pack on steak knife aesthetics, preferring something with cleaner, modern lines instead of the traditional look. If that also describes you, the Opinel No. 125 Bon Appetit Set, which used to be called the South Spirit, is our recommendation. The Opinel blades are noticeably less sharp than the Messermeister and Wüsthof, but they still cut our tough test-steaks neatly and efficiently. The beautiful handles are made of olivewood, which, in addition to being pretty, is naturally water-resistant .
The Opinels underperform noticeably in one category: weight. At just 35 gramsbarely more than an ouncethey feel insubstantial in the hand. They also come in a simple cardboard case that wont last long in your silverware drawer youd want to store it somewhere less trafficked like a high shelf. But on looks and performance, theyre winners at the price. Lastly, if youre looking for something to brighten your table, Opinel makes a version of this knife set thats fitted with colored hornbeam-wood handles. You can also buy the knives open stock if you want to build your own set in different colors.
Budget Pick: Chicago Cutlerys Walnut Tradition Set
*At the time of publishing, the price was $30.
Chicago Cutlerys Walnut Tradition steak knife set is the best low-cost set out there. The knives are not perfect by any metric: the blade-edges are coarse and uneven at 60 grams/2 ounces, theyre a bit lighter than wed like and the fit-and-finish is indifferent. In fact, they appear just to be industrial-grade boning knives with steak knife handles slapped on. Put it this way: if the Messermeisters give you more than you pay for aesthetically, these give you exactly what you pay for, and not a penny more.
They work far better than the serrated blades you usually have to settle for at this price.
But theyre built to last and they work perfectly welland, more importantly, they work far better than the serrated blades you usually have to settle for at this price. Theyre a great choice for outfitting a crowd, taking along on country picnics, or while car camping. Not fancy, perfectly functional, and if you lose one, youll shed no tears.
Notes On Materials And Construction
If youve spent more than a few minutes researching knives, youve likely run into a bewildering fog of jargon and technical specifications. Heres a quick guide, which applies to steak knives, chefs knives, and everything in between:
The phrase high-carbon steel is basically marketing hype: every steel alloy used to make knives is high-carbon. You can ignore the phrase it if its used, and you neednt worry if its not. Do note, however, that if a knife is listed only as high-carbon or carbon steel, it will easily rust. To be sure your knife is rust-resistant, make sure it is also listed as stainless.
Stainless steel is steel alloyed with at least 12 percent, and usually 14 to 18 percent, chromium. The chromium forms a dense layer on any exposed surface which rapidly oxidizes, preventing oxidation of the steel underneath. There are multiple types of stainless steel, some more corrosion-resistant than others all those used on our recommended knives are high-performing: extremely corrosion-resistant, capable of taking and holding a sharp edge and easy to re-sharpen.
There are thousands of different steel alloysmixtures of iron, carbon, and any of 20 or more other elementseach designed for a different purpose. Knife alloys alone run into the dozens, and the names are alphabet soup: AEB-L, VG-10, 19C27, ZDP-189. My advice is: ignore them all, at least for steak knives. Whatever alloy a good manufacturer chooses will perform perfectly well.
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Available Knives: Email Lottery
So the old website here has given up the ghost. Ill be at work on a new one these next few months, and in mean time will run the wall by way of email lottery. When theyre ready Ill email a photo and description to those on my list and will gather and randomly pick a name for each knife from among those who respond. If youd like to receive them, email with the subject line Lottery List and Ill include you.
Thanks for your patience and keeping an eye out!
Upgrade Pick: Wsthof Classic Ikon Set
*At the time of publishing, the price was $300.
Our testers all favored the Ikon’s classic understated elegance.
The Wüsthof Classic Ikon steak knives arent cheap, but they are the cheapest of the three high-end sets that we tested. With little to distinguish between the high-end sets on performancewhich was universally exceptionalaesthetics played the largest role in this pick, and our testers all favored the Ikon’s classic, understated elegance. Their razor-sharp blades have the ideal upswept shape. The unique double-concave curves of their satiny black POM handles fit the hand wonderfully both our smallest and our largest tester found them the most comfortable to hold of all the knives we tested. Their full-tang construction adds strength and, at 77 grams/2.6 ounces, pleasing heft. Lastly, their construction is flawlessas it should be for the price. Because in truth, its the flawless fit-and-finish, more than anything else, that separates an exceptional luxury steak knife from a really great mid-priced oneand that you pay for.
One criticism: the Ikons come in a simple, clear plastic box. Its sturdy enough to use for knife storage but left us wishing for something more distinguished-looking, particularly if the knives are intended to be a gift. For about $100 more, the blackwood-handled Ikon steak knives come in a walnut case its unfortunate that this is not an option for the standard model.
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Our Pick: Messermeister Avanta Pakkawood Set
The Messermeister Avanta Pakkawood steak knife set was our clear winner. No other knives came close to matching their combination of performance, price, and quality of construction. Their blade-edges are well-formed, smooth, and extremely sharp they cut even the toughest steaks as well as knives we tested that cost five times as much, which cant be said for most others in their price range. Their handles are finished with pakkawood, a durable resin-impregnated natural wood usually only found on more expensive knives. And unlike any other knives we found at the price, they feature full-tang construction: A single piece of steel forms the blade, bolsters, and handle. This adds strength , balance, and heft. The latter is an aesthetic concern, but an important one: 2015’s test revealed that a knife weight of around 80 grams feels just right in the hand. The Messermeisters weigh 89 gramspleasantly robust, and significantly nicer to hold than the lightweight knives typical at this price.
No other knives came close to matching their combination of performance, price, and quality of construction.
Also unique to the Messermeisters price range, their handles are finished with pakkawoodan industry term for resin-impregnated natural woodinstead of the more-common cheap plastic or unfinished wood. Pakkawood is strong, durable, and stablebasically, it doesnt absorb water or dry out and expand or shrink accordinglybut retains the rich and variegated look of natural wood.
Why You Should Trust Us
Ive been cooking for myself and for crowds since I left high school between that and various stints in construction and landscaping, Ive come to appreciate well-made, well-designed hand toolsincluding knives. And having wasted money on crummy, expensive knives more than once when I was younger, I have a particular regard for knives that truly justify their price .
For my own needs and as a journalist, Ive researched deeply into knife-making materials, knife design, and knife performance over the years Mark Richmond, owner of Chef Knives to Go, has been particularly helpful on several occasions. Our 2015 guide, researched and written by Wirecutter deputy editor Christine Cyr Clisset, produced a wealth of information also incorporated here. Christine gathered reviews from Americas Test Kitchen , Saveur, and Serious Eats she learned about knife styles and materials from Dexter Ewing of BLADE magazine and Howard Nourieli of Bowery Kitchen Supplies and she spoke to Rick Gresh, then the executive chef at David Burke’s Primehouse in Chicago for practical advice on steak knife performance and care.
Finally, weve now tested 15 different steak knives on 16 pounds of beef in two real-world test sessions, involving a dozen Wirecutter staffers and friends. If theres a question about steak knives, however obscure, weve asked it and found the answer.
Who Needs A Steak Knife Set
Even if you havent seen the movie, you probably know the line: First prize is a Cadillac … Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is youre fired. Alec Baldwins speech is cinema legend. Its also insightful. Glengarry Glen Ross premiered in 1984, when there was nothing more quintessentially American than big cars, lost jobsand steak for dinner. Of course second prize is a set of steak knives! Almost everyone would have appreciated themif not the circumstances they arrived under.
Today, second prize would be something else. Americans are eating less meat in general, and less beef in particular, so not everyone needs a set of steak knives these days. But if you eat meat regularly, you really should have one. Its amazing how much nicer it is to slice a tenderloin or chop with a well-made blade designed for that purpose. And that will hold true even if youre already using a cheapo set of serrated steak knives, let alone if youre hacking away with the dull table knives that came with your silverware.
A nice set of steak knives also dresses up a place-setting, so if you like to entertainor just like to make a fancy meal now and thenyou may appreciate owning a set, too. Finally, one thing that held true in 1984 still holds true in 2015: steak knives are a special gift for the right person. You can even spend Cadillac money, if youre feeling extra generous.
A Knife You Can’t Live Without
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How We Tested
For 2015’s test, Wirecutter deputy editor Christine Cyr Clisset cooked six pounds of chuck steak and two of tenderloin, and, with her husband and two friends, used 10 different steak knives to slice them up over the course of dinner. In 2016, Wirecutter senior staff writer Lesley Stockton and I pan-seared eight pounds of hanger, skirt, and flank steak, the toughest steak cuts availablewe wanted a real test, no tender cutsand invited half a dozen colleagues to lunch. Everyone used each knife repeatedly and under real-world conditions: The steaks were arrayed and sliced on china plates, the way they would be in your home.
I also made sure that our testers were diverse: we had men and women large people and small experienced knife-handlers and folks who dont give knives much thought at all. I asked everyone for their impressions on simple performance , on feel , and on looks.
After two hours and one brief-but-spectacular grease fire, we had our results.
How We Picked
Theres no consensus on what makes a good steak knife. The fact is, there are so many different styles that making direct comparisons is almost impossible. Some steak knives are straight-edged like chefs knives some are serrated still others are whats known as micro-serrated and have fine-toothed blades that look like scaled-down wood saws.
Even the experts dont agree. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats prefers a serrated blade Rick Gresh of Chicagos Primehouse favors straight-edge, as does Americas Test Kitchen Saveur recommends straight-edge, traditional serrated, and micro-serrated models and Amazon customers review all three types positively.
And there are dozens of other ways knives can be differentiated: by blade shape and length, by blade and handle material, by the way the blades are made , and so on. On top of all that, best is a subjective term, especially for a simple tool like a steak knife, for which look and feel are almost as important as performance.
But in our original steak-knife test, a consensus did emerge: everyone strongly preferred straight edges. Even the least-impressive straight-edge knife sliced through the meat smoothly and easily, whereas even the best serrated knife forced everyone to saw back and forth. So for 2016’s update I focused my research exclusively on straight-edge knives.
You can spend $2 on a steak knife and you can also spend $200 .
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