The Best Steak Knife Set
Whether you’re serving a fine Ribeye, humble flank steak, or even a thick-cut pork chop, you need sharp steak knives. And, really, nice meat deserves nice knives. After 28 hours of research, testing, and interviewing professional chefs and knife experts, we think the Victorinox Rosewood Straight Edge Steak Knife Set ($130 for 6) is the set you want. The knives cut beautifully, they’re well balanced, and they come at a reasonable price. They’re also nice enough to complement a formal table setting—but not so fancy that you wouldn’t want to use them on a weeknight.
If wood handles aren’t your thing, we also like the comparatively-priced J. A. Henckels International Classic Forged Steak Knives ($100 for 4). Though we strongly recommend hand-washing all knives, we believe the black plastic handles on these may stand up better to washing in the dishwasher if you insist on using one. And if you’re looking for something more luxurious, we highly recommend the Wusthof Classic Ikon Steak Knives ($290 for 4), which had the most comfortable and well-balanced handles of the 10 sets we tested.
Why should you trust my opinion? First, I know a few things about meat. I’ve worked as an editor and writer on multiple cookbooks, and for one I had to do extensive research on cuts of meat that included interviewing famous butchers. As the daughter of a hunter, I’ve also witnessed my share of deer and elk butchered on my parent’s kitchen table. When it comes to steak knives, I’ve tried many models while working in restaurants over the years. I also wrote the Sweethome’s guide to knife block sets. Many of the same rules that apply to a good kitchen knife also apply to a good steak knife.
How we picked
I found a range of reviews of steak knives, but the best documented budget-set tests and came from America’s Test Kitchen. Saveur did a roundup of sets ranging between $30 and $300, while Serious Eats listed a few favorites in their guide to steak knives. Yet there was no consensus between reviews. In fact, the advice in the reviews was really contradictory. While America’s Test Kitchen prefers straight-edged knives, Serious Eats’ J. Kenji López-Alt recommends serrated; Saveur recommends serrated, straight, and micro-serrated blades. To help round out my research I looked extensively at user reviews on Amazon and Macys.com.
For professional help, I turned to Rick Gresh, the executive chef at David Burke’s Primehouse in Chicago. And for the nuts-and-bolts on knives I spoke with Dexter Ewing, field editor of BLADE magazine, and Howard Nourieli, founder of Bowery Kitchen Supplies.
Because there was divergent data and opinions between reviews, and because I found confusing information on whether a straight edge or serrated edge is better, we decided to do our own testing, ultimately picking 10 highly-rated or expert-recommended sets to try.
To test how the knives performed on different textures, I seared off 2 pounds of super tender filet and 6 pounds of tougher chuck steaks. I cooked the steaks whole and then sliced them on a cutting board to see how smoothly the knives cut through the meat.
I then served this beefy smorgasbord for a Mexican-themed brunch, where my husband, another couple, and I tried each of the knives several times. Because the comfort of the handle is so important for a steak knife, and this really depends on the size of your hands, I wanted to have two women and two men including in the testing. One of my testers had also just returned from a five-day business trip to Las Vegas, where he’d eaten at steakhouses every night, so he had strong opinions about how our selection of knives compared to those in high-end restaurants. To get the most unbiased opinions, I didn’t divulge the price of any of the knives.
In the end, we all agreed on two things: straight-edged knives are better than serrated ones (an opinion shared by experts we talked to as well) and that the Victorinox Rosewood knives are really great.
The Victorinox’s smooth rosewood handles are comfortable and easy to maneuver. Although the handles are actually pretty slim compared to traditional steakhouse knives, they were better balanced than most of the knives we tested. The handle fit well in all four testers’ hands, and we generally found it to be well balanced (although it wasn’t the best balanced of the group). We weighed all of the knives we tested, and the Victorinox was at the lower end, weighing in at 44 grams (see the chart below). For their size and shape, though, this lower weight still works for these knives.
The Victorinox set is also simple, but it looks elegant. The burnished wood handles with three silver rivets have a classic look that would pair well with a variety of table settings—anything from everyday white tableware to your grandmother’s fancy china. Two of our testers said they would choose this set over all the others we tested purely on looks. Our testers felt that the black plastic handles on the Henckels and Wusthof knives wouldn’t fit in with their existing silverware—or that they looked too much like kitchen knives—while the classic steakhouse knives with big handles were a little overpowering. The Victorinox hits the sweet spot of having a compact profile with the prettiness of wood.
Durability is difficult to test for without actually using these for years, but these managed to maintain their edge quite well after extensive abuse. First we tested the knife’s sharpness by slicing a piece of paper—which it did easily and cleanly. Then we used the knife to vigorously cut against a ceramic plate with about 35 swipes. When we tried slicing through paper again, the knife was noticeably duller. However, after using our honing steel, the knife was just as sharp as it was originally. This shows that honing them before every use, as steakhouse chef Rick Gresh does, should be enough to keep them cutting for a long time (Gresh hasn’t had to sharpen his in 8 years). We realize our test isn’t quite the same as slicing through meat, so we’ll continue using these knives on steak and other meat and report back on how quickly the blades dull, and we’ll update this guide with that information.
The Victorinox Rosewood Straight-Edge Steak Knife Set was America’s Test Kitchen’s top pick in their review of budget steak knife sets, and it gets 4.6 stars (of 22 reviews) on Amazon. One Amazon reviewer, C. Rogers, from Upton, Massachusetts, actually summed up my own opinion of these knives: “It is as if everything I cut is BUTTER! The blades cut with so very little effort on my part.” Like other Victorinox knives, this set comes with a lifetime warranty.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Although the Victorinox handle is very comfortable, it does feel a little light. If your idea of a steak knife is a huge, macho thing like John Candy uses in that amazing Great Outdoors steak scene, the Victorinox set won’t fit that fantasy. But these knives still feel substantial and better balanced than the big steakhouse knives we tested.
We wish that this set came with a really nice case to easily store in a drawer. As it is, the set comes with a flimsy plastic storage box that’s cumbersome for long-term use. We’ll probably chuck the box and store the knives in a knife block.
Long-term test notes
We’ve continued to use the Victorinox set for the past seven months, about once or twice a month. They’re still performing really well, and we haven’t yet needed to sharpen them. We did end up ditching the flimsy plastic box the set arrived in and instead keep them in a wooden knife block, which helps protect the blades.
Most knife manufacturers, including Henckels, recommend hand washing kitchen and steak knives. The heat of the dishwasher can deteriorate the glue in the handles and chemicals can compromise the blades. Dishwashing knives can also void their warranty, as this is considered outside of normal wear and tear. Regardless, we know the lure of a dishwasher can be pretty strong. While the Victorinox’s wood handles will probably not stand up well after multiple tours through a dishwasher, the Henckels plastic handles may be more durable.
If the price of the Victorinox set were to skyrocket (say, over $170 for the set of 6), we like the J.A. Henckels International Classic Forged Steak Knives as a moderately-priced and good-performing alternative.
The J.A. Henckels International Classic Forged Steak Knives are recommended by Saveur, receive 4.6 stars on Amazon, and come with a lifetime warranty.
Also great: a step up
All of our testers thought the handle of this knife felt better than the Victorinox. Both the men and women in our testing group liked their shape and weight. Wusthof’s entire line of Ikon kitchen knives also have these same contoured handles, and they’re noticeably more comfortable than the square handles of Wusthof’s Classic series.
That said, we didn’t find that the Ikon knives cut any better than the much-less-expensive Victorinox. At roughly $72.50 per knife, they’re too expensive for most people—certainly not 3.5 times more comfortable than the Victorinoxes.
Best of the serrated
Henckels sent us this knife, even though it wasn’t on our original testing list. It wasn’t amazing, but it did a reasonably good job of cutting through the steaks, and if you want serrated knives or knives that have that classic steakhouse knife look—with a big wood handle—the Henckels Steakhouse knife we tested was the best of the bunch.
Contrary to common belief, serrated knives can be sharpened, but it’s a more labor-intensive process than with straight-edged knives. Each serration must be sharpened with a diameter diamond file. Dexter Ewing of BLADE magazine recommends the DMT Diafold Serrated Knife Sharpener. Professional knife sharpeners can also perform this task.
The Wüsthof Classic Steak Knife Set ($190 for 4) wasn’t reviewed in any editorials, but was the fourth-top-rated set on Amazon and comes from a well-respected knifemaker. This straight-edged knife cut really nicely, but everyone preferred the rounded Ikon handles to the Classic square handles. Also, one of our testers didn’t like how the Classic knives have the Wusthof logo on the handle (which makes them look like kitchen knives).
The Zwilling Twin Cuisine II set ($240 for 4) also didn’t come with any editorial reviews, but we opted to include it in testing after trying and liking the knives at Williams-Sonoma. The straight-edged blade of the knife we tested cut very cleanly. Yet one tester said the handle looked “ostentatious” and didn’t think it would fit with her other silverware. These knives are also less balanced than some of the others, and for the price we prefer the Wusthof Ikon set.
The Forschner by Victorinox Pointed Tip Steak Knives ($46 for 6), which were recommended by Serious Eats, cut the best of all the serrated blades after the Henckels knife we tested. However, the flimsy plastic handles tripped everyone up. One tester said “I would be embarrassed to have this one” because it’s so light and flimsy. Testers did say they thought this set would be good for backyard barbecues or picnics, but not for a fancy dinner.
The Chicago Cutlery Steakhouse Knives ($15 for 4) were Saveur’s budget pick. We found that the handles felt cheap and rough, and the serrated blade didn’t cut well at all.
We included the Outset Jackson Stainless-Steel Steakhouse Knives with Rosewood Handles ($31 for 4) in our testing because both Sweethome kitchen editor Ganda Suthivarakom and I remembered using and liking these knives at Prime Meats in Brooklyn. Although these are really great looking serrated knives, and the handles felt heavy and luxurious in the hand, they cut terribly compared to even the other serrated knives we tested.
The J.A. Henckels 8-Piece Stainless-Steel Steak Knife Set ($90 for 8) was also recommended by Serious Eats and received high user ratings on Amazon and Macys.com. Yet we found the serrated knife we tested to be the worst of the bunch. It barely cut through the meat. The handle felt okay and the knife looks nice, but the blade was dull and frustrating to use.
We also looked at the following types of knives and sets, but for various reasons decided not to test them:
Japanese steak knives – We really wanted to include at least one set of Japanese knives in our testing. Yet, as it turns out, steak knives aren’t a big thing in Japan. Howard Nourieli, the founder of and knife buyer for Bowery Kitchen Supplies, told me “no real Japanese forges make steak knives per se, since steak there is super expensive and many people don’t eat steak at home like westerners.” Saveur recommended both a Global set and a Shun set, but there were few user reviews on Amazon and Macys.com for either set. We called Korin, a shop in New York City that specializes in Japanese kitchen knives, but a salesperson there told us they don’t sell many steak knives. For these reasons, we opted not to test any Japanese knives for this review.
Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Gourmet 8-Piece Steak Knife Set with Box – Was not more highly rated than the knives we tested.
Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Four Star II Steak Set – Did not receive better reviews than the sets we tested.
J.A. Henckels International 4-Piece Prime Steak Set – Many Amazon complaints about these knives having uncomfortable handles and very thin, cheap stamped blades.
Chicago Cutlery Walnut Tradition Steak Knife Set – This set had poorer Amazon user reviews than the other Chicago Cutlery set we tested.
Rada Cutlery Steak Knives – Did not receive higher reviews than the sets we opted to test.
Calphalon 4-piece set – Didn’t receive higher reviews than the other budget knives we opted to test.
Miracle Blade Steak knives – Didn’t receive higher user reviews than the other knives we tested. We also didn’t like how cheap they look.
KAI USA Pure Komachi2 Steak Knife Set – This set looks cheap and didn’t receive better reviews than the other budget sets we tested.
Wusthof Gourmet Steak Knife Set – Was not more highly recommended than the other Wusthof and Henckels knives we tested. We also tried this set out at Williams-Sonoma and thought the handles felt cheap.
Wusthof Grand Prix II Steak Knife Set – Did not receive better reviews than the other Wusthof sets we opted to test.
Wusthof Classic Hollow-Ground Knife Set – This set looks identical to the Wusthof Classic set we tested, except the knives have dimpled blades, which are supposed to slice more easily. The Classic set we tested received better reviews, so we opted not to test this one.
ZX Kitchen Steak Set – Did not receive better reviews than the sets we tested.
Smith & Wollensky Steakhouse Knife Set – Did not get better user reviews than the other steakhouse knives we tested.
What makes a great steak knife set
If you’re wondering why you’d want to invest in a set of steak knives instead of, say, a bunch of sharp paring knives, as this article suggests, the answer comes down to the length of the knife blade and aesthetics.
Although a paring knife would probably cut most steak just fine, as you can see, steak knives are longer so they have more blade to cut with. Also they look nicer. As one of our testers remarked, she didn’t want steak knives that looked like they were kitchen knives (which is why she didn’t like the Wusthof Classic knives, with the Wusthof logo on the handles).
Most of the higher-end steak knives are forged, meaning pounded from a piece of steel. The lower end knives tend to be stamped, a cheaper process that involves cutting the blade from a single piece of steel. Many people think forged knives are better than stamped, and this used to be true. However, as we explain in the Sweethome’s guide to The Best Knife Set, stamped knife technology has gotten much better in recent years.
Unlike the crappy stamped knives you might find at a grocery store, this new class of stamped knives is cut and precision ground from high-alloy steel and they have edge finishes on par with many forged knives. The knives in our main pick, the Victorinox Rosewood Straight Edge Steak Knife Set, have stamped blades. Although the Victorinox blades feel a little more flimsy than forged versions, we found they cut just as well (if not better) than the forged knives in our tests.
Better knives tend to have full tangs (the part of the knife blade that extends into the handle), although as with kitchen knives, there are exceptions. Some quality knives may only have partial tangs. The Victorinox Rosewood Straight Edge Steak Knife Set, for example, only has a partial tang.
Similar to kitchen knives, the blades on steak knives come in a range of shapes. Some, like the Victorinox Rosewood Straight Edge Steak Knife Set, have a straighter, pointy tip, while others—such as the Wusthof Classic Ikon Steak Knives—have a tip that curves up and allows for more of a rocking movement as you slice. In our testing, we didn’t find that the curve made much of a difference. This type of curve probably matters more for a chef’s knife, where you’d actually rock the blade when chopping or dicing.
The handle of a great steak knife should feel ample and weighty in your hand. In reading Amazon reviews and threads on Chowhound, it seems people prefer a knife handle that feels ample in their hand—not small and wimpy, but also not super big and clunky like a cut-rate steakhouse knife. In our own testing, we found that a combination of handle size and balance of weight between the handle and blade made for the best knife.
We weighed our tester knives to get an idea of the optimal weight. Here are the results:
Zwilling Twin Cuisine II knife = 136 grams, all weight is in the handle, testers found it unbalanced.
Wusthof Classic Ikon knife = 77 grams, all the testers thought this was the perfect weight.
Wusthof Classic steak knife = 72 grams, also the perfect weight.
J.A. Henckels International Classic Forged steak knife = 60 grams, nice weight.
Victorinox Rosewood Straight-Edge Knife = 44 grams, a little on the light side.
Outset Jackson serrated steak knife = 158 grams, testers like the weight and found knife balanced.
J.A. Henckels steakhouse knife = 84 grams, for the size felt a little light.
J.A. Henckels stainless-steel steak knife = 77 grams, feels like the right weight for its size.
Chicago Cutlery serrated knife = 72 grams, also felt a little light for its size.
Victorinox Pointed Tip steak knife = 28 grams, testers found this too light to feel good
Handles are made from a variety of materials, including wood, plastic, and metal. Metal-handled knives may tend to last longer, because there are no joints where the tang meets the handle. Wood handles can be a little more labor-intensive to take care of. Some, such as French Laguiole knives with wood handles, need to be oiled.
Steak knives usually come in sets of 4 or 6, sometimes 8. You should buy the number you think you’ll use.
Regardless of whether you’re investing in higher-end knives or more budget-friendly ones, it’s worth getting knives with a good lifetime warranty. Most of the quality manufacturers offer this. As we recommended in the Sweethome review of kitchen knife sets, it’s really a good idea to have a lifetime warranty for knives. It’s a big investment and you should feel confident that you can use those knives for years.
One other nice thing to look for is a set that comes with a storage box. The box will keep knives in good shape when you’re not using them. You can also store your knives in a knife block, and many knife block sets come with spaces for steak knives.
On edge: straight vs. serrated vs. micro serrated
Opinions differ on whether a straight or serrated edge is better, but by and large, better knives have straight edges. America’s Test Kitchen prefers straight edge knives because they cut steaks very cleanly, while serrated ones tend to tear up the steak edges. In our own testing, we also disliked how the serrated blades chewed up the meat.
We were even more disappointed by how unpleasant it was actually using the serrated knives. It felt like we were sawing through the meat (because we were!), so it was a chore using these knives.
In comparison, we only needed to apply a little pressure with the straight-edge versions. Like any great tool, the straight-edged knives did what we wanted them to without being the center of attention.
Of course, the downside to straight-edged knives is that they’ll dull more quickly than a serrated one. At the same time, it’s also much easier to sharpen a straight edge than a serrated one. And you may actually not have to sharpen them all that often. Rick Gresh, the executive chef at David Burke’s Primehouse, uses a set of Wusthofs and a set of French Laguiole steak knives at home one to two times a week and says, “I just feel them and see if I need to sharpen my knives. Generally I steel them before each use. But actual sharpening…I haven’t sharpened them once in 8 years.”
In our research, we found that people tend to fall into two camps: those that really want to invest in a nice set of steak knives that will last a lifetime and that are more of an experience to use, and those that just want a set of budget knives that will take a beating, that they can throw in the dishwasher, and that you don’t have to think about too much. If you fall into the latter camp, and don’t see yourself ever sharpening your knives, serrated may be the way for you to go (the maintenance issue is why steakhouses use serrated knives). We think steak is a special meal that deserves nice knives, and straight blades just tend to offer a nicer user experience.
There are also knives that have mini-serrated edges. These are supposed to cut through steaks more cleanly—like a straight-edge blade—but stay sharp like a serrated one. However, America’s Test Kitchen hated all of the ones they tested because they tore the meat and dulled anyway. J. Kenji López-Alt from Serious Eats also didn’t like these knives. Based on these reviews, and underwhelming user reviews, we opted not to include mini-serrated knives in our testing. Once we called in all the knives, though, we found that one actually had micro serrations (the J.A. Henckels 8-Piece Stainless-Steel Steak Knife Set). Interestingly, this was our least favorite in testing because of how much sawing was required.
Care and maintenance
As we mention above, most knife manufacturers recommend washing steak knives by hand. The high heat and chemicals used in dishwashers can be very tough on knife handles and can even deteriorate the blades.
Although “stainless steel” knives aren’t really supposed to rust, some do. “Under the right—or should I say wrong, conditions–even the best stainless steels will rust,” says Dexter Ewing. “My golden rule is if you hand-wash your knives (never ever put them in a dishwasher!) and hand-dry them carefully and let them sit for a while before you place them back into the drawer, they will not rust or stain.” If you do find small rust spots forming, you can usually remove them with the scrubby part of a sponge.
Straight-edged knives will need to be sharpened. You can use a knife steel to straighten out bends in the edges of the knives. But to really sharpen the knives you’ll eventually need to use a whetstone, a sharpening tool, or take your knives to a professional. How often you sharpen the knives really depends on how often you use them and how quickly the particular blade steel wears down. As I mentioned earlier, Rick Gresh, who uses his steak knives one to two times weekly, straightens the edges of his knives with a steel before every use, but he hasn’t actually sharpened them in eight years.
“Sharpening can be intimidating for first timers, but I believe this is a skill that cooking enthusiasts, handymen, and outdoorsmen—or anyone who uses knives a lot—need to learn,” says Ewing. Although there are many online tutorials for sharpening knives (we like this video by Michael Ruhlman), the information can be a little overwhelming. Ewing recommends buying a sharpening kit with a blade angle clamp, which he says even novices can use to maintain sharp edges. He recommends kits made by Spyderco and Gatco. Of course, if this seems like too much work (or too overwhelming) you can always take your knives to a local kitchen shop for sharpening.
Serrated knives tend to stay sharper longer than straight-edged blades, which is, of course, the appeal. “ If a serrated model hasn’t been used to saw through cans then it shouldn’t need sharpening for a while,” says Bowery Kitchen Supply’s Howard Nourieli. If your serrated knives do end up needing sharpening, Nourieli recommends going to a professional or carefully using a diameter diamond file.
A few tips on cooking and serving steak
“We have the mentality everyone has to have their own steak,” says Gresh, “but generally people get thin wimpy steaks and never get the right color or flavor they want.“ Instead, Gresh recommends buying one big piece of meat. “Get a thick steak, dry it well and then season it. Cook on high heat to get the char on the outside. The browning of meat is called the maillard reaction, that browning is what we crave. Once brown, move the steak to a lower temperature and allow to cook to desired doneness. Allow the steak to rest and then slice and share.”
To serve the meat, slice across the grain with long strokes. Half to three-quarter inch slices generally make for nice pieces. “Cut only what you’re going to eat so it doesn’t get cold and lose moisture,” says Gresh.
Wrapping it up
For the price and performance, you won’t beat the Victorinox Rosewood Straight Edge Steak Knife Set. With razor-sharp blades and attractive, well-balanced wood handles, these knives would make an inviting addition to any table setting. Now, where’s the beef?
Steak Knives , America’s Test Kitchen (subscription required)
6 Sharp Players, Saveur, September 9, 2013,
Equipment: What Makes the Best Steak Knives?, Serious Eats, August 31, 2010,
Executive Chef at David Burke’s Primehouse, Interview,
Field editor of BLADE magazine, Interview,
Founder of Bowery Kitchen Supplies, Interview,
Best Steak Knives, Fortune, May 23, 2006,
Originally published: February 26, 2014