There are two types of steak knives: serrated and non-serrated.
Non-serrated or straight-edge steak knives have a smooth edge sharpened equally on both sides.
Serrated knives have small teeth or scallops, which makes the cutting edge jagged.
But which is better? What are the key differences?
In this comparison of serrated vs. non-serrated steak knives, you’ll learn how they differ in cutting ability, edge retention, ease of sharpening, and more.
I also share the results of my head-to-head tests, where I used both knives to cut a filet mignon, a New York strip steak, and a skirt steak. You’ll see how they compare new and after dulling the edges.
By the end, you’ll understand why I highly recommend one type of steak knife over the other.
Use the links below to navigate the comparison:
- Key Takeaways
- Cutting Performance
- Edge Retention
- Bottom Line: Should You Buy Serrated or Non-Serrated Steak Knives?
Here’s a quick overview of the key differences between serrated and non-serrated steak knives. Don’t feel like reading? Watch me break it all down in the quick video below:
Cutting Performance: Based on my testing, non-serrated steak knives provide cleaner cuts with less juice loss across various steak types, including filet mignon, New York strip, and skirt steak. While effective on tougher cuts, serrated knives tend to shred the meat, resulting in a rougher texture, more juice loss, and a drier bite.
Edge Retention: Serrated steak knives stay sharper longer because only the teeth’s points touch the plate. The entire edge of non-serrated knives hits the plate with each cut, causing the blade to dull faster. However, after I struck a plate 300 times with each knife to simulate the dulling effect of cutting 30 steaks, both knife types still performed effectively.
Ease of Sharpening: You can easily sharpen non-serrated steak knives with standard tools like pull-through sharpeners, electric sharpeners, or whetstones. Serrated knives require you to use a specialized sharpening rod between each tooth. It’s a much more time-consuming and tedious process.
Bottom Line: Based on my tests, non-serrated steak knives deliver superior cutting performance. Regardless of the type of steak, they slice more cleanly without excess shredding or juice loss. They’re also easier to sharpen. Although serrated knives don’t need to be sharpened as often, it takes over 30 steaks to dull a quality straight-edge knife to the point you need to do anything. My top steak knife recommendations are Made In, Zwilling, Dalstrong, Messermeister, and Victorinox.
There’s a lot of debate online about serrated and non-serrated steak knives.
Some people prefer straight-edge knives because the smooth edge glides through steak and makes cleaner cuts. And the cleaner the cuts, the less juice you lose on the plate.
Others prefer serrated steak knives because the teeth grip and tear through tougher cuts of meat better than a straight edge. Others see this as a downside because the ripping action shreds the meat and causes more juice to spill onto the plate.
First, I cut a filet mignon with a straight-edge, non-serrated steak knife. The knife sliced right through the steak without any resistance. The slices were clean and smooth without ripping or tearing and had minimal juice loss on the plate.
The first cut with the serrated knife was also smooth, but as I cut closer to the center of the steak, I needed to saw back and forth with more force. As I did that, the muscle fibers of the meat ripped and shredded slightly and juice from the steak leaked onto the plate, leaving behind a drier bite.
Here’s the side of the steak I cut with the serrated knife:
And here’s the side I cut with the straight-edge knife:
I also tested both knives on a New York Strip steak. This type of steak is still tender, but has a bit more chew and a firmer texture than a filet mignon.
The serrated knife cut through the New York Strip reasonably well, but instead of smooth, clean cuts, the teeth snagged and tore the meat slightly. The tearing resulted in a noticeable amount of juice on the plate despite letting the steak rest for around 12 minutes before cutting.
The straight-edge knife glided through the steak effortlessly, as it did on the filet mignon. The non-serrated edge made a smooth, even slice without damaging the meat. A small amount of juice spilled onto the plate, but visibly less than what the serrated knife lost during its uneven, shredding cuts.
Here’s a side-by-side look at the pieces I cut with both knives. As you can see, the piece I cut with the straight-edge knife is nice and smooth, and the piece I cut with the serrated knife is rough, and the meat is slightly damaged.
I also cooked a piece of skirt steak. This fibrous cut comes from the diaphragm muscle in the cow. It’s much tougher and chewier than filet mignon and New York strip steak.
In theory, the toothed edge of a serrated knife should grip and tear through skirt steak’s gristly texture better than a smooth, straight edge.
I picked up the serrated knife and began sawing back and forth across the steak. As anticipated, the teeth grasped the meat, allowing the blade to carve through the tough fibers relatively easily. However, the rough edge and sawing action resulted in significant juice loss.
Next, I sliced the steak using a non-serrated knife. I slowly increased pressure, expecting significant resistance from the dense, chewy cut. Surprisingly, the straight edge slid through the skirt steak without any noticeable struggling or dragging. It was no more difficult than cutting the filet mignon or New York strip earlier.
The tests clearly show the benefits of non-serrated steak knives: they make cutting easier and ensure the slices are more appealing, with a better texture and less juice loss.
Although non-serrated steak knives slice through steak more cleanly, serrated steak knives are known to stay sharper longer.
The points of the teeth will eventually dull, but since the recessed part of the edge only makes contact with the steak and not the hard ceramic plate, serrated edges don’t need to be sharpened as often.
With a non-serrated knife, the entire edge hits the plate with every cut. And since ceramic dinner plates are much harder than wood or plastic cutting boards, non-serrated steak knives dull relatively quickly.
To see how much weight you should put into this factor when deciding which to buy, I dulled a serrated and non-serrated knife by hitting and sliding the edge across a ceramic dinner plate 600 times, 300 with each knife.
Since the average steak requires about ten cuts to portion into bite-size pieces, hitting each blade on the plate 300 times simulates the dulling effect after cutting approximately 30 steaks with each knife.
After dulling the edges, I cut the New York strip steak with both knives. Although I could tell the straight-edge knife wasn’t as sharp as before, neither had any issue slicing through the steak.
I also cut the skirt steak, and surprisingly, the straight-edge steak knife sliced through it more easily than the serrated steak knife.
So, after simulating the dulling effect from roughly 30 steaks, neither knife performed significantly worse. There might have been a more noticeable difference between the sharpness of each edge if I hit the plate 800 or 1000 times.
But 30 steaks is a good amount, and it seems reasonable to assume that most home cooks would be okay with sharpening their knives after that much use.
The key takeaway is that serrated steak knives stay sharper longer, but you’ll need to eat dozens of steaks before needing to sharpen either type.
Another factor to consider is how easy each type of knife is to sharpen. There are no limitations when sharpening straight-edge steak knives. You can use an electric sharpener, pull-through sharpener, whetstone, roller sharpener, or any other sharpening device.
Unlike straight-edge knives, you cannot simply pull a serrated knife through a sharpener or glide it over a whetstone; doing so risks damaging both the knife’s jagged edge and the sharpener itself. The intricate design of serrated edges requires you to use a specialized sharpening rod between each serration.
Getting the angle perfectly aligned in each groove makes this a time-intensive process. Missing spots or inconsistent angles leave you with some sharp teeth mixed with dull sections.
Some serrated steak knives have straight edges on a portion of the blade, usually closer to the handle. In this case, you must go through this tedious serrated sharpening process, then switch to a whetstone or other method to sharpen the non-serrated portions separately.
The key point is that while serrated knives can be sharpened at home, they require specialty gear and great care to sharpen each tooth effectively. The process is far more time-consuming than sharpening non-serrated steak knives with standard sharpeners.
My testing proved that non-serrated knives deliver superior performance in nearly every category. They slide through tender cuts like butter while easily slicing firm or chewy steaks. Their smooth edges make precise, clean cuts without shredding the meat and losing excess juices.
Though serrated knives can saw through tough meats, they shred rather than slice cleanly. This shredding action results in subpar mouthfeel, unappealing presentation, and drier bites.
While serrated knives may have a minor advantage on extremely chewy or overcooked steaks, any benefit is negligible for most properly cooked meats.
Additionally, non-serrated knives are much easier to maintain with standard sharpeners. Serrated edges require specialty gear, and sharpening between each tooth is tedious.
Bottom line — non-serrated steak knives are the clear winner.
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