The Best Steak Knives

Overhead shot of our four favorite steak knives.

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

Like having a collection of healthy houseplants, or a large reusable tote bag stuffed to the brim with more reusable tote bags, owning a set of steak knives is a tangible, material proclamation of adulthood achieved. Steak knives appear on seemingly every wedding registry for a reason: They fall into that category of aspirational but non-essential household items you always wanted to have, but maybe never felt the need to drop a serious chunk of change on for yourself. Steak knives are about form and function; they need to be sharp enough to easily slice through a butter-basted ribeye (or a thick slab of broccoli), and they should look good while doing it. We put a dozen steak knives to the test to find a curated selection of well-crafted, attractive knives that offer exceptional performance and value commensurate with their price tag.

Our Favorites, at a Glance

The Best Steak-Knife Set: Messermeister Avanta

The Messermeister Avanta steak knives deliver premium performance at an unbeatable price. They are well-constructed, remarkably sharp, and very handsome. One tester from the Serious Eats team described them as "sexy," and went on to say that the "guy in his forties who cooks you steak dinner owns these." Fortunately, these blades are so affordable that you don't need a steak zaddy in your life to enjoy them; the Avanta knives are priced in that sweet spot where you wouldn't get cold feet purchasing a set for yourself, but they also look and feel special enough to be purchased as a gift for someone you care about.

The Best Modern Steak-Knife Set: Perceval 9.47

If you've got a little extra coin burning a hole in your pocket, or are due to receive or dole out some fancy gifts in the near future and want to go with a Parisian bistronomy vibe when entertaining, then these Perceval 9.47 knives might be right up your alley. The 9.47 knife was designed by a former Michelin-starred chef, and, unsurprisingly, it's a dream to cut with. While its modern, minimalist look isn't for everyone, there's no arguing with its performance. It's worth noting that unlike other steak-knife sets, the 9.47 is not available in a set of four knives, just sets of two and six.

The Best Laguiole-Style Steak-Knife Set: Laguiole en Aubrac

If you're into more of a classic luxe look, then you'd be hard-pressed to find a more iconic design than a Laguiole-style steak knife. Unfortunately, the term "Laguiole" is not protected or regulated by a trademark, which means that there are a lot of shoddily made knockoff "Laguiole" knives on the market. However, there are a small number of real-deal producers, like Laguiole en Aubrac, that make beautiful knives of exceptional quality with a timeless aesthetic.

Another Great Steak-Knife Set: Victorinox Grand Maître

The Victorinox Grand Maître was another one of the favorites among testers, who praised its comfortable feel in their hands. The weight of the knife is well-balanced, and it boasts a very sharp, smooth-cutting blade. While the Grand Maître did receive high marks from testers, it was also one of the most expensive steak knives that we tested—priced at $75 per knife. An entire set of Messermeister Avanta knives, which have a similar look and perform comparably well, costs $15 less than just one of these Victorinox knives.

The Criteria: What We Look for in a Great Steak-Knife Set

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Overhead shot of the full lineup of steak knives that were tested for review.

Like a kitchen knife, a good steak knife needs to be sharp, comfortable in your hand, well-balanced, and sturdy. You don't want to be sawing and tearing away at an expensive, perfectly cooked steak with a flimsy knife. But steak knives need to be pretty, as well. Like a set of power-player, giant red wine glasses, most of us aren't busting out our steak knives every night at the dinner table; steak dinners are special occasions, and the knives should fit the bill on an aesthetic level. This means that selecting a steak-knife set is even more subjective of a process than picking out a great chef's knife.

Unlike chef's knives, steak knives are used primarily on hard plates rather than on the forgiving surface of a cutting board. The blade of a good steak knife needs to be able to take some punishment without dulling too quickly. For this reason, some people prefer a steak knife with a serrated edge, which can take more abuse than a straight-edged blade. There are, however, drawbacks to serrated knives: They are almost impossible to sharpen, and they tear at meat rather than smoothly slicing through it (how much that bothers you is a matter of opinion). Straight-edged knives, on the other hand, can be sharpened, and, if properly cared for, will last a lifetime. With all that in mind, we set out to find a few great steak knife options that could work for people with different aesthetic tastes and budgets.

The Testing

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Overhead shot of the set-up for the steak knife equipment test, with different knives laid out with different cuts of cooked steak.

We selected a dozen steak knives that covered a wide range of price points (from knives that cost under $6 each to ones that cost $75 a pop), edge styles, and overall looks. All of the testing was done using the knives straight out of their packaging, as we felt it was important to test the sharpness of the "factory edge" on each knife, rather than sharpening the knives ourselves with a whetstone before putting them to use.

The knives were first inspected for construction and packaging flaws; for example, one of the most expensive steak-knife sets (Wusthof Ikon) arrived in a fancy wooden box, but the notches that held the knives didn't secure them tightly in place, so during transport the tips of the blades had been rubbing against the inside edge of the box, cutting grooves into the wood. That's good for neither the box nor the knives.

Searing skirt steak in carbon steel skillets for steak knife testing.

After inspection, each knife was subjected to a simple paper-cutting test to check their out-of-the-box sharpness. As mentioned earlier, choosing a good set of steak knives is a more subjective process than choosing other pieces of equipment, like an electric griddle. To account for differences in opinion on preferred edge type, looks, and comfort, I asked six of my Serious Eats coworkers to participate in a steak-knife evaluation showdown. I cooked a whole bunch of steak, and then had people (myself included) test out and grade each of the knives. As expected, this process didn't lead to a unanimous opinion, but clear favorites did emerge. There was one thing that all testers agreed upon: nobody was a fan of serrated or semi-serrated knives.

But while straight-edged knives may have won in our tests, since our testers did not like having to saw at their meat, you or whoever you are buying the knives for may feel differently about serrated knives.

Paper-Cutting Tests

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Cutting through a sheet of paper with a steak knife.

As Daniel did with chef's knives, the first and last tests for this review were performed to check the sharpness of each knife. I ran the blade of each knife, from heel to tip, through sheets of printer paper that had been folded in half. This test isn't a precise measure of sharpness, but it allowed me to see which knives had a factory edge sharp enough to effortlessly slice through paper, and note which ones got snagged and tore at the sheets.

The knife that performed the worst was the one micro-serrated knife that we tested, which tore and got caught on the paper. The knives that performed best were generally the premium (price-wise) straight-edged knives, while the cheaper knives had more trouble. The Messermeister Avanta was the notable exception to this trend; it was one of the most budget-friendly knives of the dozen that were tested, and it sliced through paper just as well, if not better, than ones that cost five times more. It is also worth noting that the serrated steak knife that we tested aced the paper test, cutting through the sheet smoothly even with its saw-toothed edge.

There is one question worth asking here: How much does the paper-cutting test actually matter for a steak knife? On one hand, you want the knives to be sharp. But you don't need, or probably want, a steak knife to be as razor sharp as a kitchen slicing knife. The finer the edge on a knife, the more delicate and prone to damage it becomes, meaning you will need to sharpen it more often. As already noted, cutting with steak knives happens on hard plates, which grinds down the edge of a knife more quickly than a cutting board. You don't want to be worried about needing to constantly re-sharpening your steak knives.

Also, there's the question of safety. Just imagine if a dinner guest ended up in urgent care because they accidentally opened up a finger on the blade of your steak knives. I therefore didn't disqualify any of the knives based on their performance in the paper test, but rather used the data from this test to check against the performance observations made by testers during the subsequent steak test.

Slicing Steaks

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Slicing into a rare hanger steak with a steak knife.

For the main test, I had a group of six people from the Serious Eats team evaluate the knives under real-world, steak-cutting conditions. In the test kitchen, I cooked three different cuts of steak—hanger, skirt, and 2-inch-thick New York strips—to evaluate how well the knives performed on tougher cuts of beef as well as thick-cut steaks. I did my best to choose testers of different ages, height, gender, cooking experience, and dominant hand orientation. Before having them cut into steaks on porcelain plates, testers were asked to evaluate knives based on their appearance, and feel—how ergonomically comfortable they were to hold, along with whether they liked the weight distribution, balance, and blade-to-handle dimensions.

Serious Eats staff writing down their observations during the steak knife equipment test.

Performance was the next criterion; testers were asked to slice the different cuts of steak with each knife. After recording observations on performance, participants were tasked with giving each knife an overall grade from 1 to 10, while also writing down how much they would personally be willing to spend on a set of steak knives for themselves, as well as how much they would be willing to spend on a set to give as a nice gift to someone they really cared about.

Clear favorites and losers were quick to emerge. People unanimously rejected the serrated and micro-serrated knives in the grouping, while also knocking knives that were too small and light in their hands. None of the testers were fans of two out of the three most affordable knives on offer. These two knives felt cheap due to partial-tang construction—meaning that the blade doesn't run all the way through the handle as one piece of metal—and neither scored well in the looks department. The outlier in this group was the Messermeister Avanta, which impressed testers with the sharpness of both its edge and streamlined aesthetic.

A left-handed person slicing into a strip steak.

The knives that were priced in the middle of the pack didn't fair well at all, either, with testers knocking them for both their looks and performance. That left the premium grouping of expensive steak knives. Not all of these high-priced knives (which generally fall in the $300 price range for a set of four knives) received rave reviews. Aesthetics became the sticking point for this group. People didn't like ones that looked too similar to Western-style kitchen boning knives, and were split on the classic looks of the French Laguiole-style knife and the modern minimalism of the Perceval 9.47.

How We Chose Our Winners

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Slicing seared skirt steak with the Perceval steak knife.

We chose our winners by evaluating knives based on the scores they were given for overall performance and looks while taking into account their cost. We wanted to choose sets of steak knives that could work for people who aren't looking to spend a lot of money, as well as those who are in the market for something special. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for. If you're looking for a hand-crafted steak knife, you're going to need to spend some money.

Without knowing the cost of the knives on display, all but one of the testers stated that they would want to spend less than $200 for a nice gift set of steak knives, and $100 or less on a set for themselves. With that common thread, a clear winner emerged from this test. I have also included the favorites from the high-end steak-knife set options.

Finally, all of the winning steak knives listed below are available with handles in a variety of colors. As with kitchen knives, these steak knives should be washed by hand, and not put in the dishwasher.

The Best Steak-Knife Set: Messermeister Avanta

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Side and overhead view of the Messermeister Avanta

When price is taken into account, the Messermeister Avanta is the clear winner of the great steak knife battle. These knives are crazy sharp right out of the box, and perform on the level of steak knives five times their price, while blowing away all the other knives in their price range. They are very pretty to look at, and their full-tang construction makes them feel well-balanced and nicely weighted in your hand. The handle is made out of resin-enforced natural wood, called pakkawood, that is durable and more water-resistant than regular wood. You can't beat these knives from a value-to-performance perspective. Truly impressive.

The Best Modern Steak-Knife Set: Perceval 9.47

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Side and overhead view of the Perceval 9.47 steak knife.

I fell in love with the Perceval 9.47 knife while eating my way through Paris last winter. This knife, designed by a former chef in the style of a French folding pocket knife, is a favorite at a lot of the hip neo-bistros in the City of Lights. It's beautifully weighted, with the blade and polyacetal (plastic) handle almost identical in length, and it cuts like a dream. The straighter contours of the blade also make it easier to sharpen than other steak knives with more dramatically curved tips. The look of this knife is divisive; I personally love its minimalist, utilitarian vibe, and the absence of a garish brand label. While a couple of testers agreed with me that this knife oozes cool, others hated its look, with one tester going so far as to compare it to a "shiv." However you feel about its look, there's no arguing with its construction and performance. The 9.47 is a quality knife, and if I were putting together a wedding registry, this would be the knife to make the cut.

The Best Laguiole-Style Steak-Knife Set: Laguiole en Aubrac

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Side and overhead view of the Laguiole en Aubrac steak knife

Laguiole-style knives are the iconic French steak knife, but unfortunately there are a lot of cheap knockoff versions on the market. This is due to the fact that the term "Laguiole" is not protected or regulated, and manufacturers can stamp that word on shoddily-made knives and sell them as if they are the real thing. Even a "France" or "Made in France" label doesn't necessarily mean that the knives you are buying are actually real-deal, French-crafted blades. Shady manufacturers can slap a "Made in France" label on a product so long as 45 percent of the "added value" from the making of that product comes from a French territory. This "added value" can include the packaging of the knives, which means that manufacturers can have a cheap wooden box made in France while producing knockoff knives in China, and then sell the set with a "Made in France" label. Very sneaky.

Overhead view of the handles for two types of Laguiole-style steak knives. Top: Laguiole en Aubrac Bottom: Jean Dubost

Luckily, there are legitimate French knife-makers that produce Laguiole-style knives that are trademark-protected, and Laguiole en Aubrac is one of those companies. Their knives are of noticeably higher quality than other brands sold at even reputable kitchenware stores. Check out the difference in quality in construction between the two Laguiole-style knives in the photo above. The Laguiole en Aubrac is just a better all-around knife. It is heavier, sturdier, prettier, and sharper than the knife from Jean Dubost. If you are set on purchasing Laguiole-style knives, make sure you're getting the real thing, and don't settle for a cheap fugazi. If the price on a set of Laguiole knives seems too good to be true, then it is.

Another Great Steak-Knife Set: Victorinox Grand Maître

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Side and overhead view of the Victorinox Grand Maître steak knife.

The Victorinox Grand Maître steak knives are very well-constructed, sharp knives with an understated look that come at a premium price point. We have included them here for people who are looking for a high-end set of steak knives, but don't love the looks of the Perceval or Laguiole en Aubrac options. The Grand Maître was the highest-rated premium steak knife with the Western boning-knife aesthetic.

The Competition

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  • The Opinel No. 125 Bon Appetit table knives are a popular budget-friendly steak knife option, but we were surprised by how cheap and light they felt to hold, with one tester going so far as to say that it "looks like a toy from Sweden." The knife's partial-tang construction felt particularly flimsy, and the knife struggled to slice through thick-cut strip steaks.
  • The Messermeister Oliva Elité is one of the company's high-end steak knives, and testers actually preferred the performance and look of the much more affordable Avanta model.
  • None of the testers liked the serrated edge of the Victorinox Swiss Modern knife.
  • One tester said it best: "The Victorinox Wood steak knife looks and feels like the type of knife you would find impaling an overcooked burger at a chain restaurant in a suburban strip mall."
  • Chicago Cutlery Walnut Tradition is a top budget steak knife choice for both America's Test Kitchen and The Wirecutter, but we found this knife to be very disappointing. These knives are incredibly small, making them uncomfortable to hold for people with larger hands, and the blades were not sharp enough to warrant a recommendation.
  • Testers felt the Wusthof Ikon steak knives looked too much like kitchen boning knives, and some were disappointed by their out-of-the-box sharpness. These pricey knives come in a fancy wooden box, but the knives aren't securely fastened in the box, meaning that they get jostled around and cut deep grooves in the wood.
  • A more modestly priced model from the German knife giant, the Wusthof Gourmet was unanimously panned for its looks (people especially disliked the bright red logo on the handle), and testers were not convinced by its cutting performance.
  • Laguiole Jean Dubost knives were knocked for their cheap-feeling construction with rivets that don't sit flush against the handle of the knife. Testers also hated the semi-serrated edge of these knives.