Serrated vs. Non-Serrated Steak Knives

serrated vs non serrated knives, which one is best for cutting steak

Steak knives are indispensable for every home. If you choose the wrong one when considering Serrated vs. Non-Serrated Steak Knives, you won’t be able to enjoy that magical butter-basted ribeye without losing too much juice.

But when you actually go shopping, you’ll probably get dazzled between the dozens of different iterations: forged vs. stamped, bolstered or not, full or partial tang, etc. Believe it or not, nothing of this serves a crucial difference! It all boils down to your personal preferences.

There’s, however, one debate that can make a world of difference: serrated vs non-serrated steak knives. Read on to find out what makes each type stand out.

Design

Before we start analyzing the difference in performance, we’ll need to highlight the basic structural variance.

Serrated Knives

As the name implies, serrated knives are created with multiple teeth-like projections. Between every two teeth, there are hollow depressions that are known as gullets.

Contrary to common belief, these serrations aren’t randomly designed. The sharp projections should have certain angles and sizes in order to deliver an ideal performance.

trends serrated knife to cut steak. Choose this one if you can't decide between serrated vs. non-serrated steak knives

To put things into perspective, let’s first look at the serrations of a survival knife. Wide gullets are generally more common since they can cut ropes easier.

Survival Knife

On the contrary, serrated steak knives have much narrower gullets. Also, the teeth-like projections are typically made with the same pointed angles of a knife’s tip. Although it seems negligible, this design tweak is the key to efficient performance, but more on that later.

Non-Serrated Knives

There’s nothing meticulously fancy about non-serrated knives. They have a straight, razor-sharp edge that smoothly pushes through the meat.

What About “Dimples”?

Dimples, aka Granton edge, are shallow indentations that are located just above the blade’s edge. If you come to think of it, they can be considered as serrations but on the blade’s side rather than the edge.

A dimpled knife excels in terms of maneuverability. They can cut through steak with minimal suction since the blade makes less contact with the meat.

Performance

Alright, let’s see how the different designs perform on a dinner table. 

Serrated Knives

Let me ask you this: what’s the most forceful part of a knife? In other words, what part can stab and pass through hard objects? It sure is the tip, right? But why? It’s all about physics.

Do you recall the law that says pressure equals force divided by area (P = F/A)? This means that as the cutting tool gets smaller, it becomes much more powerful.

Like I said earlier, the serrations are meticulously designed to act like tiny tips. This way, serrated knives can “saw” their way into foods with a tough exterior. That’s why bread knives are almost always serrated.

Non-Serrated Knives

It’s true that non-serrated knives aren’t as powerful as their pointy counterparts. If you try to use them to cut bread, you’ll inevitably compress the soft interior while cutting the tough crust.

non-serrated wusthof classic knife, good choice for precise cuts when cutting steak. serrated vs. non-serrated steak knives
Non-serrated Wüsthof knife. A fine choice.

Does this mean they’re worthless? Absolutely not. Their incredible sharpness makes them ideal for making smooth, precise cuts in delicate foods like tomatoes.

Edge Retention

If you’re unfamiliar, edge retention describes how long a knife can stay sharp.

When you use a serrated knife to make a downward cut over ceramic plates, the hollow glutes rarely touch the plate. This way, the knife can keep sewing through foods with an extremely sharp edge for a long time.

Plain knives, on the other hand, thump on the plate with the full edge. With time, the constant force will flatten the edge until it becomes completely dull.

Sharpening

Although plain knives dull faster, their sharpening process is much easier than their pointy alternatives. You can use a sharpening rod, whetstone set, or an electric sharpener. As long as you know what you’re doing, you’ll obtain excellent results with minimal effort.

Unfortunately, things aren’t that straightforward with serrated knives. Using the previous methods might destroy the special angles that make these knives particularly unique.

Your best bet here would be a thin, conical file. You’ll have to sharpen each gullet on its own, though, which can be quite tiresome. Also, this process will only hone the edge rather than sharpen it. In other words, it’ll just polish the surface to remove any irregularities, which should slightly improve the cutting smoothness.

But if you’ve had your knife for a long time, it stands to reason that this rudimentary approach won’t cut it. In that case, you’d better hand it to a professional that knows how to maintain the most intricate angles. Unfortunately, when deciding between serrated vs. non-serrated steak knives you have to keep this in mind.

Serrated vs. non-serrated steak knives? The winner is?

As you probably know, not all steaks are created equal. Some meat can be extremely tender, while others can be astoundingly tough. This depends on many factors like the meat grain, the fat percentage, and the amount of connective tissue.

Use Plain Knives With Tender Steak

With tender meat, just say no to serrated knives. The powerful serrations would tear through the fragile fibers and destroy that heavenly texture. Plus, because tender steak can’t hold their ground, the fibers will be squashed back and forth before they get cut. This is bad because it’ll strip most of the flavorful juices of your steak.

Here are some of the most famous tender cuts, listed in ascending order from softest to firmest:

  • Tenderloin steak (filet mignon)
  • Top blade steak
  • Top loin steak (sirloin)
  • Standing rib roast
  • Ribeye steak
  • Chuck roll roast
  • Clod roast
  • Round tip roast

Use Serrated Knives With Tough Steak

A plain knife will probably struggle with tough steaks. Yes, it’ll eventually cut, but it’ll have squeezed most of the juices onto the plate. Serrated blades would steadily saw their way into the firm fibers with minimal, if any, pressure.

Here’s a list of the firmest meat, listed from the moderate to the toughest:

  • Round tip steak
  • Bottom round roast
  • Chuck tender steak
  • Eye of round roast
  • Eye of round roast
  • Top round steak

The Final Word

As you saw, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the serrated vs. non-serrated steak knives debate. If you ask me, I’d say get both! If you’re eating a tender steak, like a wagyu rib-eye for example, you’ll have to use a plain knife. By extension, tough steaks demand powerful serrated alternatives.

The Editorial Team

The Editorial Team

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