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Are serrated knives the best option? Serrated steak knives are generally made from a relatively thin, slightly flexible, stainless knife steel with a saw tooth (scalloped) edge on one side of the cutting edge. This design helps them to be still able to cut meat products even when the edge becomes a bit dull. The sawing motion saws the knife through the product rather than slicing it.
Serrated knives tend to tear at tender meat and do not slice cleanly. However, if the steaks are tough and the knives are blunt, choose a serrated knife. A knife’s ability to cleanly slice a steak depends on the sharpness of the blade and the toughness of the steak. A juicy, tender steak is best cut with a sharp straight-edged knife.
We take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of serrated knives. Read on to understand them better.
If you want to check out the best serrated knife made by the Wusthof company you can find it by clicking here (Amazon link).
The Evolution of the Serrated Knife
One Joseph E Burns, an inventor from Syracuse in the USA, is credited with inventing the serrated knife in 1919. A USA patent for this invention was awarded to him in 1922.
Though his original intention was to create a cutting tool that would be of most excellent use in the bread trade, it became a smash hit everywhere that knives were needed.
There are now many variations in the styles and uses of serrated knife cutting edges, but essentially the original principle remains.
The essence of the invention was that serrated knives would have a toothed cutting edge, with peaks and valleys similar to a saw. The cutting action would also be the same as that of a saw, i.e., a back-and-forth motion that literally will be seen through the chosen food product.
Mainly the peaks of the “teeth” on a serrated knife make contact with the product being cut. The undercut bevels between the peaks, though sharp in themselves, are really a supporting act.
Coming into contact with a cutting board will eventually help to dull the sharp peaks, but the undercuts remain sharp. So, as a general rule, the serrated knife will hold its ability to cut longer than a straight-edged knife.
When to Use a Serrated Knife
As stated earlier, a serrated knife is basically a fine saw. It will see through tough food products, perhaps with less effort than a straight-edged knife.
Tough-skinned vegetables such as pumpkin and some squashed and crackly Pork crackling can easily be cut with a serrated knife, but they will also respond positively to the attention of a sharp, straight-edged knife of the correct type and size. (i.e., not a little blunt veggie peeler).
Conversely, meat has challenges that are best met with a super-sharp, straight-edged knife. Again and as always, with the accent on sharp!
Serrated knives, particularly if not super sharp, tend to tear at the meat’s fibers and will not deliver a clean even cut. In a nutshell, serrated knives have a place, on my table or my kitchen, for cutting bread, but not for cutting meat.
I prefer super-sharp straight-edged knives, particularly where a precise thin cut on a meat product is desired. Ripping away at meat products with a serrated knife will tear the meat, create uneven cuts, and makes my bread-knife blunt. But that’s me.
So, let us explore more of this subject, for everyone has their preferences, needs, and opinions. What works for you is what is suitable for you.
TIP: A serrated blade cannot be sharpened effectively with a flat whetstone typically used for straight-edge knives. Check out the complete sharpening guide in the article below:
DIY Guide: Sharpening A Serrated Knife With & Without Stone
Why Are Steak Knives Serrated?
The serrations on the cutting edge make for a highly effective knife, particularly where the downward force required of a plain-edged knife would damage the food product.
A good example would be fresh bread with a nice crusty outside. The gentle sawing motion of the serrated edge cuts thru the crust and does the trick without squashing the loaf’s soft yummy insides.
Given a choice between a blunt straight-edged knife and a blunt-serrated knife, one will indeed have more cutting joy with the blunt-serrated knife.
Steakhouses will, in all probability, present you with a serrated knife to do the deed on your favorite steak, simply because, given the high rate of use in a restaurant, their knives will probably be blunt.
The serrated choice, therefore, simply avoids the schlepp of having to carry out repetitive daily sharpenings of straight-edge knives.
A side benefit for the steakhouse will be that the serrated edge on their knives will also help the diner to cut through an, unfortunately, less than tender steak.
Are Steak Knives Always Serrated?
Everyone would like their steak to be friendly and juicy, and tender. Tucking into a very tough steak, or even a modestly tender one, with a dull straight-edged knife convinces one’s senses that the meat is really chewy, challenging, and almost inedible.
Using a serrated knife will probably make the cutting of the meat more straightforward, thus giving the mental impression that the meat is better than it really is. An added advantage is that the saw edge of a serrated knife, even if a little dull, will still make an adequate cut.
It will certainly not work as well as a finely honed straight-edge knife, but it will be way better than attending the task with a dull straight-edge blade.
Restaurants will inevitably provide serrated steak knives for their diners mainly because they will cut even if dull. Having to sharpen or hone multiple straight-edge knives, probably daily, would be too disruptive in a restaurant.
Serrated Steak Knife or Not?
For many of us, including myself, the simple answer to this is a definitive and resounding “no” to serrated edges on our steak knives. But then all my knives are super sharp, and I keep them that way. Those bedeviled with dull-edge knives would be better off having a selection of serrated-edge knives.
The ridges of the serrated blade edge will make it easier to cut through meat and other tough products, and an added advantage is that they will not dull as quickly as a straight-edged blade.
How one utilizes the blade is also essential; a serrated blade is most effective when a push and pulling motion is employed; that is, it cuts best using a sawing action.
On the other hand, a straight-edged blade cuts best on the drawing motion but needs to be sharp, as a dull edge will drag across without cutting.
TIP: Serrated knife blades have some advantages over straight-edged knives; the main advantage is that they stay sharp for longer. Check out the best sharpeners in the article below:
TOP 7 Knife Sharpeners For Serrated Knives: Complete Guide
Are Serrated Steak Knives Better?
The essence here is a trade-off. Serrated and straight-edged knives are perfectly suitable for use as steak knives when they are sharp.
But, all knives will eventually become blunt after a specific time in service. The difference now is that a straight-edged knife can quickly be brought back to sharp by honing (e.g., using a sharpening steel or a strop) or resharpening on a whetstone or oil stone.
Sharpening a serrated knife, though, is another story altogether. The correct re-sharpening of a serrated knife entails the sharpening of the individual bevels, which automatically re-cuts the peaks back to sharp again.
Fortunately, one side of the serrated knife is usually flat, with the bevels on the opposite side, thus halving the sharpening work required. The reality, though, is that unless you are skilled in the art of knife sharpening, this task is best shopped out to a professional knife sharpener.
The serrated knife, commonly employed in steakhouses, will spend a longer time at work cutting steak before it starts to get dull.
Even then, when dull, the scallops, built into the serration design, will assist in keeping the knife effective as a cutting tool. Its downside is that it is almost impossible for the layman to sharpen it when it is dull and won’t perform.
Unfortunately, the characteristics that keep serrated knives sharper for longer make the re-sharpening procedure much more complex. Sharpening them correctly requires re-cutting each scallop, one at a time, which requires expertise, time, and the correct equipment.
When nice and sharp, the straight-edged knife will make a far cleaner cut in and produce a much thinner slice from your steak.
When it gets a bit blunt, whistling up the edge quickly is easily done on a sharpening steel or a strop. At some time, the re-cutting of the edge will be necessary, but this can be carried out using a whetstone or oil stone without too much expertise needed.
Clearly, straight-edged knives and serrated-edge knives have unique advantages and disadvantages. Which is best for you can be judged from the information provided above. If you are in the market to buy a knife it would be an idea to buy one of each as they both have attributes worth having.
The one common factor with buying knives is that whatever you select, you should buy the best quality that you can afford.
But, in the end, let’s face it, a cheap knife, serrated or straight-edged, has got to be a whole lot better than no knife at all.
TIP: Most people know what a bread knife is and look like, and many do not understand its use. Find out the answer in the article below:
What To Cut & NOT To Cut With A Bread (Serrated) Knife