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July/August 2015

Steak Knives

Which set of steak knives can really cut it?

How We Tested

When we learned that our favorite steak knife set, the Victorinox Swiss Army 6-Piece Rosewood Steak Set, increased in price from $80 to $170, we wondered if we could find comparable knives that wouldn’t slice into our savings. We knew from past tests that serrated knives—even those with minuscule serrations—mangle and tear meat, so we focused on smooth-edged steak knives. Smooth-edged knives can also be sharpened, giving them a longer lifespan than serrated knives. We rounded up sets of four to six knives (all were priced less than $18 per knife). Lefties and righties with large and small hands sat at dinner tables and tried each blade, slicing through rare and well-done steaks—including inexpensive, moderately tough shell sirloin and pricey, tender strip steaks—served on ceramic plates. Each knife made 525 cuts in total.

To measure the sharpness of each knife, we sliced through a single sheet of paper before and after testing, noting how easily the knife slid through. Most knives were sharp out of the box, with the exception of one set that struggled, making jagged, torn slices of meat. Surprisingly, another set was almost too sharp, rapping loudly against our plates and leaving permanent marks in the ceramic no matter how gently we cut. This set quickly dulled from repeated grinding into the plate and failed the paper test after 525 cuts. Only one other set was too dull to slice through paper by the end of testing. The remaining two sets were either just as sharp as when we started or showed only a minimal decrease in sharpness.

As for comfort, testers favored knives with contoured wood handles, which were lightweight and easy to grip. Some knives with plastic or metal handles were either too heavy or felt slippery in testers’ palms. We also preferred knives whose blades and handles were of nearly equal length, which made them easier to control. Our preferred products had less than a 3/4-inch difference in the length of their handles and blades; the lower-ranked knives had either handles or blades that were longer by an inch or more and therefore felt unbalanced.

While testers gave a slight edge to our winning knives for their comfortable, attractive handles and slightly sharper blades (we still recommend them as a top choice), our Best Buy performed almost identically at a savings of nearly $24 per knife. Our Best Buy's blades held their edge through more than 500 cuts and their thick wood handles were lightweight and easy to hold.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

$33.31*

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.