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Steak Knives

Published July 2015

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 about $80 to about $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.

The Results


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.


Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.


Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.


Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.


Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.


Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.