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Nine Steak Knives Actually Worth Owning

Eater logo Eater 9/6/2018 Rachel Tepper Paley
a plate of food with a knife: The Bon Chef Renoir dinner knife-turned-steak knife at Chicago Chop House © Chicago Chop House The Bon Chef Renoir dinner knife-turned-steak knife at Chicago Chop House

Pros from Peter Luger, Chicago Chop House, and more recommend the best knives for every aesthetic and budget.

Luminaries of the restaurant world tend to regard blades with cult-like devotion, but it’s for good reason. The best-crafted knives exist at the crossroads of form and function; they’re works of art, often with weighty, finely-burnished handles and top-quality metal, that can at the same time slice through a tender, aged slab of beef with scalpel-like precision and ease. And so it would follow that the Great Steakhouses of America, chef-driven temples dedicated to the worship of the finely-marbled, would choose the best steak knives imaginable.

Of course, there’s plenty of debate around what “best” means. Are the knives serrated or straight-edged? Are they attention-seeking or understated? Are they heavy or dainty? Are they workhorses or specialized to particular dishes? From velvet-draped Old Guard establishments to design-forward hipster haunts, chefs thoughtfully select knives based on certain needs and preferences — not unlike the equally varied wants and needs of the home cook.

Here are the knives that pass muster at America’s best steakhouses that you can buy yourself.

For a sleek, understated knife: Walco High Plains Steak Knife

At modern Argentinian steakhouse Lolinda in San Francisco’s Mission District, executive chef Alejandro Morgan says he cut and sliced with 20 different steak knives before settling on an understated 4.75-inch, straight-edge blade from Walco. It’s since become the restaurant’s go-to, a replacement for a serrated blade they tried first that didn’t stack up.

“Really quickly we realized that it doesn’t make a nice cut,” Morgan says. A bad steak knife can make steak seem chewier than it really is. “If it’s a good steak knife, it cuts like a piece of butter.” Such is the appeal of the straight-edged Walco knife, which cuts cleanly without drawing too much attention to itself. “Flashy to me is kind of douchey,” he says. With the Walco, “you never think it’s the knife. You always think it’s the steak.”

The major downside with a straight-edge knife is that they dull faster. So Morgan has the restaurant’s 220 knives — which each cut two to three steaks a night — sharpened once a month.

Buy Walco High Plains Steak Knife, $54.67 for set of 12
a bunch of food on a plate on a table: The Walco knife at Lolinda (bottom center) © Lolinda
The Walco knife at Lolinda (bottom center)
For a workhorse knife that gets the job done: Icel 5” Wavy-Edge Blade Steak Knife

Knives were never the most integral part of the steakhouse equation for the legendary Brooklyn steakhouse Peter Luger, according to vice president David Berson. “I can tell you, the CEO of a popular steakhouse chain once told me that their belief was not to buy better quality meat, but to buy sharper steak knives,” he says. “I don’t think we’re the type of restaurant who’s interested in this.”

For that reason, you’ll find a basic, 5-inch serrated Icel knife alongside the aged rib steaks at Peter Luger. “Basically, we wanted something that’ll cut the meat easily, it’s easy to hold, and it’ll hold up for multiple uses — something that doesn’t get in the way of the meat,” Berson continues. “We have no tablecloths, and we really don’t believe in the highest-end cutlery.”

Buy Icel 5” Wavy-Edge Blade Steak Knife, $13.31

For a knife that’s not actually a steak knife: Bon Chef Renoir Solid Handle Dinner Knife

The most perfect steak knife, according to the iconic Windy City restaurant Chicago Chop House, is actually a dinner knife.

“It’s not a butter knife, but it’s almost like one,” says managing partner Matthew McCahill. “It’s a nice commercial knife, and we have a knife guy who comes in and sharpens all the knives and basically puts an edge on them.” The final result is a straight-edged, steakhouse-appropriate blade. “A serrated edge knife… unfortunately, that rips apart the steak,” says McCahill. “You want to get a nice edge into it.”

Why go through all the trouble of sharpening down dinner knives (which, by the way, you need a professional to do)? That’s just the way it’s always been done, McCahill says. “I think we have a couple that are 32 years old.” The most prized of them are the roughly 100 knives engraved with the names of regular patrons. For the home cook who wants something extra special…

Buy Bon Chef Renoir Solid Handle Dinner Knife, $49.99 for set of 12

For a hefty knife that feels legit: Günter Wilhelm Executive Chef Series II Steak Knife

Ken Lazlo fell in love with the sleek lines of German-made Günter Wilhelm knives when he met the knife’s U.S. importer while running Maloney & Porcelli in New York City. Several years later and half a continent away, he knew he wanted them in the hands of guests at B&B Butchers & Restaurant in Houston, where he serves as Operations Director.

Lazlo settled on a five-inch-long, stainless steel blade with a half-serrated edge. It’s a hefty thing, clocking in at a quarter pound in weight, a fact confirmed when Lazlo placed the blade on a nearby meat scale. “The weight definitely helps the whole experience when dining, especially in a steakhouse,” he says. “These are good big cuts of beef, you want something nice and big to cut through it, even though a lot of times these things are fork tender.”

But the best part about a serrated blade?“You don’t have to sharpen them,” Lazlo says.

Buy Günter Wilhelm Executive Chef Series II steak knife, $109.99 for set of six
a plate of food: Günter Wilhelm steak knife in use at B&B Butchers & Restaurant © B&B Butchers & Restaurant
Günter Wilhelm steak knife in use at B&B Butchers & Restaurant
For a knife that can handle a thick cut: Sambonet Linea Q Steak Knife

For every steak, there is a steak knife. That’s the attitude, at least, at Alexander’s Steakhouse in San Francisco, where in addition to premium American steaks, you can find genuine wagyu steak from nine prefectures in Japan. The knife you get depends on the meat you order. For the hearty American cuts, you’ll get the Linea Q blade from Sambonet, a sleek blade made from a single piece of stainless steel.

“They have a very light serration through the top of the knife, so it allows for a very easy cut,” says Nathan Tenney, the restaurant’s general manager. “And they have a very pointed tip, which is helpful for getting through a bone.”

Buy Sambonet Linea Q Steak Knife, $30

For a knife specially made for wagyu: Laguiole Stainless Steel Steak Knife

It’s a different story, however, if you order a slab of wagyu at Alexander’s Steakhouse, which comes trimmed in buttery three-to-six-inch-long pieces that lack any connective tissue whatsoever. Wagyu is paired with a French-made Laguiole blade with a straight edge and a special luxe red wooden handle. “The wagyu, it’s so rich so you really want to cut through it in one fluid motion, and it doesn’t squish out all that beautiful marbling,” Tenney says.

“Japanese beef is nothing like American beef,” he adds. “It’s like the difference between a pork chop and a pork belly. Pork belly is incredibly rich, and a pork chop needs more sawing.”

Buy Laguiole Steak Knife, $138 for set of six

For a playful knife that doesn’t take steak too seriously: Opinel Bon Appetit Steak Knife

There’s no missing the vividly neon, straight-edged blades on display at Williamsburg spot The Four Horsemen. And they have a great backstory to boot.

“We got married in Denmark, where renting everything [for the wedding] was so expensive, and it seemed more logical to buy 300 knives than to rent them,” says LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy, who co-owns The Four Horsemen with his wife Christina Topsoe. Plus the two were planning to open a restaurant — why not kill two birds with one stone?

The knives are more than pretty; they’re also durable. Murphy and Topsoe saw them in action at the Copenhagen restaurant Pluto, which regularly puts them through the dishwasher. “You wouldn’t usually do that with a wooden handle, but they looked really nice,” Murphy says.

“They’re not too heavy, not too austere and serious,” Topsoe adds. “We weren’t opening a place that we austere and serious. But it’s a serious knife.”

The downside to eye-popping knives is that they have a habit of disappearing. “People steal stuff in New York, so we’ve had to buy more,” Murphy says. Good thing they’re (relatively) inexpensive.

BuyOpinel Bon Appetit Steak Knife in Pop Spirit, $49 for set of four
a plate of food on a table: Opinel knives at The Four Horsemen © The Four Horsemen
Opinel knives at The Four Horsemen
For a big, traditional knife that fulfills the steakhouse experience: Oneida Ionian Steak Knife

Marc Forgione didn’t always use Oneida’s Ionian steak knives in LDV Hospitality’s steak empire American Cut. “We originally had other steak knives from a different company that had, mixed and matched, my autograph and ‘American Cut’ on them,” says Forgione. “People would take them, so we switched... You’d be surprised by what people can fit in their to-go bags.”

The current knives don’t have any inscriptions, which thus far seems to help them stay put. At 10-and-a-quarter inches long, they’re substantial knives with a heavy polyoxymethylene handle and a wide, serrated steel blade. “These are heavy,” Forgione says. “I think it goes with the concept. At the end of the day, American Cut is a steakhouse, and part of being a steakhouse is having a good knife, as cheesy as that sounds.”

BuyOneida Ionian Steak Knife, $104.48 for set of 12

For a beautiful knife that makes a visual statement: Jean Philip Y2 Steak Knife

Olive, walnut, ebony, rosewood, wenge — those are just some of the woods used for the hand-crafted handles of the steak knives at José Andrés’s Bazaar Meat in Las Vegas. They’re “very elegant, smooth, sexy, and very design-oriented,” says David Thomas, the culinary director for the Bazaar restaurant brand. “The decor of our restaurant has a lot of dark brown tones and a very early English countryside huntsman cabin feel to it, so it was a good fit.”

The knives, made by French producer Jean Philip, indeed look like something you might pull out on a hunt, with their sharp, straight-edge blades and pointy tips. “You don’t need a big hefty serrated knife to get through those delicate pieces of meat,” Thomas says. As an added bonus, the knives come in a smooth wooden case, which Bazaar Meat uses to present the knives tableside.

Buy Jean Philip Y2 Steak Knife, $378 for set of six
a wooden table: Y2 steak knives by Jean Philip © Elegance2003
Y2 steak knives by Jean Philip

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