Enjoying a good steak or other substantial pieces of cooked meat can be challenging without the assistance of quality steak knives. Steak knives are designed to slice through fibrous cuts of meat much more efficiently than serrated butter knives or smooth-bladed kitchen knives. The serrated blades of steak knives allow the diner to carve out a bite-sized portion of meat with only a few strokes, while the handles keep the diner's fingers safely away from the blade itself.
The main challenge of cutting a steak or other thick meat is overcoming the grain. Muscle tissue could be thought of as the bristles of a broom. The grain of the meat runs in one direction, like the individual bristles of a broom. If a smooth-bladed knife is placed in the same direction or grain as the muscles, carving is relatively easy as the individual muscles are either split or moved out of the way of the blade as it cuts.
If a smooth-edged knife blade is placed against the grain or individual "bristles,"it can only successfully cut off a few strands at a time, and it may slip or slide as it does. A serrated knife, on the other hand, can cut across the grain and slice off all of the "bristles" as it saws through the meat. This ability to cut with or against the grain is what gives steak knives their appeal as cutlery.
Every kitchen should have at least one good set of steak knives, if not more. Other types of knives might be able to carve softer meats, but steak knives are designed to handle the demands of cutting through fibrous meat and fat without slipping or becoming dulled by the process. Using a serrated butter knife can be an exercise in futility, and standard kitchen knives may be too dangerous for younger children to use at the dining room table.
Some steak knives can be very pointed and sharp, while others could feature rounded edges and smaller serrations. Steak houses which largely cater to families may offer oversized, rounded steak knives to their customers, while the more upscale chop and steak houses generally trust their clientele with sharper cutlery. Great care should be exercised when washing and storing steak knives, since they can get lost in the general silverware population and cause serious problems for the dishwasher.