A serrated knife is a dentated knife with splits in each cutting edge. With a cut made from pressure, its edge possesses a saw-like quality of going through hard objects with soft interiors. Serrated knives are multi-purpose; you can use them in the kitchen for cutting or as general utility tools. Because a serrated knife contains a jagged edge, its cut is more strategic but not necessarily cleaner.
If you want to know more about what a serrated knife can do, think of it as a saw for the kitchen that is slid back and forth until the material or surface being cut is severed. Serrated knives are more than just being used in the kitchen. They are travel-friendly and can be used for survival trips. In this article, however, the focus will be on their use inside the kitchen and how to sharpen them.
Parts of a Typical Serrated Knife:
A serrated kitchen knife has parts that make them unique when compared to other knives such as slicing knife, carving knife, paring knife, butcher knife, nakiri knife, santoku knife, boning knife, etc. For now, let’s go through its parts individually:
Handle – The handle is the part where the knife is held by the hand. In a serrated knife, the wood composition needs to be light and non-slip just in case the knife falls out of the hand when it is being used. The metal in the handle can be durable but can be heavy because it holds the weight of the knife dependent on it.
Tang – A tang describes the projected fang that serves as the connection from blade to handle. Serrated knives have full tangs. This means that the tang is cut in the same size and shape as the handle. The handle scales (screws that hold the handle in place) are fixed evenly on the top and bottom of the handle to make it secure. Knives that are heavy duty or that go through more pressure such as cleavers, chef knives and serrated knives normally have full tangs.
Bolster – The blade is attached to the handle through what is known as the bolster. Although this may seem as its primary function, the bolster serves as leverage when added pressure is applied. It improves strength and balance in a serrated knife’s performance. The existence of a bolster means that a knife is of high quality.
Edges – All knives have two edges. With the serrated kind, there is a beveled side that chops and slices when pressure is applied; this is also the side which is sharpened. The opposite side is the flat side, which is not sharpened. The way the knife is serrated affects the way it cuts and determines the way it’s supposed to be maintained.
Classic serrated – Even spacing of edges and the right amount of sharpness makes this for a utility knife that is used for a lot of purposes.
Scalloped – A softer version of the wavy-edge, this has shallow gullies and rounded tips that make for careful cutting.
Double serrated – the rule of thumb is, the more serration a knife has then the more likely you would exert effort pushing the blade through the food. In a double serrated knife, this is the case. This type of blade is perfect for food like bread crusts or in extreme moments, survival gear like rope.
Wavy – it features a gentle slicing outcome and is used as deli knife for soft foods.
Types of Serrated Knives
Generally speaking, there are two types of serrated knives: fully serrated and partially serrated. The difference is that the partially serrated ones are a compromise for the strengths of both the plain edge and serrated blades.
Fully Serrated Knives
These knives are versatile and can be used for materials that are either very soft or very hard. They have often sharp, aggressive blades and leave a jagged cut. Fully serrated knives come in the form of bread knives and grapefruit knives. Their longevity lasts a longer period of time than most knives, however, they are difficult to maintain once the dullness shows.
Partially Serrated Knives
These kind of knives are a combination of a straight edge and serrated edge. This mix blade is available in two models: one with the serration near the knife tip and one with the serration at the closer to the bolster. Any section in between the serrations is a plain blade. The necessity of these knives is that they can cut in versatility regardless of the kind of strength and texture that they have.
Serrated Utility Knife
It is probably the most used serrated knife. It has a standard measurement of 4 to 7 inches in length. It is short and has the general use of cutting rough-skinned fruits and vegetables. It can also cut through sandwiches.
Favored foods: tomatoes, sausages, softer fruits like bananas and medium-crusted bread.
Compared to the utility knife, it is longer (8 to 14 inches) and its shape is designed to make sure that it does not flatten the bread in the process. It can also be an emergency replacement for a serrated utility knife.
For more information about bread knives, check this article about the best bread knife picks
Favored foods: Bread crust and cake.
Available as a long flat blade and a version of a double blade, this knife is made specifically for any citrus fruit. The serrated edge of the knife separates the peel from its fleshy interior and comes back in one piece. This is also considered a grapefruit knife. About 6-9 inches, it covers more refined foods that need an angular cut.
Favored foods: soft slices of meat, soft bread and gourmet sandwiches.
Testing Your Serrated Blade
Because of the splits that exist in between a serrated blade, it might not occur to you that the blade needs for re-sharpening. A simple evaluation through testing your knife going through various food products and items will help you assess whether your knife needs sharpening or not.
The Food Cutting Test. Done in a series, cutting your knife into these food before and after sharpening helps you determine the degree of sharpness that you would want your knife to have.
- For the initial test, cut the tomato into thin slices.
- Cut sandwiches with several fillings into quarters. Fillings should not be spilled and the bread must not break in the middle.
- Slicing phyllo dough. The dough should be intact and cut into thin slices
- Slicing cake sideways/lengthwise/widthwise without making the filling or icing run out.
- Slicing crusty bread without a lot of crumbs.
- Slicing tomatoes thinly again.
Other foods that can test your knife: chocolate, pineapple and watermelon. Check if the cuts come clean. If it passes the test then no need to sharpen the knife yet.
Paper Test. Dullness in a knife is not just that your knife cannot cut; it also means seeing thin streaks on the blade. With dullness, the blade is not sharpened to its full potential. You can use it but it will not give you the results that you want from a conventional sharp serrated knife unless that is the cut that you were going for.
Apart from cutting and slicing foods, you can hold a piece of paper upright with your hand and slice the knife through the paper horizontally. If the paper fails to cut or worse crumple then your knife needs re-sharpening.
Good Qualities of a Serrated Knife
A good knife is like finding good support: it makes the job easier. The ideal serrated knife may vary from person to person but here are the basics that you should keep in mind when selecting one:
Light heft and light grip. Heft in a knife means its weight or heaviness as opposed to how it is held when carried or when used. Ideally, serrated knives are for tough skin but even in chopping and slicing, lifting a heavy knife is not all that fun especially if you need to cut several ingredients in a given period of time.
Similarly, a light grip means that pressure is carefully measured and you have significant control of the chopping action depending on the kind of slices you need.
Cuts food well. Serrated knives need to cut through challenging foods with minimum resistance. Tomatoes and bread, for instance, are examples of edibles that run the risk of being damaged in its interior and on its exterior when serrated blades are used. It is then recommended that should you use knives that are angled and more importantly, a narrow blade so the cuts can vary from thick to thin.
Sandwiches can also determine how well a serrated knife is. It has a combination of a thick crust, delicate ingredients in between and runny dressings. A good serrated knife should guarantee a clean cut all the way to the moist vegetables and meat.
Pointed and sharp. A good serrated knife has an efficient point. The point is where the knife interacts with the food and how it is sliced. The technology of a serrated blade is special because its design allows it to swiftly cut into the food’s hard exterior and reduces its friction back and forth as it gets close to its soft interior and therefore comes out in a clean cut.
The Ways to Sharpen a Serrated Knife
Using a Sharpening Rod
Sharpening Tools. These are the most common tools used when sharpening a knife. It makes the most out of its fine grit that makes the knife sharp in an instant. There are four types of knife sharpeners: sharpening steels, sharpening stones, manual knife sharpeners and electric knife sharpeners.
Sharpening steels, also called, honing rods’ job is to enhance the blade of the knife. The only difference between each of the tools is the material its use, how it cuts and the blade shapes.
Cut type of steel – depending on the dimensions of your knife, you might consider either getting a light or heavy rod to improve it. For light dimensions, there are fine, smooth and spiral cut types available. Regular, diamond and combination cut types are available for heavier knives.
Steel blade shape – Rounded-shaped rods are used by chefs in the kitchen because they are easy and portable. Oval blades are equally effective and are used for knives which have more density so the steel can go out of place if used too often.
Material type – sharpening steel are made from either steel, ceramic or diamond (partially steel with the diamond abrasive). The two latter materials are surprisingly more abrasive than steel and give the new edge a refined form. Diamond steel can sharpen knives that are extra fine, fine and coarse, depending on the kind of serration you have.
Serrated knives are best sharpened with sharpening steels and sharpening stones. Manual and electric knife sharpeners could work but would lose their serration because they would be grinded off.
The difference in serrations means that the kind of sharpening rod you use is dependent on the kind of knife that you have. In this procedure, the serrated knife being used is a bread knife. A bread knife has a standard serration measurement of 8mm (extra fine) to 14mm (coarse).
The sharpening rod used must fit the diameter of the serrations in your knife. A rod that is too thick will make sharpening uneven and will make it stay dull. A rod that is too thin, on the other hand, will need more effort to sharpen especially one that has a coarser edge
Step 1: Sharpen the knife on its beveled side by pressing the edge of the knife on top of the sharpening rod while doing an up-and-down motion to produce friction. The beveled side is the serrated side. The objective is that the friction between the knife and the rod will make the serrations stronger, therefore, giving a more quality cut.
Step 2: For a cleaner knife, remove the burr that is produced due to the sharpened friction on the tool. A typical sign that you are sharpening your knife right is the existence of burr. Burr is the small fold of metal on the opposite side of the knife when it is being sharpened. This mark indicates that you have sharpened a particular side to its full potential. If you want to prevent the hassle of the burr, you can sharpen the edges one by one.
Using a Spyderco SharpmakerⓇ
Spyderco SharpmakerⓇ – A reliable cutting tool from the brand Spyderco, it has a plastic base as well as sharpening stones angled in the direction to make the knife retain its cutting shape. The keyholes that come with the base are set to the angles of 15 degrees on each side and another in 20 degrees on each side
This technology is suited for all types of knives but for the serrated type, there are rounded rods that perfectly suit into the serrated edges. Because the recesses of each edge differ, you have to be skilled in loosening the grip to your knife in order for it to be to be sharpened. The two stones form a V-shape, which makes it easy to mimic a slicing motion for both directions.
This device is specifically recommended for serrated edges since the angling of the sharpening stones does not make one lose the design of the serrations and these become sharper with each use.
Step 1: Place your serrated knife strategically. Place the angular side of the knife (the part where it is designed downwards) where the serrations are and start doing a slicing motion against one stone.
Step 2: Do the same process with the other rod. The knife has two sides. While looking closely, the serration is just on one side of the knife. Sharpen the other side, the flat side, like a regular plain-edged knife.
Step 3: Repeat the process 5 times. Sharpening the knife on each of the 20-degree stones, expect that the sharpmaker will produce the strongest edge but not the sharpest. If maintenance of the manufactured design is what you want (a sharper blade), strike the blade three (3) on the serrated side. This action will create a burr on the other side and in order to remove it, just strike the knife once on the opposite edge.
Choosing a serrated knife needs careful consideration. Not all serrated knives are the same but note that there are types of serrated knives that are multi-purpose and can do several jobs. In knowing how to sharpen a serrated knife, you get a sense of what your knife can do for you based on its cutting performance. This might save you less hassle and more time getting your vegetables sliced or getting any handy job in the house done. In any case, we hope that this guide has given you the necessary information that you need to assess the decision. Good luck!