Have you ever been to the bakery, purchased a loaf of bread, and asked for it to be sliced? Did you stand there, enthralled, watching that slicer? There is something so satisfying to watching a loaf of bread be perfectly sliced.
Now, those bread slicing machines they have at the bakery, in all their perfect slicing glory, are not quite storage-friendly, lightweight, or, for that matter, practical for home use. Here is where the trusty bread knife comes in handy.
For you to avoid getting the wrong, dull, and quite possibly useless bread knife out there, I’m here to provide you with your best options, along with why you need a bread knife.
Bread Knife Recommendations
First and foremost the key to a good bread knife is whether or not it’s serrated. Right off the bat, if it isn’t serrated, it isn’t going to work – or rather, it isn’t a real bread knife. The serrated edge is what allows you to cut through a loaf of bread smoothly without crushing it or causing it to crumble.
The Shun Classic 9” Bread Knife
My first recommendation for the bread knife you should have at your disposal in your kitchen is the Shun Classic 9” Bread Knife with VG-MAX Steel Serrated Edge and Ebony PakkaWood Handle, 9″, Silver. This knife is absolutely incredible at cutting through bread!
We’ve all heard that Japanese knives are of exceptional quality. The Shun Classic 9” Bread Knife is no exception to this, razor-sharp and lighter than your average knife, gives you a slice of bread without smushing or hacking at your bread, leaving minimal crumbs.
This bread knife is made with a unique steel formula, VG-MAX steel, exclusive to Shun which includes carbon to prolong durability, chromium to prevent corrosion as well as general wear and tear, cobalt to ensure strength, and tungsten to maximize blade sharpness. The Shun Classic 9” Bread Knife is fantastic for slicing:
- Banana Bread
Another notable feature includes the ‘D’ shaped handle made of an ebony PakkaWood (an engineered plastic and wood compound). The design of the ‘D’ shaped handle is meant to comfortably fit in your hand, the spine of which is where your knuckles end up bending. While quite comfy for someone who is right-handed, this means, unfortunately, that the knife is not ambidextrous, and would not be comfortable for anyone who is left-handed. In addition, the knife is water-resistant.
Despite its lack of ambidexterity, the kife is harder, lighter, and, sharper than its European counterparts, making it an exceptional knife for those looking for superior quality kitchen utensils and a larger budget to work with.
That being said, not everyone has an open-ended budget. For those of you who want a great knife, but need something a little less expensive we have another recommendation for you.
The Tojiro Bread Slicer 235mm F-737
The Tojiro Bread Slicer 235mm F-737 is a great bread knife, it really is. Lightweight, at just under 4oz (110gr), and super sharp, it’s a breeze to use. It’s important to keep in mind with this knife to be extra careful because it’s sharper than you expect making it easy to cut yourself if not paying attention.
The overall length of the Tojiro Bread Slicer is 14.75” (37.5cm) and the blade, made of high-carbon stainless steel, is 9.25” (23.5cm). This provides an excellent range of use on a variety of bread sizes – from skinny baguettes to big and round sourdough loaves. The handle is made of natural wood, giving it a great feel in your hand when slicing through bread. This bread knife allows for a smooth and clean cut without maiming the loaf of bread you’re attempting to slice.
While the knife prescribes to be anti-rust, this doesn’t mean that it won’t rust, It isn’t dishwasher safe, which means handwashing with a mild detergent and immediately drying for prolonging the life of the knife. It will inevitably rust if the knife is not properly taken care of and the instructions are not followed properly.
The Tojiro Bread Slicer can be used beyond just slicing bread – it’s also great for slicing tomatoes as well as leveling cakes. This knife is, without a doubt, an excellent staple tool in your kitchens and worth the investment.
How to Choose & Handle a Bread Knife
When purchasing a bread knife, it’s important to take the length of the blade into consideration. Ideally, the bread knife should be between 7-10” (17 – 28cm) in length for the best range of motion. Both the Shun Classic 9” Bread Knife and the Tojiro Bread Slicer are perfectly within this range, actually within about an inch of the maximum ideal length.
In terms of how to use a bread knife to get maximum results, you’ll want to saw at the loaf of bread you’re attempting to slice, rather than pressing down (and squishing it up). The back and forth sawing motion means that the longer blade will be significantly more efficient, giving you a better slice with less effort. Gently sawing back and forth using the entire length of the blade in the process, reduces the number of crumbs, as well as speeds up the process.
It’s important to respect the blade. It will be sharp, and mishandling it can lead to unwanted cuts or worse accidents. In addition, when using a bread knife try to create an ideal environment for its use, such as:
- Always wait for your loaf of bread to cool down to room temperature. As tempting as it is to cut off a piece as soon as it’s out of the oven, this only leads to a crushed loaf and squishy crumb.
- Use a wooden cutting board, using a plastic or bamboo cutting board will only dull the blade, reducing its lifespan and no longer cutting through loaves of bread as smoothly.
- Use your dominant hand to slice the bread, and your non-dominant hand to stabilize it while you cutting through.
- To ensure you don’t cut yourself in the process, make sure to keep your fingers curled a bit away from the blade of the knife.
Keeping the above in mind will help you maintain your bread knife, extending its life and use while getting optima bread slicing results every single time.
Storing Your Bread Knife
If you want to preserve your bread knife for as long as possible, you’re going to want to store them properly. If you don’t store your knives properly, for example just throwing them into a drawer on top of a variety of other utensils, you run into problems like damaging the blade of your knife.
Not only do you want to consider the preservation of the knife, but safety is just as important. Reaching into a drawer, crossing your fingers, and hoping you don’t get cut or sliced on the way in, isn’t the way to go. There are two things to consider when storing your bread knife:
- The sharp edge of the knife shouldn’t be placed in a manner where it will rub up, or scrape against, wherever it’s being stored.
- Avoid resting the knife on the tip of the blade, which would lead to dulling or chipping of the tip.
So, with that in mind, there are three possible ways of storing bread knives properly:
|Storage Option||Advantages||Draw Backs|
|Countertop Knife Block||A knife block on your countertop is a great option – it takes up very little space, is visible, and it’s conveniently located. Also, can be quite aesthetically pleasing.||Because of its visibility, it’s not as safe with young kids and wandering pets. Also, not all knife blocks are created equally, and some are brand-specific.|
|Drawers||By far the safest option, keeping your knives tucked away in a drawer means little people have less access. For optimal storage, it’s best to invest in drawer inserts specifically for knife storage to prevent any damage.||Not always convenient, and obviously less visible than a countertop option depending on your kitchen configuration. Also, the knife can’t just be thrown in, it needs a special insert.|
|Wall-Mounted Magnetic Strip||Space-saving, visible, accessible, and convenient. Not only that but can act as an eye-catching “showpiece” in the kitchen.||No real drawbacks, because while it is visible, it can be placed high enough and out of reach from little hands.|
Basic Bread Knife Maintenance
While it’s recommended that you replace your bread knife about every five years or so, simply to ensure maximum sharpness, you can prolong the life of your bread knife by sticking to the rules (yes, bread knife rules).
Rule #1 – Use It Properly
As mentioned above, the sawing motion when slicing is key here. Hacking at whatever you’re trying to slice with a bread knife will get you nowhere. While you can use a bread knife on pastries, cakes, and muffins, NEVER use it on frozen dough or food of any kind.
Some bread knives advertise that you can use them on some vegetables, such as tomatoes, while this is true the acidity of the tomato will likely dull the blade if not cleaned quickly.
The surface you’re slicing your bread on is another important aspect to keep in mind – the best place to cut on top of is a wooden cutting board. Your countertop is not a good place, nor are plastic, acrylic, ceramic, glass, granite, or marble surfaces ok to use and should be avoided as much as possible to preserve the longevity of the bread knife.
When scraping bread off of your cutting board, always use the spine of the knife rather than the blade.
Rule #2 Hand Wash & Wipe Dry
Another way to prevent your bread knife from becoming dull and damaged is to hand wash it with mild dish soap and immediately dry it with a kitchen towel. While it may be tempting to place it in the dishwasher, this will only lead to damage such as warping. Never let it soak, and avoid air drying to prevent any rust from forming on the blad.
Rule #3 Oil it Up
Before putting your knife away, use a soft cloth to apply a dab of non-toxic food-grade mineral oil to the blade. Oiling the blade of your bread knife will prevent any corrosion or oxidation from developing on the blade.
Rule #4 Proper Storage
While proper storage has already been discussed extensively, one additional quick note to include is that you should make sure the area you’re storing your bread knife is dry.
Why do You Need a Bread Knife?
So, after all this information, you might still be asking yourself, why do I need a bread knife? Well, if you’ve ever compared using a regular knife to using a bread knife when slicing bread, you’ll notice right away a few things:
- Slicing with a bread knife is much smoother
- There are way fewer bread crumbs (less mess = less clean-up)
- Your loaf of bread maintains its shape, rather than getting squashed.
That’s basically it. You want a bread knife for its great slicing ability, minimal mess, and preservation of that oh-so-yummy inner crumb.
Types of Bread Knives
The basic feature that separates a bread knife from all other knives is the fact that it has a serrated blade. It’s the serrations that allow you to saw through a loaf of bread to get a slice. This allows it to get through that crispy crust and soft inner crumb of a loaf of bread.
That being said, there are two main types of serrations that bread knives have:
The blade on this type of knife has evenly spaced sharp points spread throughout. A bread knife with a pointed serration is best for sourdough bread, or other crusty artisan-type loaves of bread because the points are able to dig into the bread, reducing friction when sawing therefore making it much more efficient at cutting through a crusty loaf without tearing it up.
The serrations on this type of knife are rounded, in the absence of any points. Bread knives with a scalloped blade tend to be best for soft types of bread, like sandwich bread or challah, as well as cakes and even tomatoes (just make haste and clean right away if you’re using them on a tomato to avoid any potential damage)
The number of serrations on the blade of a bread knife is also key to a quality slice – the fewer serrations the bread knife has, the better the knife. Why is this? Well, when there are fewer serrations and more gaps, there is more force in the sawing motion of the slice while reducing friction, therefore making it more efficient than having a bread knife with an abundance of serrations.
Another key point regarding the serration of a bread knife is to look for deep and pointy serrations. This allows the knife to grip the bread more efficiently, which will reduce your impact on the loaf of bread when stabilizing it during the slicing motion.
The Bread Knife Upshot
Bread knives make slicing through a loaf of bread a dream, you get the perfect slice for toast, a sandwich, or whatever. If you don’t already have a bread knife, or the one you currently have just isn’t cutting it consider the Shun Classic 9” Bread Knife with VG-MAX Steel Serrated Edge and Ebony PakkaWood Handle, 9″, Silver, if you want to treat yourself and your budget, can handle it. If you want a great bread knife, but are looking for something a little more budget-friendly then The Tojiro Bread Slicer 235mm F-737 is an excellent option. Both of these knives offer superior slicing ability, giving you the perfect slice every time.