Buyers Guide for Bread Knives
Purchasing any kitchen knife can be a little intimidating for some people. Many people aren’t sure where to begin looking. Some people are too afraid or confused to even bother trying to buy a quality kitchen knife on its own and resort to purchasing a set of knives and settling for whatever comes in that set.
As I discuss bread knives, there are a few key points I believe everyone should be aware of when purchasing one. There are, of course, individual considerations based on your own personal preferences, but there are also a few basic qualities you will want to look for as you search. This article intends to bring you information about each of those qualities, as well as a few other things you should consider before purchasing your next bread knife.
It is my hope that this article will help you define a list of characteristics you hope your next bread knife will have, so that you can quickly and easily move through your search and come to a purchasing decision.
This should be a rather obvious statement, but I will say it anyway: Your bread knife should be longer than a typical loaf of bread is wide. Think about it, if your knife is shorter than the width of your loaf of bread, how are you going to cut through it evenly? You can do your best to line up your cuts, but you will likely end up with a jagged slice of bread which took you far longer than necessary to cut. A good bread knife is able to slice through a loaf of bread in a few short swipes.
This quality is, quite simply, not up for discussion. You need a blade which will cut through the thick, tough crust of some breads with ease and which can also tear through the fluffy dough of the bread. For these purposes, a serrated blade is perfect.
Straight-edged blades (also known as flat blades) will not be able to slice through the tough, shiny exterior of certain hard-crusted breads. Also, in attempting to cut through soft dough, a straight edge blade will simply pinch it all together, turning it into a hard lump instead of a fluffy delight. A serrated blade, on the other hand, will saw through crusts and will tear apart soft dough fibers so that slices of bread separate without a problem.
Type of Serration
This is where we start to get into those optional factors which you are free to choose on your own. Actually, you are free to choose any of these qualities on your own. There is no rulebook which says you must choose a serrated blade which is longer than your bread is wide. To me, however, those things just make sense and are simply good advice.
When it comes to the type of serration you choose for your bread knife, I also have my suggestions. Different types of serrations often seen on bread knives are scalloped, large teeth serrations, and small teeth serrations. What you choose is, clearly, up to you, but I would like to give you a few things to consider.
Scalloped serrations are almost like backward serrations – they look like clouds instead of teeth. This type of serration, while plenty gentle for cutting through a cake or very soft breads, will be of little use in cutting through crusts. If you absolutely hate crusty breads or are looking for a bread knife with the intention of actually using it to cut cake, this may be a great choice. If you do anticipate cutting into a crusty loaf of bread, however, I must advise against it.
That brings us to large and small teeth serrations. Large teeth serrations will bust through tough crusts with ease, but may make a bigger mess and can sort of hack apart the softer parts of your bread or cake. Small serrations, on the other hand, combine some of the gentleness of scalloped serrations with some of the aggression found in large teeth serrations. They will easily cut through tough crusts and, although they will not make the cleanest cut through cake, they will be able to cut through it without leaving behind a mess.
When discussing most other knives, I typically suggest purchasing one with a solid, immovable blade. That is because, for most tasks, you will be putting your blade up against tough meats, vegetables, and fruits, which will put strain on it. In those cases, I suggest a strong blade to ensure that you can safely complete your kitchen tasks without worrying that the blade will snap.
In the case of bread knives, however, I suggest almost the exact opposite. When bread knives are considered, I prefer a slightly flexible blade. A flexible blade is more adaptable to different types of breads, cakes, and other soft foods upon which you may be using this knife. That being said, it is also important not to purchase one with an extremely flexible blade, because extreme blade flexibility often leads to uneven cutting.
Select Your Steel
I discuss the importance of steel in every buying guide and almost every review on this website. That is because steel is an extremely important consideration. The blade is what you cut with, it is the most important part to wash, and it is the part which can harm you if used incorrectly.
In selecting the type of steel you would like your bread knife’s blade to be made from, I suggest you consider the pros and cons of the three types of steel most commonly used in the creation of knives: high carbon steel, stainless steel, and high carbon stainless steel.
High carbon steel is very strong. Once sharpened, it holds its angle for the longest of all three of these types of steel. Unfortunately, for many people, high carbon steel discolors and rusts rather easily, meaning that it is not suitable for a dishwasher. Stainless steel, on the other hand, is completely dishwasher friendly. However, it does not stay sharp nearly as long as high carbon steel and is much more difficult to sharpen by hand.
Finally, high carbon stainless steel is a hybrid of both of the previously discussed types of steel. It is stronger and stays sharper longer than stainless steel, but is not quite as strong and does not stay sharp for quite as long as high carbon steel. Similarly, it is more rust-resistant than high carbon steel but not quite as rust resistant as stainless steel.
Your choice of which type of steel your knife will be constructed from should be decided based on how often you are willing to sharpen it, whether or not you have time to hand wash and dry it, and how sharp you will require it to be for most of your tasks.
My Final Suggestion
Of course, you will want to take your time in considering each of the factors I laid out above. It is important that you decide which qualities you would like you bread knife to embody. Still, I will give you a quick synopsis of my own preferences, in case they are helpful to you.
When purchasing a bread knife, I suggest purchasing one which is longer than a typical loaf of bread is wide, has small teeth serrations along a somewhat flexible blade, and is made from high carbon stainless steel.