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Serrated knife v. regular knife for cutting bread


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Am I the only person who thinks a decently sharpened regular chef's knife does a better job of cutting bread than a serrated knife? Fewer crumbs, less tearing, cleaner-looking slices. I'm not a gifted sharpener of knives. I don't have Takeda knives sharpened to 7-degree angles. I just have regular, decently sharp Euro knives (Wusthof, Sabatier et al.). But I find they consistently do a better job slicing bread than my serrated knives.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I've compared a Global GS-3 (chef's) and a Global GS-5 (bread) side by side. For me it depends on the crust. Once I'm past the crust, the chef's knife is better, it makes cleaner slices. But the chef's knife is not so good at getting through a crust, so I can end up pushing down too hard trying to get the knife to bite and crush the bread. My goto knife for bread these days turns out to Togiharu santoku, it can punch through the crust and slice the bread cleanly with no crumbs or tearing.

Edited by Batard (log)

"There's nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerves."

Fergus Henderson

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I do come across the occasional loaf of bread with a stubborn crust, however I've found that if I just kind of drag the full length of the blade across it then eventually it penetrates. (There are also some modifications to knife and bread position that make cutting easier, like turning a loaf of bread on its side.) One problem with the GS-3, I think, is that it's a pretty small knife. With an 8-10" knife I rarely have that problem.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I have come to prefer an inexpensive (about $20) long slicer, meant for meat but great for large, crusty artisinal loaves. I think it was andisenjie who suggested that a few years ago here in the forums. (Thanks, Andie!) I have not needed to sharpen it, but consider it to be my only disposible knife. I have not used by German made 8 inch bread knife since.

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Am I the only person who thinks a decently sharpened regular chef's knife does a better job of cutting bread than a serrated knife? Fewer crumbs, less tearing, cleaner-looking slices. I'm not a gifted sharpener of knives. I don't have Takeda knives sharpened to 7-degree angles. I just have regular, decently sharp Euro knives (Wusthof, Sabatier et al.). But I find they consistently do a better job slicing bread than my serrated knives.

I agree. Gave up on bread knives a long time ago. My 8" chef does it just fine. One less thing to store.

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Am I the only person who thinks a decently sharpened regular chef's knife does a better job of cutting bread than a serrated knife? Fewer crumbs, less tearing, cleaner-looking slices. I'm not a gifted sharpener of knives. I don't have Takeda knives sharpened to 7-degree angles. I just have regular, decently sharp Euro knives (Wusthof, Sabatier et al.). But I find they consistently do a better job slicing bread than my serrated knives.

I have a Messiermiester serrated knife, and it works just great. My Chef's knife is sharp, but I have tendency to have to push down depending on the crust. So my serrated works like a champ, not to mention it's reallllyyyy sharp.

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I think it depends on the crustiness of the bread. Store-bought bread, even the "artisanal" ones, tends to have a fairly soft crust. This cuts well with a regular blade. Home made hearth breads and "baked today" bakery hearth breads tend to have a more crackly crust that cuts better with a serrated blade (at least until the crust is breached).

--

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I stood a section of Cuban bread on it's end this evening and easily push cut down the bread splitting it in two with a very sharp Japanese carbon steel knife. I don't use serrated knives for anything anymore. Even very crusty bread can be quickly sliced with a very sharp straight edge in one quick movement. No sawing needed. I slice bagel into 3 or 4 slices instead of two for the morning shmear and lox

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I think it depends on the crustiness of the bread.  Store-bought bread, even the "artisanal" ones, tends to have a fairly soft crust.  This cuts well with a regular blade.  Home made hearth breads and "baked today" bakery hearth breads tend to have a more crackly crust that cuts better with a serrated blade (at least until the crust is breached).

I agree. When I wrote "artisinal" I was referring to bakery hearth breads from the two or three such bakers here and my occassional home baked bread -- not the pseudo-artisinal bread found in many grocery stores. The 12 inch cheapie Dexter Russel Sani-Safe slices through large, crusty round loaves with ease.

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I have two serrated knives, a 12" Dexter and a 7" Forschner. Both are used for the house bread. The bread is house made, and, after sitting in a paper bag for a couple days needs the serrations...The 12" also easily slices a large chunk of bacon into nice thin slices so I dont need to get the slicing machine out. (and better than a slicing knife.)The Forschner Is also much used for various other light duty tasks .

Bud

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I don't think it's necessarily as simple as soft v. hard crust. If a bread has hard, crackly crust and a dense crumb I have no trouble cutting it with a regular knife. I just need to apply a little pressure before the blade catches and penetrates the crust. And in the end you get a cleaner cut using that system. The problem arises when you come across breads that have squishy interiors. Those breads can't really tolerate pressure.

If I get a loaf of bread like that I usually just rotate it for cutting. There's typically a narrower side (or a corner if it's a square loaf) that's more tolerant of pressure. Or I just penetrate with the tip of the knife, then bring it down to finish the cut. This isn't a terribly efficient method if you're cutting a million slices but I'm rarely cutting more than two, maybe four. And with the breads I buy it rarely comes up anyway.

I also find that I cut straighter and better when I'm not hacking and sawing with a serrated knife.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Like you said, the toughest breads have a hard crust and a delicate crumb. These are the ones that an unserrated knife, even a very sharp one, will tend to crush. You can often compensate with technique, as you discovered ... finding a weakness as a point of entry, or a firmer corner, or poking through with the tip.

Incidentally, these are all the same techniques you'd use on delicate protein that has a crisp crust, like seared tuna.

A good serrated knife makes short work of any bread, no technique and no effort required. It's faster, and can even be brought to the table for guests to cut their own slices. It won't rip up the crumb, crush it, or make piles of sawdust. The catch is, there aren't many good serrated knives.

This Mac is the only good one I've ever used, though there are probably a few others.

Notice the reverse scalloped teeth ... they don't attack the crust as aggressively as pointy ones, but the benefit is that they actually cut the bread rather than grinding it up like a saw blade.

A reason to not depend on a chef's knife for crusty bread is that crust seems mysteriously potent at dulling blades. No idea why.

But a caveat with serrated knives is that they rip up cutting boards. I learned not to use a bread knife on my good endgrain block ... I use a small board that's just for bread. It's full of deep grooves from the serrated edge.

Notes from the underbelly

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I've alternated between bread and chef's knives depending on the crust. Now, I only use the Shun U2 Ultimate utility knife. It's the best knife I have ever used for bread. It's also the best tomato knife, ever.

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I have no choice but to post this and hang my head in shame. In my original slicing experiment, I used a Global G-2 (chef) and a Global G-9 (bread). Yes, I do own a Global GS-3 and a GS-5, but I would never use them to slice bread. Sorry for my mistake. I don't know what I was thinking.

Edited by Batard (log)

"There's nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerves."

Fergus Henderson

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Am I the only person who thinks a decently sharpened regular chef's knife does a better job of cutting bread than a serrated knife?

. . . .

You are certainly not alone. I recently watched a video of Jacques Pepin and he too advocates a chef's knife for bread.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

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That's so funny because my crummiest serrated knife, with blue-plastic handle and teeth like a chainsaw, is from the Jacques Pepin collection by Lunt.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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That's so funny because my crummiest serrated knife, with blue-plastic handle and teeth like a chainsaw, is from the Jacques Pepin collection by Lunt.

Hilarious - but that might have been the Decider for Jacques! :biggrin:

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Like you said, the toughest breads have a hard crust and a delicate crumb. These are the ones that an unserrated knife, even a very sharp one, will tend to crush. You can often compensate with technique, as you discovered ... finding a weakness as a point of entry, or a firmer corner, or poking through with the tip.

Incidentally, these are all the same techniques you'd use on delicate protein that has a crisp crust, like seared tuna.

A good serrated knife makes short work of any bread, no technique and no effort required. It's faster, and can even be brought to the table for guests to cut their own slices. It won't rip up the crumb, crush it, or make piles of sawdust. The catch is, there aren't many good serrated knives.

This Mac is the only good one I've ever used, though there are probably a few others.

Notice the reverse scalloped teeth ... they don't attack the crust as aggressively as pointy ones, but the benefit is that they actually cut the bread rather than grinding it up like a saw blade.

A reason to not depend on a chef's knife for crusty bread is that crust seems mysteriously potent at dulling blades. No idea why.

But a caveat with serrated knives is that they rip up cutting boards. I learned not to use a bread knife on my good endgrain block ... I use a small board that's just for bread. It's full of deep grooves from the serrated edge.

Agree with Paul and own the exact same Mac serrated knife.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I think that if I thought there was a need for a dedicated bread knife that costs in the $50-$100 range, I'd get a MAC bread knife or a Shun utility knife. But I'm not convinced of the need. And as everybody knows, there is absolutely nothing in my kitchen that I don't really need.

Here's a closeup of the Hypocrite 6000 bread knife, purchased on clearance at Century 21 for $1.99:

gallery_1_295_47787.jpg

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Note the lack of a surname on that knife. Maybe it was really a Jacques Chirac knife. That would explain the quality. . .

I refuse to belive my beloved Jacques Pepin would put his name on anything worthless!

My favourite bread knife was a scalloped one, the name of which I can't remember, but it's still somewhere in my parents' house. Something like Zanger-icel. But the one we used in baking class was awfully nice, too. Wenger?

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I think that if I thought there was a need for a dedicated bread knife that costs in the $50-$100 range, I'd get a MAC bread knife or a Shun utility knife. But I'm not convinced of the need. And as everybody knows, there is absolutely nothing in my kitchen that I don't really need.

Here's a closeup of the Hypocrite 6000 bread knife, purchased on clearance at Century 21 for $1.99:

gallery_1_295_47787.jpg

I think that if you have an extra food processor, you could probably strip out the motor, strap this knife to it, and cut firewod.

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I just used my Mac knife on some homemade sourdough this morning. Cut it beautifully, including the crumb. There is no way I would take any of the other Japanese knives I own to that bread, nor could I see my Wusthoffs or Sabatiers or whatever doing as good a job without compromising their edges.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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