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Serrated knife v. regular knife for cutting bread


Fat Guy
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so I only use it on bread in a pinch, like when I'm making a sandwich and don't want to dirty up a second knife.

Does slicing bread really dirty up a knife that much? A quick wipe on the bread knife after it goes through a loaf and it is back in the block.

I also use the serrated bread knif on melons and pineapple and after those tasks it does get washed.

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Does slicing bread really dirty up a knife that much? A quick wipe on the bread knife after it goes through a loaf and it is back in the block.

Actually, it's not about the knife as much as the board. I don't like to use the bread knife on my regular cutting board (see earlier post), so sticking with a chef's knife sometimes saves me a few steps. This is if I'm making a sandwich that involves slicing cheese, tomatoes, fruit, shallots, etc.. For the amount of bread cutting that goes into the occasional sandwich, I'm not too worried about dulling the blade.

Notes from the underbelly

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Here's an other question:  Is "clean slices" necessarily a desirable quality?  I, for example, usually prefer the surface of my bread to be somewhere between slightly and highly irregular (nothing is sadder than an English muffin cut with a straight edge).

A clean slice would not be desirable for an English muffin, and I know some people who never slice bread with a knife at all -- they rip with the hands, and they only eat baguettes and breads of that kind that can be ripped with the hands, kind of like how some people will only rip lettuce by hand. I don't feel strongly on the subject and most of the time I don't care, though with a sandwich -- especially one that is to be wrapped and taken with -- a smoother cut seems to help keep the bread from getting soggy. There may be parallels with Paul's examples of cutting herbs with Japanese knives so they stay fresh for six years or whatever. For me, the key issue with clean cuts has little to do with the bread itself, though. I just like that, with clean cuts, there is less mess. A rough cut creates a lot of crumbs.

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 don't have a MAC bread knife. My best bread knife has big square teeth -- I'll take a photo soon. While I would I'm sure appreciate a MAC bread knife (or Shun utility knife, or whatever) if I had the task of cutting slices of bread every day for a restaurant full of people, I'm rarely cutting bread for more than a couple of people. So the justification for a MAC bread knife would have to be quite strong for me to feel the need to buy one. I've certainly used a MAC bread knife and, while it's a great serrated knife -- better than the ones I own -- I don't think it necessarily cut bread as cleanly as a chef's knife. So I'm not sure why I'd want to have one.

This is precisely why the Shun Utility knife is a no-brainer for me. It's one of my go-to knives for numerous applications. Slicing bread is just an unexpected bonus, and not the reason I bought it.

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This is precisely why the Shun Utility knife is a no-brainer for me.  It's one of my go-to knives for numerous applications.  Slicing bread is just an unexpected bonus, and not the reason I bought it.

Well, there's little practical use for a bread knife that's under 10" long. Unless you only eat mini boules or sandwich loaves ... then you can get away with 8". Anything shorter will require you to saw with so many strokes that you won't get clean cuts.

And ... what use is there for a serrated knife besides crusty bread? If your answer is 'tomatoes," that means your chef's knife is dull. I mean really dull--it only takes modest sharpness to slip through even the most delicate tomato. Some people use reverse-scallop knives like the Mac to cut crusty protein, like seared tuna. But careful technique will allow you to do this with a non-serrated knife, and to make better slices. And in any case you'd want a long blade for this ... 8" minimum; 10" or more prefered.

Notes from the underbelly

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My husband keeps my European knives plenty sharp and I take the Shuns to the KAI people a few miles away and they put a factory edge on them gratis. And, yes, I use the Shun to cut through large, crackly hard loaves with no effort. I slice the tomato and add condiments with the same knife.

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Maybe you're talking about a different knife than the one I thought? The Shun utility knife I've seen has about a 6" blade. Which for obvious reasons won't be of much help with a 9" boule.

As far as tomatoes (or any fruit or vegetable) if you have a serrated knife that cuts as cleanly as a non-serrated knife, it's because the non-serrated knife is dull. You might think it's sharp, but this test is proving otherwise!

Edited by paulraphael (log)

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I use this to cut my bread. If I do it at just the right speed, it toasts the slices, too.

gallery_10547_1214_7106.png

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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Maybe you're talking about a different knife than the one I thought? The Shun utility knife I've seen has about a 6" blade. Which for obvious reasons won't be of much help with a 9" boule.

A 9" boule is not a sphere. It's usually only 3"-4" high. So depending on one's cutting technique it's no problem to cut it in such a way as to make it work with a 6" blade. I prefer a longer blade, though.

As far as tomatoes (or any fruit or vegetable) if you have a serrated knife that cuts as cleanly as a non-serrated knife, it's because the non-serrated knife is dull. You might think it's sharp, but this test is proving otherwise!

Totally agree, but then again I'm the guy who doesn't use a serrated knife for bread.

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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Ahhh... the ol'-cheap-NSF-stamped-bread-knife-with-a-wicked-curved-belly-so-you don't-scrape-your-knuckles-knife!

Every line cook should have and use one, sure makes cutting club-houses a breeze, even crispy bacon gets sliced cleanly. In my last gig (o/o a catering biz for 10 years) we would do on average 3-400 sandwiches a day, on freshly baked and sliced bread. Kept buying my staff those cheap curved belly sandwich knives. Indespensible.

Don't sneer at low-priced knives. Sure you can riducle the Ginzos, but those are hacksaw blades set into plastic handles. A low-priced knife does the job very well, and when it goes missing, takes a nose-dive into the garbage, or a noobie uses it for purposes it wan't intended for--all hell DOESN'T break loose.

Let me elaborate a bit....

Regarding personal expensive knives getting lost in commercial kitchens, I have seen in my 25-odd years in the kitchen: Fist fights, locker break-ins, dumpster diving expeditions, co-erced dumpster diviig expeditions, threats of amputation/castration, and some broken frienships. All becasue of expensive knives brought into th workplace. 7 times out of 10 the missing knife was found in the garbage, but by then the words were already said and damage done. In one particular case the missing knife ( a Gold-hamster) was found--handle all melted--on the sheet pan in the oven where it's owner had put it; all those who were accused of theft demanded compensation in beer AND an apology. 3 times out of 10 it was outright theft--not an easy thing to deal with when the theft isn't company property and a right headache for the Chef/supervisor to deal with.

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I watched Gordon Ramsey slicing into a very crusty bread in this

. He is crushing the bread (with his right hand), sawing away at it with a serrated bread knife, and getting crumbs everywhere. You get a sense of a chef's human fallibility in the video, because he burned the first piece of toast and had to do it again. Sometimes it is as important for an aspiring cook to see and understand a mistake than to see something done with perfect technique.

But what I'd like to know is, what knife is using to cut the bread? I know that the knife obsessed can see just the point of a knife and tell you who made it and how it was made. A challenge to those knife savants: what knife Ramsey was using?

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

Fergus Henderson

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I'm stumped. He endorses Gustav knives, so I assumed it's one of those, but I would swear, having watched the video twice that it's an offset bread knife and gustav doesn't seem to make one of those.

But I mostly just used google, so anyone with with better eyes or actual knowledge might know better than me.

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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.

LOL! Fewer crumbs. Less tearing? Cleaner looking pieces? OMG! In that case use an electric slicer the will be even more perfect!

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I use one of those cheap cut through your boot plastic knives that is part of a set of 10 for $20.

This knife is probably the perfect bread knife. A shallow curve with very small serrations.

I have plenty of good sharp knives but none work anywhere near as well on all types bread.

A straight edge can work ok on crusty white bread but after a trip to Germany last year I have taken to baking multigrain bread and can't resist a piece while it is still warm.

That is where the serrated knife wins hands down.

I use the rest of the set around the farm for cutting poly pipe and rope.

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Paulrapheal really hits it on the head- bread will really dull a knife fast. I've had this conversation before with a professional sharpener. He thinks the sharp gyuto is better and can demonstrate it for you. At least once. The problem comes after the knife is on loaf #300.

I used to be the Sous for a hotel that used a lot of VDF par baked batard for banquets. Not a bad product, spritz with water and bake. Comes out like cotton candy encased in cement! I'd love to see you take a Carter or Hattori KD to that when it's fresh from the oven. Then I'd like to see the same Carter or Hattori slice three hundred loaves in a couple hours for a banquet. You'd have to hit the waterstones twice before you were done. :wink:

IMOHO a gyuto will make a fine bread knife for a home cook but can't hack it in the professional kitchen. Perhaps another chef or line dog can chime in and refute this but I've had much better luck with a good serrated. I have a Shun that works wonders and I suspect the slightly longer MAC would be even better (the scallops are similar but the extra length would be handy for longer cuts).

One of the best bargains in a bread knife is the Pure Komachi manufactured by Kershaw Kai. They have a scalloped edge similar to a MAC but they only cost $15-20. They'll shave hair easily OOB and are pretty easy to resharpen. You could equip your kitchen them for less than the cost of Dexter Russells and get much better performance. They seem to be made of much, much harder steel than the 'disposables' normally used as house knives.

Edited by Rob Babcock (log)
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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.

Steve, been using this knife since 1964, although got new one in 1986, will need new one soon.

10-in. Bread Knife ,by Chicago Cutlery, Walnut Tradition

IN STOCK! $50.00, on sale $14.95

from: " http://www.cutleryandmore.com/prodlist.asp...dID=7&LineID=21 "

My reason, I do not use regular American White Bread, buy artisinal only from here, see my post: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/423525

Sorry, posted this also in eGullet, but can't find it

Peter
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But all those fancy Japanese knives have easily chippable edges, especially when sharpened to 10 degrees by online knife fanatics. If you look at them funny, they chip. Using those knives requires complete redefinition of one's knife-use practices. Whereas, I cut bread all the time with my Wusthof 10" chef's knife and have never chipped or messed up anything. I sharpen the knife periodically, and not particularly skillfully, just as I would if I never touched crust with it. Bread is just one of the zillion things I cut with that knife without incident. When it gets dull, I sharpen it. No big deal.

"Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be." - Thomas Kempis

Peter
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I've been playing with different knives on bread ever since this thread first erupted. And I'm absolutely sticking with the Mac bread knife.

It might come down to how much bread you eat at home, and especially what kind of bread it is. I find my unserrated knives don't do a good job on most of the crusty/tender boules that I like to eat.

I've been playing with my gyuto and my suji. Both are sharp enough to drop through most vegetables under their own weight. If I have to push, I generally know I'm doing something wrong. And to get through the crust on these loaves (both top and bottom) I have to push and saw. The slices aren't great. And doing this does dull the edges. Not after 300 loaves, but after half a dozen.

Notes from the underbelly

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  • 8 years later...

I bake relatively crusty challah about once or twice a week for home. Leave it sitting out, and I usually end up having to slice a thin bit off the exposed end because it's just wayyy too crusty to eat. I make the biggest mess with a serrated edge. Purchased a cheap $12 nakiri, it cut like butter through the whole loaf (besides the initial uber dry exposed slice). Gonna take it to work (brunch spot, toasts, prep and salads) see how well it fares to a full day of cutting toasts and veggies. If I mess it up, whatever. I'll just buy a new one.

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On 2/23/2009 at 1:23 PM, paulraphael said:

I've been playing with different knives on bread ever since this thread first erupted. And I'm absolutely sticking with the Mac bread knife.

 

That's what I have, and I feel the same way.

 

I'm pretty sure there are different serrated knives that people use, and I'm wondering if some of them aren't up to the task?  Also, you can "steel" your serrated knife' I do it often, on the back side.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 1/27/2009 at 10:02 PM, Fat Guy said:

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 with Fat Guy, RIP.

I absolutely HATE serrated knives—with the exception of an electric knife in some cases.

I think that a chef's knife, butcher knife, cimeter, etc. work best for slicing bread when sharpened with a relatively coarse stone—say, 600 grit.

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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4 minutes ago, gfweb said:

@DiggingDogFarm I have a hard time with non-serrated on crusty bread like a baguette.  But yes otherwise.

 

Yeah, in my experience, a good electric knife works good for baguettes and the like.

Edited to add: Placing the loaf on it's side during slicing seems to yield the best result.

Edited by DiggingDogFarm (log)
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~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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