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Bread knife recommendations?


VMBrasseur
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A couple of years back I asked for a decent bread knife for Christmas.  What I got was an Oxo brand knife.  Some of their other utensils might be good, but this one is not.  It takes a serious amount of effort to get through the crust of the artisan loaves I like to buy.

So I'm now so fed up with it that I'm willing to shell out money for a new one.  Not too much money, mind you (maybe $30-40).  Does anyone have any recommendations?

I've thought about bringing a loaf of bread to Sur La Table and asking to try out a few knives.  How well received do you think that request will be?  I don't want to get stuck with another bum knife if I can help it and I'd feel a lot better about buying something if I can have the chance to test-drive it first.

--V

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At this point, Steven Shaw, if he wasn't on the road, would conduct a lengthy interrogation concerning your whole experience of knives and knife use.  Can I be impertinent enough to ask one question, about your slicing technique?  The reason I ask is that even fairly hopeless knives should cut any bread if the technique is right - namely, full back and forth sawing motion with minimal downward pressure.  If you press down too much, you will have trouble.

Please slap my wrist if your technique is just fine - but if you slice that way, I should have thought any robust, sharp, serrated-blade bread knife would do.

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I so absolutely understand your situation.  Because I spent something like $60 on my Wusthof bread knife, I thought I had to love it, or something was wrong with me.  After 15 years of frusteration, I bought a Sanelli -- one of those cheap, non-forged knives with the bright green and red handle, with a 10 inch blade, and I feel that I can slice bread in the air (and tomatoes, peppers, everything a serrated knife is good for).  It cost $19 at Zabar's.

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I have to admit never having thought of "technique" where bread slicing is concerned.  I do use a full sawing motion with little pressure, so I think I might be OK.  It's just that the serrations on the knife I use don't really "catch" very well.  In addition, there's no edge to speak of (serrated or otherwise) on the first 1/2" or so of blade (at the tip), which makes it a chore to get through the tougher bottom crust.  Perhaps if I held the knife at less of an angle it would help, but it wouldn't be very comfortable for me.

--V

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I don't know where you are located but I bought a very servicable bread knife at the shop a the Cullinary Institute in Hyde Park on a visit.  I get a catalog called Professional Cutlery Direct that has just about every brand and grade of knife you'd want.  They have a web site too.  if I can find the URL I'll add it here.

Here it is: http://www.cutlery.com/

Never mind.  I looked again at their bread knife selection and it is pretty poor. The one I bought at the CIA is made by Dexter model 46910  I think it cost $20

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What a great idea -- actually trying out knives!  However, unless you have far more money than you will ever need, do not actually BUY at Sur la table.  To me, they are like Tiffany: beautiful stuff, great to look at, but what I really need I can get at Michael C. Fina -- or in this case, Broadway Panhandler or online.

Having spent far too long on garde manger, I can tell you what has worked for me to make croutons: not Wusthof.  I too thought it would the THE knife, but it isn't.  What has worked best for me is a Forschner.  Held up over many years and many hundreds of baguettes.  I also very much like slicers by Sanelli.  (And for chef knives, my fave is Messermeister.)

Since I don't know where you are, after you play at SLT, try:Knife Merchant or Broadway Panhandler to actually buy.  Both have great products and very reasonable prices.

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With all the beautiful Wuesthof, F.Dick, Sabatier, and others I have, my Bread knife is Chicago Cutlery, 10" (BT10), eight years old and still exellent, cost at that time around $20.00. Even with hard crust, six day old German Rye (send from Germany).

Peter
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We LOVE our bread knife: Dexter, serrated, offset handle (the blade is parallel to but set an inch or so lower than the handle) gives excellent leverage and prevents compressing the loaf.  Neatly cuts all manner of crusts (French, Italian, etc.) with minimum of effort and damage to the surrounding crust or bread interior. We bought ours at the Dexter outlet in Southbridge, MA. As I remember, these knives were around $20. at the outlet, and may or may not be more expensive elsewhere.

The outlet is open Thursday evenings, roughly 5 to 9pm and Saturday mornings.  They do phone orders.  

Dexter-Russell, 44 River St., Southbridge, MA

eGullet member #80.

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i've had lots of different bread knives, and tried even more, all of them equally poor at cutting rye bread or italian style bread. the only exception was a dreizack stamped-out picnic knife, but it was too short, only 5.5". i finally asked the guys who sold me my three stainless sabs, and they recommended a stamped-out victorinox (forschner), saying: "you could buy knives a lot more expensive than this, but it's the professional's choice."

and they were right!:smile:

i love my forged knives, but this is the best for bread. and it was "only" about 28$.

by the way, it seems that victorinox is the pro's choice for just about any kind of knife. and i think most pros will find us knife fetichists a bit ridiculous - like amateur painters who will only use hand made italian paper, and colours and brushes from w&n!

christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

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I just checked, and our bread knife is apparently some unnamed brand X knife, serrated, with an 11 inch blade.  We've had it several years, and the technique that Wilfrid mentioned, I found is easier with a long blade.  It's kind of like having a mouse and mousepad and running out of mousepad.  With this knife, I don't run out of blade.  I can, and have, slice bread straight out of the oven.  I wouldn't recommend it, but with the right technique (see Wilfrid's) it is possible.

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Please correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it true that you can't sharpen bread knives (except maybe professionally)? If this is true, then doesn't it make sense to just get a cheaper bread knife that works; then, you just replace once it gets dull. I've only had to replace once in 12 years. My other knives are of very good quality, but my bread knives are usually $15 or less. I've never had a problem cutting neat slices, even from one of my occassionally overbaked sourdough loaves.

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You mean because they're serrated?  There ARE gizmos available -- I've never tried them.  (I was about to buy one from Chowhound when we had something of a falling-out, so I didn't.)  Maybe others have, though.

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Bread knives are serrated on one side only. If it doesn't cut, it's too dull. Grind or file down the knife on the flat side until the points catch on your fingertips, and try again. I've made even cheap dull bread knifes functional, with occasional steeling on the flat side.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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I was given a bread knife serrated on both sides.  Fantastically dangerous, and long since trashed.  Yes, the reason I raised the point about technique is that I have a bunch of bread knives from various sources, none of them fancy, and I have never come across a loaf I couldn't cut easily.  Maybe it's a bluntness problem?

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Go figure...my Wusthof has been giving me superb service since 1985.  Bread, tomatoes, Virginia ham, anything: I get fine clean slices without much musclework at all.

Full disclosure: I do get all my knives professionally honed once a year, and use a steel religiously to maintain edges in between.  There are, as noted, commercially available gizmos for serrated knives.  I just don't trust 'em.

Me, I vote for the joyride every time.

-- 2/19/2004

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Ooooh...Forschner...  An ex-roommate had one of those and I absolutely LOVED it.  Until ya'll mentioned it was from Victorinox I had no idea how to locate one.  And it's relatively cheap from KnifeMerchant.com.

I think I might have found my knife.   :biggrin:   Thanks, everyone!

While we're on the subject of knives, has anyone ever actually gone into a store with a loaf of bread, a bag of carrots or what have you and asked to try out different knives?  I know I suggested it above, but there weren't too many comments on it.

--V

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I find that its easier to cut bread with a thicker harder bottom crust by putting it in its side.

'You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.'

- Frank Zappa

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I tried putting the bread on its side when cutting with my current knife (recap: it's an Oxo Good Grip). Even with the slightest pressure though, I ended up squishing and mangling the bread. Not a good scene. I'm now of the mind that my current knife is now and always has been far from sharp enough to deal with the kinds of bread I like best.

--V

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  • 2 weeks later...

Forschner

10" Bread Knife - High Carbon Stainless

SKU: WFV139

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Price: $31.50

I love mine and it didn't necessitate a second mortgage!

Cooks Illustrated test led me to this one.

I bought mine from Professional Cutlery Direct www.pcd.com

--------------

Bob Bowen

aka Huevos del Toro

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A Cooks Illustrated bread knife test is at:

www.cooksillustrated.com/show_document.asp?iDocumentID=3647

I don't know if you have to subscribe. Some info is free, other is for subscribers only.

--------------

Bob Bowen

aka Huevos del Toro

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offset handle (the blade is parallel to but set an inch or so lower than the handle)

Don't overlook the advantage of an offset handle. It allows you to cut right through the bottom of anything anywhere on the cutting board without rapping your knuckles on the board. The oldest knife we still use regualrly is our stainless steel bread knife. I'm still waiting for a good excuse to replace it with an offset handled one. I see our knife is stamped Bazaar Francais France. Those in NYC who can remember when this place was tops (it's long gone from the scene) will have some idea how long I've had this knife. I don't think it was terribly expensive when we bought it.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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