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Now that you have a bread machine
to make delicious homemade bread, do you have something to slice it with? Not your chef’s knife we hope! A beautiful loaf of delicious, freshly-baked bread deserves to be cut using a good bread knife. What exactly is a bread knife? And why do you need this particular knife to cut bread? Answers below!
What is a bread knife used for?
Along with a chef’s knife and paring knife, the other knife that will complete your kitchen arsenal is a bread knife. Some people may even include a boning knife in their toolbox, but those 3 knives are essential and basically the only knives you’ll need in the kitchen.
A bread knife is a knife used to cut bread without crushing it. The meaning of a “bread knife” is a knife with a jagged edge, allowing you to cut bread with little to no force. This is because jagged knives function by moving back and forth like a saw instead of pushing down as you would with straight-edged knives.
Knives with a straight edge will always require some downward motion to cut, so breads are more prone to flattening when using those knives. The jagged edge of a bread knife allows you to grip the crust at a precise spot and gently saw through the delicate core without squishing it. This will give you beautiful even slices. And a good jagged edge (yes, bad bread knives do exist!) will work even better by producing less crumbs.
What is a serrated knife used for?
Does a bread knife only cut bread? Absolutely not. Even though people call them bread knives, they have more uses than simply cutting bread. A bread knife is actually a type of serrated knife. Most people call serrated knives “bread knives” because they use them mostly to cut bread. A serrated knife is used to cut things that are slippery where it can get a good grip on the object, things with a hard surface that is difficult to penetrate, or things with a soft interior that is easy to crumble. Therefore, a serrated knife is ideal for cutting tomatoes, watermelon, squash, honeydew, oranges, lemons, limes, pineapples, chocolate, filo dough, cake, and the list goes on. Serrated knives will not demolish soft foods, will not cause delicate pastries to crumble, and will power through hard surfaces effortlessly.
How to use a bread knife?
Chef’s knives, paring knives, and bread knives all have their particular functions. So how should you use your bread knife? The answer is for slicing things only. Do not chop with it. This will damage the blade. An easy way to tell if you’re using your bread knife correctly is this: If you don’t find yourself using it with a sawing motion, put the knife down and use another one. Otherwise, you can use it to slice just about any food – especially the ones listed above. Some people may even find that their bread knife is great for slicing protein.
How do you sharpen a bread knife?
The general opinion seems to be that if your bread knife is dull, just replace it with another one because these things are difficult or impossible to sharpen. Nonsense! While they take more effort to sharpen than straight-edged blades, the right sharpener will make the job easier and give you better results. Anybody can sharpen a bread knife if they put in the time. The great thing about bread knives is that they require little sharpening because they stay sharper longer than straight-edged blades. We’re talking years. So we really encourage everyone to invest a little time to sharpen their bread knives (we even think the sharpening process is quite therapeutic) rather than simply chucking it away.
The key to sharpening a bread knife well is using a diamond sharpening rod. Don’t use your whetstone or rotary sharpener. These will just damage the knives. Many people will use these and it will sharpen the knife temporarily, but you eventually grind away the grooves. The best way to sharpen a bread knife is using a diamond rod – diamond is the hardest naturally occurring substance in the world – and dragging it through each and every groove on your bread knife. For safety reasons, when you drag the sharpener make sure you drag it away from the blade of the knife, not towards it. If you want to drag the sharpener back and forth, be careful not to move too close to the blade. We also recommend that for every 5 strokes you do on the grooves, do one stroke on the backside of your bread knife. When you’re done going through every groove, you can polish both sides of the blade using a leather strop (or the backside of an old leather belt) to remove the burr that forms when sharpening.
The real challenge of sharpening a bread knife is determining which diamond sharpener to get. Different knives have different sizes and amount of grooves. Most bread knives can be sharpened using a regular-sized sharpening rod like this one:
This particular sharpener is versatile because it has three different grit sizes: fine (1200), medium (750), and coarse (325).
If your bread knife has really small grooves, you can get something like this sharpener which has a tapered end designed to work for serrated blades:
Bread Knife Length
The bread knife is likely the longest kitchen knife you will own. For comparison purposes, the blade of a chef’s knife is typically between 6 to 12 inches long, with 8 inches being the most popular. Bread knives are typically between 8 to 12 inches long, with 10 inches being the most popular. Of course, there are bread knives with peculiar sizes like 9.25 inches, but we’re going to discuss three of the most common bread knife blade lengths below so you can do comparison between “small”, “medium”, and “large” bread knives.
8-inch bread knife
While an 8-inch bread knife is not the smallest blade you will find, we don’t recommend getting something below 8 inches to cut bread. Considering the size of the average loaf, you will be sawing back and forth more than you’d really want with a smaller-than-8-inch knife. From a user’s perspective it will be tiresome. And from a practical perspective it would be harder to get a clean cut and you would create unwanted crumbs. You may consider an 8-inch bread knife over something longer if you are a smaller person as it is easier to control.
10-inch bread knife
Most people find a 10-inch bread knife to be the perfect size for them because they tend to cut artisan bread – fancy name for small batches of handmade bread rather than mass-produced bread – and baguettes using just the right amount of back-and-forth motion. They provide just the right amount of cutting power, comfort, and control. Besides that, 10-inch bread knives offer more versatility. Take the average birthday cake size for instance. A 10-inch knife would be better suited to slice a cake cleanly and well because it would use less strokes than an 8-inch knife.
12-inch bread knife
If you have a bread machine that makes those 2 pounds and larger loaves, a 12-inch bread knife may suit you best. Combined with their handles, these 12-inch knives can be around 18 inches long. One great reason for buying a bread knife with a longer blade is if you are planning to use the knife with a bread slicing guide. The tip of a 12-inch knife will extend long enough through to the far side of the guide, making it easy to cut with the guide.
We hope we answered your questions like how to slice your homemade bread machine bread, what is a bread knife, what is the function of a bread knife, what is a serrated knife used for, and how to sharpen a bread knife. In our other post you can find what is the best bread knife you can buy now, so if you want to find a good bread knife be sure to check out that post. In the meantime, if there is something we didn’t answer, someone else might have the same question so please write to us using the comment box below. Happy slicing!