What is a Bread Knife Used For?
A bread knife is, obviously, intended to be used for cutting bread - the name is sort of a dead giveaway, right? A bread knife is designed for the specific purpose of cutting bread, and its design ensures that you can do that efficiently, effectively, and safely.
But one of the cool things about a bread knife is that it's actually quite versatile, which is important because there isn't a single type of bread. In fact, bread comes in many different forms - from soft and fluffy to crusty artisanal loaves. Some are easy to cut through, while others are a lot tougher.
And on top of being ideal for use on all different types of bread, bread knives can also be used for pastries and cakes. They're perfect for these types of things because not only are they pretty heavy duty (making them perfect for cutting something thick like a big cake), but they're also able to make clean cuts. That way, you can ensure that pretty pastries will maintain their integrity after having been cut.
One of the main features of a bread knife is its serrated blade. The blades normally have small, alternating teeth that grip the crust of the bread while you saw through it. The serration is super important, because it helps maintain the structural integrity of the bread by immediately breaking through the crust, avoiding tearing or crushing the bread.
One of the other advantages of being able to use proper bread knives for cutting bread is that they're able to minimize the crumbs that are made while cutting, because they're so effective at cutting straight through the crust. Other types of knives, on the other hand, are more likely to tear and break messily, which will lead to loads of crumbs and mess.
In this article, we're going to tell you all the attributes that make a bread knife including what it looks like and all its most essential properties. Then, we'll give you a step-by-step guide on how to properly sharpen a bread knife and how to maintain and look after it.
What is a Bread Knife?
A bread knife is, as the name suggests, a knife whose purpose it is to slice bread. And, while you could, technically, cut bread with any kind of knife, there are several reasons that bread knives are preferable to alternative options. They're specifically designed to slice bread cleanly and efficiently, and not only will they help you produce the perfect slices, but they'll also reduce the mess and decrease the chances of injury.
Here are some of the main reasons why you should always use a bread knife to cut bread rather than just any old blade you have in the kitchen.
It Has a Serrated Blade
The serration of the blade of the bread knife is one of its most important features. The serrations act as little teeth, allowing them to grip into the crust of the bread and cut straight through it immediately without crushing the soft core of the bread.
This is important, because often, if you use a knife that isn't serrated or if the serration isn't effective enough, the knife won't grip onto the bread and penetrate the crust. Consequently, you'll just end up squashing the loaf as you're trying to make that incision, so to speak - and let's be honest, nobody wants that!
The other thing that may happen is that you may accidentally tear the bread as you're struggling to cut through the crust.
Allows for Precise and Clean Slicing
As we said, the serration is what allows you to cut straight through the crust and the soft interior of the loaf without squashing or tearing it. The combination of using a serrated knife and a classic sawing technique will allow you to slice bread cleanly and expertly - like a pro!
Bread knives aren't just effective, they're efficient too. If you use a good bread knife with pronounced and sharp serration, along with the appropriate cutting technique, you won't have to put as much elbow grease into the bread cutting process.
The serration of the blade means that you don't need to exert as much downward pressure, which makes it far easier to cut through the crust of a load without having to apply excessive force.
The problem with using too much force is twofold - firstly, you're likely to end up squashing or tearing the bread. And secondly, you put yourself at risk of cutting or injuring yourself, and that's just not worth it.
It Has a Long Blade
The length of the blade of a Bread knives allows you to easily slice larger, thicker loaves. But even if you're cutting something smaller, it makes it possible to use a sawing motion which is the most effective way to slice bread.
It Has a Thin Blade Width
The blade of a bread knife is normally quite thin in width, and the reason for this is that it reduces friction as it moves through the bread, making it way easier.
The Anatomy of a Bread Knife
We've spoken a little bit about the ways in which bread knives are specifically tailored for their purpose, but let's have a closer look at their three main components.
As we know, the hallmark feature of a bread knife is its serrated edge. With a series of sharp, pointed teeth that run along the edge of the blade, these serrations act as mini saws, which allows the blade to grip the crust and produce clean uniform slices.
The blades are normally quite long, between eight and ten inches. The reason for this length is not only to be able to cut through large loaves of bread like baguettes and artisanal loaves, but also to be able to saw effectively.
The long blade means you can properly bring the knife back and forth in long, smooth motions, rather than lots of little motions.
The width of the blade (which is normally quite thin) reduces friction and helps to make smooth and even cuts.
The handle of a bread knife is quite large in relation to other knives, but in proportion to the blade.
They're normally ergonomically designed, so that the grip is comfortable. It also allows for precision while cutting, reducing the chances of you slipping and losing control.
Some knives even have an offset handle - this positions the handle higher than the blade, which offers better clearance between your hand and the cutting surface below.
Bread knife handles can be made from a variety of materials. But most commonly, they're made from plastic, wood, metal or high-tech composite products like G10.
This is mostly up to preference, and you should choose the material that allows you to hold it comfortably.
The tang of a knife is the bit of the blade that extends into the handle, and there are two main types of tang that are common in bread knives - full tang and rat-tail tang.
Full tang bread knives are most common, and this is because they provide excellent balance and durability. It ensures that the knife can withstand the rigors of frequent use, and it also provides a Rat-Tail Tang bit of weight which is helpful in cutting bread.
More common in cheaper, lower-quality bread knives, rat-tail tang knives mean that the blade is attached to the handle by means of a narrow extension.
They're far less robust and durable, and they tend to not offer quite the same level of performance and longevity.
How to Sharpen a Bread Knife
Sharpening a serrated bread knife is quite different to the normal sharpening process, so we're going to give you a quick synopsis on how to do it effectively.
- Prepare Your Surface: Make sure you have a stable surface to work on - nothing slippery!
- Clean the Knife: Make sure the knife is completely clean, because any leftover food or debris can interfere with the sharpening process.
- Determine the Bevel: Most bread knives have just a single bevel (the slope on the edge of blade, normally on the serrated side), but some have two.
- Use a Sharpening Rod: Hold the sharpening rod vertically with the tip resting on a stable surface below. Make sure the rod is at a 20-25 degree angle to the bevel of the knife.
- Hone the Serrations: Gently, insert the serrations of the blade into the spaces between the ridges of the sharpening rod. Start from the bolster end, and pull the knife down across the rod, across the full length of the blade. Make sure you're applying medium pressure (not too much) and are keeping the angle consistent. Do this for each serration.
- Do the Other Side (If Necessary): If your bread knife is serrated on both sides, then repeat step five on the other side. Make sure you do both sides evenly. If the other side isn't serrated, leave it.
- Test the Sharpness: Once you're done, carefully check the serrations are sharp enough. If not, repeat the process.
- Clean the Blade: Once you're satisfied with the sharpness of the blade, clean the blade with a damp cloth and then put it away in a safe place where it won't be bumped and damaged.
Clearly, the sharpening process is quite different for a bread knife than it is to other knives, and it can be more time consuming, but once you get the hang of it, it's not too difficult.
How to Look After and Maintain a Bread Knife
If you've invested in the best bread knife, or really any kind of bread knife, you need to make sure you're looking after it properly. Here are some dos and don'ts when it comes to bread knife maintenance.
- Handwash Only: Use warm, soapy water (with a mild detergent).
- Dry It Gently and Immediately: Use a soft, clean towel and dry the blade and the handle.
- Store it Safely: Don't plonk it in a drawer or anywhere where it can get bumped and damaged. Use a knife sheath knife block.
- Hone it Regularly.
- Only Use It for Bread, Cakes, or Pastries.
- Never Put it in the Dishwasher.
- No Airdrying: This allows for a build up of moisture which can lead to corrosion.
- Don't Cut on Hard Surfaces: Try stick to wooden cutting boards .
Don't Use Excessive Force: A good bread knife will do the work for you.