From luxury blades to the best budget buys, use your loaf and read the BBC Good Food review of specialist serrated bread knives for your kitchen.
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A good serrated bread knife is an essential kitchen tool with the contrast of tough crust and soft interior making bread a unique cutting challenge. Those designed for a chopping action, even with the sharpest flat-edged blade will struggle with loaves – the large downward force they need to break the crust simply squashes and rips the bread.
The pointed teeth on a bread knife concentrate downward pressure, biting into the crust. The concaves of the serration reduce friction enabling a sawing action that cuts through the crumb in a series of small tears for a neat slice. A quality bread knife can also be used to slice through delicate pastries and to divide cake sponges. The serrations grip well on waxy surfaces – so good for carving into pumpkins and removing skin from pineapples, too. Some can double as a carving knife.
Bread knives are a little like choosing a saw as ultimately it’s a sawing action you’ll be applying to the knife. Alongside a sharp serration you want a knife that is comfortable to hold and has a balanced weight so you are in control of the blade.
Kuhn Rikon Colori bread & baguette knife
Best budget bread knife
Best bits: Ease of slicing, length of blade
Comments: Shaped and coloured to look like a baguette, this knife stands out thanks to its tongue-in-cheek design, but it also has other useful features. Though the plastic handle is a little light in weight, the blade cuts efficiently and at 26cm it can tackle the largest loaves. The blade has a non-stick coating and friction-reducing slits that help it glide through the bread, producing even slices. The knife comes with a blade cover, too, making it a good option for taking on picnics.
Kai Shun bread knife, Classic range
Best blowout bread knife
Best bits: The most elegant design and efficient blade
Comments: Made from 32 layers, the beautiful Damascus steel blade is very hard-wearing. The knife is full tang with a smooth pakkawood (wood/resin composite) handle in a classic Japanese d-shaped design. The serrated teeth point in different directions – at the front half, they face forward, while at the other end, they face backwards. This means equal cutting performance in each direction for noticeably efficient slicing. The wide serrations are very sharp, requiring little pressure for a smooth cut.
Victorinox SwissClassic bread knife
Bread knife with best lightweight design
Best bits: Compact, sharp knife
Comments: Weighing only 89g, the Victorinox is a slim, compact option that's ideal for those who prefer lighter knives. It has a comfortable moulded plastic handle that comes in a choice of five colours. The serrations have a good grip and bite easily into the crust. Though it has a fairly short blade at 21cm, the knife handles large crusty loaves well, cutting satisfyingly precise slices. The knife is also dishwasher safe.
What we looked for when testing bread knives
Sharpness/serration: Different types of serrated edge will produce different sawing motions. We looked for sharp serrations that would cut into the bread with minimal effort, making neat slices. Safety was a priority and we rejected knives with jagged teeth that snagged and tore or those that lacked bite, slipping off the bread’s crust and increasing risk of injury.
Handle comfort: You should be able to easily grip a good handle regardless of the size of your hand. We looked at where the heel of the knife meets the handle – if this isn’t honed properly, like a bad pair of shoes on a long walk, it can rub and cause calluses. We looked for knives with solid, secure handles that were unlikely to slip. We checked that the knife was parallel to the loaf when gripped for a straight sawing action.
Length: As it’s all about sawing, shorter blades aren’t able to get across wider/rounder continental loaves while longer blades can be more cumbersome.
Balance/weight: You should be able to feel weight in the knife but it shouldn’t be heavy. Blade-to-handle balance is important, but with a bread knife, you want a heavier handle than blade to push and pull your sawing motion.
Tang: The ‘tang’ is the part of the metal blade that becomes the handle. The strongest knives are full tang, which means the blade and handle are forged from the same bit of metal, from tip to end, with the handle bolted on. Full tang is a sign of quality in general knife-making but not a deal-breaker when it comes to choosing a bread knife.
How we tested bread knives
We tested 15 easily available bread knives ranging from 20cm-26cm long. All the knives were tested on large, fresh crusty loaves – tough on the outside but with a delicate, easy to squash interior. First we tested how well they cut bread into thin slices. We then cut stacks of slices in half, looking out for any snagging or ripping, to see how the knives coped with the soft crumb.
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This review was last updated August 2019. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.