From luxury blades to best budget buys, use your loaf and read the BBC Good Food review of four top specialist serrated bread knives for your kitchen.
Anolon Advanced Sure Grip 22cm bread knife
Best bits: Good balance, sharp serration and comfortable grip
Comments: The Anolon slices easily through crust and crumb with minimum pressure and a smooth sawing action. At 184g this well-balanced knife feels reassuringly solid without being too heavy. The knife is full tang with a comfortable non-slip plastic handle which has a soft rubber-like feel. The knife can be easily gripped at different angles – good for dividing cake sponges in half. Made from heat treated and ice hardened Japanese steel, the blade is sharp and durable. We liked the simple classic design and think it’s excellent value for money. Buy from John Lewis.
Comments: A tongue in cheek design – this knife is shaped and coloured to look like a baguette. 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 making it a good option for taking on picnics. Buy from Kuhn Rikon.
Kai Shun Bread Knife, Classic range 22.5 cm
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 – the front half face forward and the other half face backwards. This means equal cutting in each direction for noticeably efficient slicing. The wide serrations are very sharp, requiring little pressure for a smooth cut. Buy from Knives and Tools.
Best… lightweight design
Victorinox SwissClassic bread knife
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. Buy from Victorinox.
A good serrated bread knife is an essential kitchen tool. The contrast of tough crust and soft interior make bread a unique cutting challenge. Designed for a chopping action, even the sharpest flat-edged knife 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 – good for carving into pumpkins and removing skin from pineapples. Some can double as a carving knife.
What should I buy?
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.
What we looked for...
Sharpness/serration: Different types of serrated edge will give different ease of sawing motion. 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...
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.
More on knives…
More buyer’s advice
This review was last updated May 2017. 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.