The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

knife problem?

ericb's picture

knife problem?

When I bake a dense, moist loaf, like this 80% rye from Hamelman's Bread, I find that I have difficulty cutting it. As the height of the cross-section increases, it seems like the friction of the knife blade causes the crumb to tear and roll into little scraps.


This is really a minor problem and almost not worth posting, but I was wondering if anyone else experiences the same thing. I use a Wustoff Classic 4150 bread knife, which has a nice, sturdy 1.5" serrated blade. Would it help to use a knife with less surface area? Does anyone have any suggestions? Preferably before December 24? :)


breadinquito's picture

Hi, it really might be what you suspect...why don't you try to cut your next loaf with a non serrated knife next time you make a loaf...better: you cut a couple of slices with the serrated and a couple with the no serrated one and make the comparison...happy baking (and experimenting) from quito. Paolo

breadinquito's picture

guess i'm still a bit sleepy, the sentence "why dont' you cut your next loaf with a non serrated knife next time you make a loaf" not perfect written english...a cup of coffee will help...even if comprehensible !again: happy baking from Quito.

ericb's picture

... it usually takes me two cups before I can consider myself "awake."

I assume you're in Quito, Ecuador? I have some friends who studied there while in college in the late 1990s. They had such wonderful things to say about it that I wish I could have gone there myself.


dale1nemo's picture

one of those electric knives like some people use to carve turkey....I used to use mine on bread with a wooden guide for same size slices.It seemed to waste a little bread but it worked good

Chuck's picture

In my experience most bread slicing problems are solved by using any long sharp serrated knife and slicing slowly and gently  ...even the el cheapos work just fine so long as they are sharp and long and used without a lot of pressure. Your case though is something different if I understand correctly.

My understanding of your issue is that the cutting is working just fine, but then the back of the knife is dragging significantly on the cut area above the cutting edge. I think a little oil on the sides of the knife will help with a really dense loaf and a wide knife. Try dripping a little oil on the knife and spreading it with your finger, or using your non-stick spray intended mainly for loaf pans, or even one of those pump-up oil mister bottles.

Also, you may find you need to stop and sponge off the knife then apply fresh oil every 3-5 slices. (Just warm water, soap may "taste weird".) Once the knife gets some gummy crumb stuck to its sides, the next slice will be worse (and even more stuff will stick for the time after that).

And if you can find a fairly easy way to do it, try putting the loaf on a slightly humped up surface rather than a flat surface, or place the loaf right at the edge of your cutting board, or use a towel under your hand to hold the loaf and pull back very gently. If the cut "springs open" a little when you slice it, there will be less to stick to the knife than if the cut re-closes around the knife.

I expect a different knife that's less that 1-1/2 inches thick would help somewhat  ...but still wouldn't fully solve the problem. (Besides, most folks don't have a second bread knife just laying around waiting to be used.)

martinfogel's picture

I have the same problem, mostly for my Corn Rye bread.  It seems it is a combination of a hard bottom crust amd moist crumb.  Putting the bread on the edge of the cutting board works best. 

I don't think it is a knife sharpness issue.  My wife had trouble cutting through some breads I baked.  So she bought a successor to the "ginzu" knife.  She saw a demo with someone using it to saw through a metal hammer.  It worked no better than our everyday bread knife.  Oiling the blade sounds interesting....

It may also be the bread has not finished cooling.  Sometimes by the next day the problems disappear.

copyu's picture

...if it was possible to make those lovely, fluffy, Japanese bread-crumbs (known as 'panko') at home. I think you've answered that question with your great photo! Hehe!

I've never had quite that much 'spare crumb' when slicing high-percentage rye breads. I don't think it's the fault of your knife, or your slicing technique. (However, I'm wondering how long you wait for 'cooling' before slicing...) I've made 60%+ German ryes in the morning and given them to friends in the evening of the next day. I waited that long to slice my own loaves, as well, with no problems

Still, I'm 'eye-ing off' a new Japanese bread's about 1.5 inches or so longer than the average Wenger/Victorinox/Wusthof and has a slightly narrower blade and finer serrations...I can't report just yet, but maybe in a few weeks. I'm going to pick one up next week, if they're in stock, just before I leave Japan for my winter vacation... ;-)

Best wishes,