The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread Knives

BobbyFourFingers's picture
BobbyFourFingers

Bread Knives

I appreciate using good knives. A good knife should be safe to use, be sanitary, make work easier, and adapt well to your personal style of cutting. For meat and vegetable prep I favor French profile knives (Sabatier-style/gyuto) and Chinese cleavers (cai dao) as these are what I grew up using.

I never had a preference for bread knives as it seemed that all but an electric knife would have various problems.

Thin serrated knives can bend while cutting hearty loaves, making a wavy, uneven cut. Tiny serrations produce a lot of crumbs. Some knives crush the crumb and others shatter the crispy bits of a crust.

I’ve used a Victorinox bread knife in the past and found it to be a great all around slicer but felt it was too thin for large, crusty loaves.

I settled on the Güde Alpha Breadsaw. With a 2mm spine and 12.5” blade length it seemed on paper to be up to the most difficult bread cutting task. Güde claims to have invented the serrated knife. This seems dubious in the long history of knife making but it speaks to the enthusiasm they have for their serrated knives. 

I was bowled over by how well this knife cuts bread. It’s also a massive knife. The weight of the knife and sharp, large serrations help it cut decisively through large boules. It doesn’t shatter crusty bits but slices right through them. The amount of crumbs from cutting is significantly reduced.

Despite having a thick spine it makes thin, delicate slices with ease. The Germans know something about cutting bread.

I couldn’t be happier with it.

BobbyFourFingers's picture
BobbyFourFingers

This knife is a bit difficult to find in the U.S. so I’ll share my experience acquiring one. An Amazon seller sent me a damaged one that seemed like it had been used in a sword fight (understandable).

Lehman’s, a Gude Knives retailer in the midwest, did not have the Alpha in stock. Other domestic retailers have the knife at astronomical prices.

I was able to get it from Knives From Germany for 174 euro, less than what it costs on Amazon. Shipping was free via USPS. Note that the site appears to charge VAT but this only applies within the EU. American buyers will not be charged VAT.

https://www.knives-from-germany.com/brotmesser/129/das-guede-alpha-olive-brotmesser-franz-guede-fuer-linkshaender-7431/32l

The owner of the company is Jens Putzier. He was very easy to work with and has a good reputation on knife forums.

The olive handle is unfinished so factor in applying some oil to it. Personally, I prefer my wooden knife scales to be unfinished so I can finish them myself. Fit of the wood to the tang is exceptional.

I have no relationship with Jens or Gude, but I wanted to add the above as it took some sleuthing to find the knife from a good seller and at a good price.

old baker's picture
old baker

Best knife I've used is the German-made Wustof 9" model.  Great on bread and strong enough to saw through wood.

https://www.cutleryandmore.com/wusthof-classic/double-serrated-bread-knife-p126231

BobbyFourFingers's picture
BobbyFourFingers

A lot of people like the Wüsthof bread knife, no doubt.

Bröterich's picture
Bröterich

This is indeed one of the premier breadknives. If you do a web search it'll come up as one of the best among a few others.

When it comes to purchasing, on a recent visit to Vancouver I found this knife which I had been lusting after for some time: 

Shun TDM705 Premier 9" Bread Knife

https://www.warriorsandwonders.com/Shun_Cutlery/Shun_TDM0705_Premier_9_Bread_Knife.

I couldn't resist. This store has quite a selection of other top notch knives in case someone is looking for something else.

Tom

BobbyFourFingers's picture
BobbyFourFingers

That’s a beautiful knife, Tom. The serrations look like they would work well. It’s good steel and the wood has been stabilized.

berryblondeboys's picture
berryblondeboys

About a year ago I got a new bread knife because I was tired of the one I had that just sucked. I found this video review by the American Test Kitchen and got this inexpensive knife. We've been using it for a year and it's SHARP and fantastic and cheap! https://youtu.be/GWewefvCZXM

 

BobbyFourFingers's picture
BobbyFourFingers

It’s inexpensive enough I may give it a try out of curiosity. As a knife enthusiast (hence my avatar) I enjoy trying different knives but I am also particular about certain things like profiles and handles that allow me to use a pinch grip. The pinch grip is more important with chef’s knives and large paring knives than with slicers so maybe the handle won’t be a deal breaker. And if I don’t like it, I could just give it to my wife like I did the CI budget chef’s knife winner, the Victorinox Fibrox.

How much flex does it have? Too much flexibility was one of the biggest problems I was having with stamped blade bread knives.

berryblondeboys's picture
berryblondeboys

I don't notice any flex. it's thin enough to slice the bread versus crush/rip the bread. It's absolutely nothing fancy, but after having 3 other knives that cost double this price and finding them very unsatisfying, I was willing to try it.

BobbyFourFingers's picture
BobbyFourFingers

I ordered one. It’s cheap enough so why not? If I don’t like it I can give it away. I look forward to trying it tomorrow.

BobbyFourFingers's picture
BobbyFourFingers

I didn’t know what to expect since Mercer is known to make some of the worst kitchen knives around, and yet the bread knife is highly regarded. I think most knife enthusiasts wouldn’t even give it a try, but at less than the cost of conical diamond hone, if it gets dull just chunk it and get a new one.

I’ve used the Mercer on a focaccia and a whole wheat batard and found that it cut through both incredibly well. It’s sharper from the factory than the Gude, which isn’t dull but needs a proper sharpening. The serration design of both are almost identical as is the spine thickness so it won’t bend under pressure.

There’s not much benefit with higher grades of steel with bread knives in my opinion so I see no problem going with lesser quality steels than what you can get out of Japan and Sweden.

I wish it had a better handle design. I’m not a fan of large grippy, “ergonomic” handles that force me to use a hammer grip. Once you get used to a pinch grip it’s hard to go back. Also, I wish the knife was longer. It’s not too small but I would like more length on it for large breads. I found myself slicing the focaccia in multiple slices because of this.

All things considered I think the Mercer 10” bread knife is an incredible bargain!

 

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

I have one as well, and while I don't always agree with America's Test Kitchen,  I think they nailed this one.  It cuts very quickly and cleanly, and is a bargain to boot.  I see that Mercer offers a 12 inch wavy edge knife - though it doesn't say that it is a bread knife .  

BobbyFourFingers's picture
BobbyFourFingers

I’ve noticed that many bread knives are on the short side, just longer than the a typical 8” chef’s knife most people have at home. I think this is because home cooks tend to be more comfortable with shorter knives.

At 9.5 to 10”, the gyutos that I use for vegetable & meat prep are larger than some bread knives. That’s just what I feel comfortable with. An 8” chef’s knife feels a bit cramped to me for most tasks. This is why I wanted a bread knife that’s larger than 10”. 

2” more than what I use for vegetable and meat prep feels about right for slicing bread. I’m curious if others feel this way.

Knife size is entirely a personal matter and there’s no shame in preferring a shorter blade for any task. It’s a matter of preference.

Camarie's picture
Camarie

 

I have two like THIS! From Amazon.com.