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Nov 1, 2009 06:36 PM

Please help me choose a bread knife!

I am in the market to buy a serrated knife for cutting bread (and other things- tomatoes, etc.) It will not get a huge about of use- maybe a small slicing job or 2 a day.

Just a few questions:

1. Does it make any sense to buy more expensive serrated knives? My understanding is that they can be difficult to sharpen (I don't do it myself, so I wouldn't know!) and some simply buy new serrated knives instead of sharpening. If it is a long-term investment that can be re-sharpened, the less expensive without sacrificing quality, the better.

2. In terms of size- what is the minimum length to consider? I bake boules, as well as standard size loaves. Have thus far made do with a hand-me down serrated knife that is a good 10" long, but wondering if I can go shorter without sacrificing much.

3. How useful is it to have an offset blade?

Two serious considerations thus far have been the 7.5" offset Dexter (about $13), and my local TJ Maxx has an 8" (non-offset) 4 Star Henckels (about $30, picture here: http://www.metrokitchen.com/product/H... )....but other suggestions welcome as well.


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  1. I bought a Forschner-Victorinox. If I recall correctly, I chose it because it was the one Cooks Illustrated recommended. I like a longer knife - the shorter it is, the more sawing you need to do, and your stroke won't have as much speed with a shorter blade, so you'll be working harder for a slower result.

    5 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      I believe the style that CI liked (several years ago) is often called a pastry knife. It had a long blade (10"), slightly offset (molded plastic) handle, a slightly curved blade, and rounded tip.

      I ended up getting a Henckels from Spain in that style, and have been quite happy with it.

      Here's a FV pastry knife link
      FV 'bread knives' are straighter, with a more pointed tip. That tip might be better for starting a cut in a hard crust, but I like the rounded tip.

      1. re: paulj

        Yes, Paulj, the CI-recommended knife is as you described. I don't recall what I paid but it came from A Cook's Wares, whose catalog and website conveniently note CI-recommended equipment. Except for its length, it is actually not better than the unmarked knife I inherited from my German mother. That one has to be at least 50 yrs old and likely 70+. It is stainless, and has two apparently brass "pegs" (don't know the correct term) holding the blade in the wooden handle. She used it nearly daily for 40 years; I use it less often. It has never been sharpened and still does a good job. It may or may not have been a top-line product when new.

        1. re: paulj

          I have had the Forschner-Victorinox knife for years and highly recommend it. It works like a charm. I seriously doubt that spending three times as much for a bread knife will get you noticeably better performance. For the record, the F-V knife is 10.25" long, with a slightly curved blade and a Fibrox (plastic) handle that is very durable. It is currently available at Amazon.com for $27.20.

          1. re: cheesemaestro

            I also like the above mentioned Forschner-Victorinox bread knife. The handle, length and shape is perfect for cutting bread. When I ran a restaurant kitchen, that was the knife that all wait staff like for bread slicing. Also, the price is reasonable compare to Hinckle, etc. Since you are only cutting few slices of bread a day, it will not need sharpening for year. It is too big for slicing tomatoes for which I have a small thin 6 inch serrated knife (cost less than $10).

      2. 4Snisl,

        Hi. Grey is correct. I think both Vicorinox and Dexter-Russell makes affordable good knives. I do sharp my own knives using diamond and water stones, but serrated knives are hard to fully sharp because of the hidden.scalloped parts. Special tools are needed for that and I cannot justify to buy a serrated knife sharpener for just one knife.


        There is two routes. You can buy cheap and functional knives and get a new one when the time come. It cost >$15 (including shipping) to have your bread knife sharpen, so it really makes no sense if your knife cost less than $30. I went for the expensive route and got the Shun Steel bread knife.


        I got it for two reasons. First, Japanese knives (Shun included) are made of harder steel so they remain sharp for a much longer period of time. Second, Shun has a lifetime free sharpening service. For cutlery enthusiasts, $70 is nothing and the Shun bread knife I got is actually cheaper than a Henckel Four Star bread knife or a Wusthof Classic bread knife.

        A Four Star Henckel on sale, however, at $30 is not a bad choice. I do not think it is a bad idea to go after it. Yes, technically it is difficult to fully sharpen a serrated knife on your own because of the hidden/scolloped edge. However, the counter argument is that the serrated knife really get dull on the exposed/teeth parts and consequently sharpening the exposed edge alone is sufficient.

        An offset blade is useful for preventing your knuckles hitting the cutting baord, but it not the only way. A slightly curve blade will do the same. If you look at the Shun bread knife I bought, it is slightly curved, so as you cut the bread, you shift the cutting to the front and there will be plenty space between your knuckles and the cutting board.

        You can also see plenty of other Dexter bread knives curved the same way. Here are two examples:

        Unfortunately, the Henckels Four Star blade is completely flat.
        Let us know if you need more information.

        1. What I said a couple of years ago: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3982...

          Answers to your questions:

          1) No, don't buy an expensive serrated knife. Go cheap, recycle it when it's dull, buy another cheap knife (you won't be doing this every year -- more like every ten years). Do not succumb to marketing, and do not listen to anyone's b.s. argument about adding to the landfills. What about adding money to the coffers of expensive cutlery companies?!

          2) I find my Dexter 9" offset serrated knife to be a good working length. Anything longer can become unwieldy.

          3) Offset feels good for my hands and my working height. You should try it out in person if you can...


          1 Reply
          1. re: Joe Blowe

            Argh! I did a search for "serrated knife" and "bread knife", and this thread didn't pop up for me....thanks for linking this thread.

          2. i'd get the offset blade-- really helps w control when slicing whole loaves evenly. wouldn't go shorter than 9 inches. if looks are not important i'd just buy the standard issue white handled restaurant supply model-- there is a reason that's the knife used in the sub shops.

            4 Replies
            1. re: soupkitten

              I like my offset Shun:- http://www.amazon.com/Frontgate-Class...
              There is a good deal going at Amazon with this:


              This is an 8 inch - my preference would be for the 9 inch one I have. (That sounds like an idle boast, but it's true.


              Provided you do not use it to cut frozen food, hack bones etc it will be many, many years before it needs sharpening - and Shun do that for free. It does an excellent job of thing slicing meat - especially if you chill / par-freeze it first.

              1. re: Paulustrious

                i have a 12 inch serrated shun (not offset) that i use for large loaves and tomatoes at work. i love it but i cut a *lot* of bread and it's an expensive knife. i keep it in a knife roll and think it would be hard to store in a home kitchen. i really do think that a cheaper offset blade (blunt tip) would be fine for the op and i prefer this type of knife for smaller tasks. it's always possible to upgrade later. i do like shuns very much though.

                1. re: soupkitten


                  Have you gotten the chance to take advantage of the free Shun knife sharpening service? Have you sent in your serrated bread knife? I bought the Shun knife partially for this service. I know how to free hand sharpen typical knives, but I do not know how to do that to a serrated knives. Cowboy and I are interested regarding the free knife sharpening service by Shun. Thanks.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    unfortunately i can't give you feedback on the free sharpening service. i bring my knives to a local service for sharpening, and they can do the serrated knives there. the guy gives us an industry discount on knife sharpening-- straight blades for $1 ea and serrated for $2 (even the 12")-- so for me, it's cheaper to get them sharpened locally than the postage to have shun do it for me, and in practical terms i don't have to wait a few days or a week or whatever to get my knives back. sorry i can't be of more help. maybe Paul or another shun user can weigh in on the sharpening service, which sounds great, i must say.

            2. Imagine a 5 inch wide loaf of bread.
              Now take an 8 inch bread knife. 8 minus 5 = 3, so you have a 3 inch cutting stroke. Except that most people aren't that good with a knife, so leave a half-inch on either end. That results in a 2-inch stroke, or about the length of your thumb.

              A 10-inch blade gives you a 4-inch stroke, meaning you need to reverse the motion of your 15 pound arm half as often, therefore a 10-inch bread knife will require half the effort of an 8-inch bread knife.

              A 9-inch bread knife is the minimum I'd recommend.

              1 Reply