If you ask most chefs about knives, they will likely say you only need three knives to run a successful kitchen: a chef knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife. Bread knives serve a niche role in your slicing endeavors. They are serrated, which gives you that edge when cutting through a crusty loaf of bread or a ripe tomato. You don’t need to apply the pressure to the job like you would with a straight-edged chef knife. The teeth act as saws that make quick work of tough melon skin and rugged butternut squash peel, whereas even a sharp chef knife would struggle.
Because of their specific role in your knife arsenal, they don’t get as much use as the chef's knife, the workhorse of the kitchen. This alleviates the problem of sharpening, which can be onerous and expensive. They also can double up as a meat-carving knife for those fall-off-the-bone rib roasts or tender briskets.
To help you choose the one best suited to your needs and budget, our editors tested seven popular bread knives in our Lab. We used each one to slice through both a crusty bread loaf and a soft loaf and noted how each knife's unique serrations affect how well it slices each type of bread. We also observed how cleanly each knife was able to slice through a large, ripe tomato. We rated the bread knives based on each one's design, size, performance, ease of cleaning, and overall value.
From offset styles to a double-serrated edge, here are our picks for the best bread knives.
Shun Classic 9-Inch Bread Knife
What We Love: Gorgeous, clean bread slices, sturdy, great weight and balance, comfortable to hold
What We Don't Love: Expensive
Known for their razor-sharp edges and smooth performance, Shun knives are a go-to when shopping for a Japanese-style blade. And it helps that they are gorgeous. The handle is crafted from durable pakkawood and designed with an ergonomic D-shape and bolster that makes for ultimate comfort in your hand.
Honed from proprietary VG-MAX "super steel," the blade consists of 34 micro-thin layers of stainless steel. The edge has a slight curve creating an easy rocking motion when slicing and protecting your knuckles from grazing the cutting board. The Damascus-style blade is beautiful, but it is also incredibly sharp, corrosion-resistant, and has wide teeth that make smooth, even slices.
This knife performed extremely well on all three tests, cutting the ripe tomato, hard sourdough bread, and soft challah smoothly and cleanly to make uniform slices. Yes, it's quite costly, but we think it's worth it for the high-quality performance.
Shun will sharpen your serrated knife for free as long as you buy from an authorized dealer—you pay for shipping and handling, but Shun experts hone and sharpen your blade.
"There's nothing I would change with this knife. It was smooth to operate in the paper, tomato, hard loaf, and soft loaf tests. The grip was very comfortable, and it was fun to slice with. It didn't feel unstable when slicing through the very hard, day-old crusty bread, and surprisingly it wasn't as crumby as the other quality knives we tested." — Fran Sales, Associate Commerce Editor
Price at time of publish: $182
Blade Length: 9 inches | Handle Material: Pakkawood | Blade Material: VG-Max steel (34 micro-thin layers of stainless steel) | Weight: 7.1 ounces
Best Overall, Runner-Up
Wusthof Classic Double Serrated 9-Inch Bread Knife
What We Love: Extremely sharp, well-balanced
What We Don't Love: Still quite pricey
Known for razor-sharp edges, German craftsmanship, and sleek design, Wusthof delivers a durable, reliable bread knife to add to your kitchen arsenal. The Classic Double-Serrated 9-Inch Bread Knife features a full tang with riveted handles, full bolster, and finger guard for ultimate comfort and safety. And the high-carbon stainless steel is precision-forged for heft and longevity.
Wusthof’s proprietary edging technology ensures it produces sharper knives with better edge retention, especially important with a bread knife that has serrated edges. The interesting feature on this model is the double serrations—slicing through both crusty loaves (crusty on the outside and tender on the inside) as well as very soft challah felt comfortable, smooth, and fun. However, while we thought that the teeth on this knife would slice a tomato cleanly with ease, it got stuck while slicing through it and needed a bit more force to finish the slice.
Still, we highly recommend this bread knife as a relatively cheaper option (it is about $20 cheaper) than our best overall pick for a similarly high quality.
"Slicing through old crusty bread wasn't effortful at all, and it sliced through challah bread like butter (it felt good). The handle is also very comfortable, and I can see myself using this for a long period without getting fatigued easily." — Fran Sales, Associate Commerce Editor
Price at time of publish: $150
Blade Length: 9 inches | Handle Material: Polymer | Blade Material: High-carbon stainless steel | Weight: 6.6 ounces
Tojiro F-737 Bread Slicer
What We Love: Thin, flexible blade, affordable, comfortable grip, lightweight
What We Don't Love: Unwieldy length
Crafted with long-lasting high-carbon stainless steel, the Tojiro Bread Slicer has a thin, stamped, Japanese-style blade and a natural wood handle with stainless steel rivets for a comfortable grip. The blade is corrosion-resistant and feels springy in your hand, so it was no surprise that it easily made clean work of both the hard sourdough loaf and the soft challah bread in our lab tests.
Like other Japanese-style blades (including our best overall pick), the Tojiro is razor-sharp. It deftly slices through bread with minimal pressure. The flexibility of the blade shouldn't be that huge of a hindrance with harder-edged foods: In our lab tests on hard sourdough, the sharp teeth still got the job done when we put a little more pressure into the slice. We think it could have been better balanced if it were an ounce or two heavier, but this wasn't such a huge factor.
When we used the Tojiro on a ripe tomato, the flexible blade was also able to make thin, clean slices, though the serrations did get a bit caught in the tomato occasionally.
The durable materials and intuitive design will keep this high-quality yet affordable knife sharp for a long time. Just make sure to have room for it, as it's a very long knife at almost 15 inches in length.
"Though this knife's serrations got a bit caught during the tomato test, it made straight, clean slices on the crusty loaf (with a bit of elbow grease) and very smoothly sliced through the challah. Significantly cheaper than all of the other knives we tested, this is a bargain for the quality." — Fran Sales, Associate Commerce Editor
Price at time of publish: $25
Blade Length: 9.25 inches | Handle Material: Composite wood | Blade Material: High-carbon stainless steel | Weight: 4 ounces
Related: The Best Knife Sets
Best for Sourdough
Victorinox Swiss Army 10.25-Inch Bread Knife
What We Love: Comfortable grip, very sharp, performed very well on all tests
What We Don't Love: Utilitarian appearance, long blade may make it difficult to store
Versatility is the quality this knife exudes. The thin blade with sharp teeth slices bread adeptly but also makes quick work of crusty sandwiches, executes paper-thin tomato slices, and deftly carves roasted meats.
In fact, in our lab tests, this knife produced clean slices on both a day-old crusty sourdough and the very soft challah bread—with no resistance on the knife while slicing, and no tearing of either bread. It did well on our paper and tomato tests, too, producing clean slices with ease.
The Victorinox Swiss Army Bread Knife features a stamped, high-carbon stainless steel blade that has been ice tempered to provide maximum edge retention and sharp cuts. Crafted in Switzerland since 1884, Victorinox blades are known for their workmanlike performance and durability.
The blade has a slight curve, which allows better control and balance while cutting. And, the Fibrox handle has a soft, grippy feel, making for a comfortable and secure cutting experience.
If we were to change something about it, we would like the handle to be a little more comfortable. The length and girth of it, in addition to the material, did not feel as good in hand as some of the wooden-handled knives. This will be a relatively small quibble, however, for those who want a quality knife but do not want to pay a lot for it. This is a bargain considering its performance.
"There wasn't a lot of pushback with the sourdough, and no tearing with the challah. The handle did not feel as comfortable as some of the wooden-handled ones, though. Still, with the price, this is a steal." — Fran Sales, Associate Commerce Editor
Price at time of publish: $64
Blade Length: 10.25 inches | Handle Material: Fibrox | Blade Material: High-carbon stainless steel | Weight: 4.5 ounces
Related: The Best Loaf Pans
Hamilton Beach Electric Knife
What We Love: Affordable, comes with a storage case
What We Don't Love: Blade needs hand-washing
Most widely used for carving roasts, an electric knife can also be a valuable tool for bread, cheeses, and vegetables. The Hamilton Beach Electric Knife features a plastic handle designed for comfort, 10-inch stainless steel blades, and a convenient carrying case for storage.
Ease of use is the star of this model. It turns on with a simple trigger, provides 100 watts of power, and the two reciprocating, serrated blades do all the work, effortlessly carving any type of bread or meat on hand. It also comes with a stainless steel carving fork for those occasions when you are slicing more than bread. The blades easily eject for a quick hand wash after use.
Price at time of publish: $25
Blade Length: 8 inches | Handle Material: Plastic | Blade Material: Stainless steel | Weight: 2 pounds
Related: The Best Electric Knives
The Shun Classic 9-Inch Bread Knife is our best overall pick because, despite its high price tag, it pays for itself in quality and performance. It's beautiful, slices smoothly and cleanly, has a great weight and balance, and is comfortable to hold. If you want a similar-performing, relatively high-quality Japanese knife without taking a huge hit on your savings, try the Tojiro Bread Slicer: It's a fraction of the price (and weight) of the Shun, but still made clean, neat work of our bread loaves.
How We Tested
To test our list of bread knives, we purchased several loaves of crusty sourdough bread from a nearby bakery. We also bought several loaves of challah bread and a handful of beefsteak tomatoes from the grocery store. Our editors first tested the sharpness of each knife out of the box by slicing through a sheet of paper to see whether they tore or sliced cleanly. Then, we sliced through the tomatoes to see whether the slices were clean and precise, and whether the skin was torn or parts of the tomato were crushed. Lastly, we sliced through both the hard and soft loaves and observed whether the serrations gripped the loaf and made clean slices, and whether we were able to slice smoothly or if we had to muscle through it.
Our staff rated each one on the following qualities: Design, Size, Performance, Cleaning, and Value. Learn more about how we test products.
What Are the Other Options?
Mercer Culinary Millennia Wide Wavy Edge Bread Knife: There is quite a bit to love about the Mercer Culinary Millennia Bread Knife. The 10.5-inch, stamped high-carbon steel, Japanese-style blade is affordable (similar in price point to our budget pick), super sharp, and made clean slices through both the crusty and soft loaves. However, while the knife is meant to be ergonomic, its large handle and heaviness actually made it more cumbersome to hold than the other knives, especially the smaller wooden-handled ones like the Tojiro.
Victorinox Fibrox Pro Serrated 9-Inch Offset Knife: Our former best offset pick also has an ergonomically designed non-slip handle that's meant to give a solid, comfortable grip and minimal strain while slicing. Considering how cheap this knife is—around the same as the Tojiro in terms of price point)—it is a pretty good-value knife. But we didn't find it remarkable. Sure, it made clean enough slices with both the crusty loaf and the soft loaf. The handle, however, while meant to be ergonomic, was actually more cumbersome and too large to hold than the other knives, especially the more comfortable and smaller wooden ones.
What to Look for When Buying a Bread Knife
When shopping for a bread knife, be sure you are looking at blade length. Blades usually fall between 8 and 10 inches plus the handle length. A shorter blade may offer more control, but a longer blade can cover larger loaves. The common wisdom is the longer the blade, the better because it offers versatility with foods other than bread and efficiency when slicing a full loaf. But an important consideration is the flexibility of the blade—a long blade does no good if it bows from pressure when tackling a big job.
Straight vs Offset
The difference here lies in handle position. All serrated knives have the same ridged edge. The offset knife has a handle that is positioned slightly higher than the blade giving the knife an L-shape, whereas traditional serrated knives have a straight profile.
There are a couple of advantages to this variation in shape. The knife takes less pressure to use because of the added leverage, and less stress is put on your wrist when slicing. This ergonomic design makes the knife easier to use over long periods and protects your fingers and knuckles from hitting the cutting board or blade.
Shape of Serrated Edge
Though all serrated knives have the same edge, the serrations can differ in shape. They are either scalloped or pointed. Scalloped serrations have rounded edges, no actual sharp points, and tend to be best for softer products like brioche. Rounded edges require less maintenance but also are less sharp. Pointed serrations have sharp edges that move through resistant peels, crusty sourdoughs, and tougher vegetables easily. Pointy edges are more effective when slicing but also create more crumbs.
The gullet, or space and depth between serrations, is an important consideration as well. A bigger gullet means deeper space, a larger cut, and easier blade movement. Fewer serrations mean deeper gullets and coupled with sharp teeth, you have the best tool for slicing bread, tender meats, ripe tomatoes, or even feisty pineapples.
Can you use a bread knife to cut meat?
It depends on the cut of meat. The teeth on a bread knife are serrated and tend to tear the product they are cutting. Sawing is appropriate for a crusty loaf of sourdough or even a tender roast that is mostly falling apart already but not the best choice for a delicate piece of fish or a firm steak.
Can you sharpen a bread knife?
Serrated knives are created with an eye for long-term sharpness without actually sharpening. The teeth make the job of sharpening onerous. You have a couple of options if your blade is dulling. You can either purchase the tool, a serrated knife file, or you can send it off for professional sharpening.
Unlike straight-edged knives, serrated knives rarely require sharpening. They get less use than a chef knife, and they are usually only ground on one side with a single bevel. The result is an incredibly sharp edge that retains its saw-like cutting abilities for a long time.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Carrie Honaker is a food writer who has wielded many knives over the years. As a restaurateur and avid home cook, she knows the importance of finding the right knife for your grip and needs. She loves her Wüsthof Classic Bread Knife for its beauty and functionality. Her work has appeared in many publications including Bon Appetit, Allrecipes, and Wine Enthusiast.
Fran Sales is an associate commerce editor for Simply Recipes. She lab-tested our top bread knives on both day-old crusty bakery bread and grocery-store challah, making dozens and dozens of bread slices—and afterward treated herself to three vegan grilled cheese sandwiches.
Read Next: The Best Cutting Boards