We spent over 15 hours researching and testing serrated knives, cutting through 15 crusty bread loaves of varying shapes and sizes, six pounds of ripe tomatoes, four pounds of roast eye round, and 10 roast beef sandwiches. And we found out you don’t need to drop a lot of cash on a good serrated knife. The best serrated knife for most people is the Victorinox Fibrox Pro 10.25-Inch Serrated Curved Bread Knife. It’s thin, sharp, and comfortable to use. For the price, you can’t find a more well-made, more versatile knife.
A serrated knife is for more than just bread. We wanted a serrated knife that could make quick work of soft fruits and vegetables, and even carve up leftover roast or chicken.
If you want to spend less, we recommend the Mercer Millennia 10-inch Bread Knife – Wide for its price and maneuverability. Though the blade is thicker than the Victorinox’s and offers a little less control due to its large, pronounced teeth, it’s still a good value at its current price of $23. If you aren’t looking to make wafer-thin, even slices of bread and vegetables, and you just want a good workhorse in the kitchen, this is the knife for you.
For the home cook who wants something a little more elegant, we like the Tojiro ITK Bread Knife. It’s a bit more versatile than the Victorinox because its scalloped blade also works well as a meat slicer. To be honest, all three of the upper-tier serrated knives we tested performed the same; the Tojiro just happened to be the least expensive. The only flaw we could see is that though it’s sharp, the scalloped teeth require a couple of sawing motions to dig into bread crust. This attractive knife has a satisfying weight to it, an ergonomic pakkawood handle that’s comfortable to hold, and a razor-sharp edge.
I’ve been cooking professionally for almost two decades. In that time, I’ve gone through more serrated knives than I can count. I’ve used them for a multitude of tasks, from trimming cake domes to cutting tens of thousands of baguette rounds for crostini, to hacking up vegetables for stock. I appreciate a good, versatile serrated knife because it’s useful for so much more than just bread.
We also spoke to experts who use knives in their everyday work: Jansen Chan, director of pastry operations at International Culinary Center, and Brendan McDermott, knife maker and chef instructor at Kendall College. These two culinary professionals have different uses for a serrated knife. Chan, a pastry chef, needs a sharp-toothed knife to saw through bread crust and expertly slice the domes from cake layers. McDermott is a savory chef, so he needs a good serrated knife for tomatoes and other tough-skinned fruits and vegetables.
You’ll find serrated knives in three styles:
Flat: The classic and most common style of serrated knife, this flat-blade knife can be found in most knife block sets. Though it’s fine for slicing bread, the lack of knuckle clearance makes this style of serrated knife a unitasker.
Curved: This style of serrated knife is great for bread. A curved blade gives the user the ability to use a rocking motion when cutting fruits and vegetables, and also offers better knuckle clearance than a flat knife. We find this style to be the most versatile.
Offset: The blade of the knife extends 1 to 2 inches below the handle, which gives the user plenty of knuckle clearance. Offset knives have blades measuring 6 to 9 inches long, too short to cut through a large loaf of bread. The offset shape can also make it difficult to maintain control while slicing.
You’ll find serrations in two styles:
Pointed: This type of serration is the most common. The pointed “teeth” grab onto hard bread crust quickly to saw through it with ease. Sharp, pointed serrations are also good for piercing tough-skinned fruits and vegetables like tomatoes and eggplants, and more hearty fruits like pineapples and melons.
Scalloped: These half-moon-shape serrations smoothly slice through meat and soft fruits and vegetables. A scalloped-edge serrated knife could easily take the place of a straight-edged meat slicer. For bread, however, the smoother serrations don’t offer the same grip for crustier loaves as a traditional pointed serrated knife.
In our opinion, a great serrated knife needs to have a thin blade, serrations that are just the right size, a curved edge, a length of about 10 inches, and a comfortable handle. These characteristics make it possible to saw through thick crusty bread, slice tender fruits and vegetables with ease, effortlessly halve towering sandwiches and burgers, and sometimes carve up a rotisserie chicken or large roast in a pinch. Thankfully, a serrated knife doesn’t need to be expensive or heavy. In fact, our favorite knife sailed through all these tasks and was cheap, light, and thin.
The most important requirement for a serrated knife is the ability to cut through bread evenly and cleanly. From our research and testing, we found that serrated knives with thinner blades slice straighter than those with thicker blades, which have a tendency to veer off to one side, resulting in uneven slices. When thinly slicing bread of any type, from supple brioche to rustic sourdough, you want those slices even and the crust and crumb intact.
The size and shape of the knife’s serrations have a lot of influence on control and crust preservation. A good bread knife needs to be able to immediately grab onto the crust and saw through it smoothly, keeping the crust intact when making thin slices. Many of the knives in our testing group made the crust flake off and scatter all over the counter.
The serrations need to be a moderate size to deliver effective slicing while maintaining the integrity of the food. If the serrations are too pronounced, you get more of a hacking than a sawing, and the knife doesn’t have very good control. If the teeth are too shallow, the knife doesn’t grip the crust and takes a few strokes to break the surface. Also, knives with shallow serrations mean you have to put more muscle into cutting through a particularly large loaf of bread. Shallow serrations simply mean more work for you.
For bread, we prefer pointed serrations. The sharp points dig into the crust almost on contact. Jansen Chan at International Culinary Center told us, “Pointed [serrations] are a little better for really crusty bread. You want to preserve your crust, you don’t want to break and shatter it, you want to cleanly saw through it.” Scalloped-edge knives, which have rounded serrations, simply don’t dig into the crust as well.
The shape of the blade is very important for versatility. Straight serrated knives are very popular with many home cooks—that’s the kind you’ll see in many knife block sets. A curved blade offers knuckle clearance and the ability to slice with a rocking motion to quickly work through tomatoes, peaches, eggplants, and other tender-fleshed fruits and vegetables. We also looked at many offset serrated knives, but we found those offered less control.
Though the average serrated knife blade is about 8 to 9 inches, we found that length too limiting, especially if you’re going to have only one serrated knife in your kitchen. Ten inches is the sweet spot. That’s long enough to get through a sourdough boule, but not so long that cutting through a baguette feels ridiculous. A 10-inch knife can slice eggplants lengthwise, and halve unruly sandwiches with one back and forth motion. A versatile serrated knife can also work in a pinch for slicing up a loin roast or rotisserie chicken.
Finally, you want an ergonomic handle that’s comfortable to grip, especially if you’re sawing through a dense artisanal loaf of bread or slicing long baguettes into thin crostini.
To test, we bought bread from famed Brooklyn bakery Bien Cuit—known for baking loaves with exceptionally thick, dark crust. We cut breads of varying sizes, from large pan pugliese to skinny ficelle. We used the knives on soft ripe tomatoes and raw dough to check for even slicing and snags. After roasting a beef eye round, we sliced it thinly (not the ideal tool for the job, but good in a pinch) and made triple-decker roast beef and tomato sandwiches, which we then quartered with our favorite knives.
The Victorinox Fibrox Pro 10.25-Inch Serrated Curved Bread Knife is the best serrated knife because it has the ideal medium-size pointed serrations, a thin blade, and a perfect length of 10 inches. It’s also a terrific value. Also, its comfortable ergonomic handle makes long prepping tasks easier. It saws through tough loaves of bread with clean precision and leaves the crust and crumb intact no matter how thin the slices. The thin curved blade is ideal for a wide range of tasks—not just breads and pastries—including soft fruits and vegetables. This knife smoked the competition in our tests by consistently making perfect slices of bread and tomatoes. Other knives, particularly the offset models, sliced unevenly and offered less control. Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required) labeled the Victorinox “highly recommended” and named the knife its best buy.
The one test that compared the knives the best was slicing bread. The Victorinox made the thinnest, most-even slices of the knives in its class, and even outperformed the more-expensive scalloped-edge knives. The difference was in the serrations. The teeth of the Victorinox were pronounced and sharp enough to grab the crust upon contact and maintain control throughout slicing. The thinness of the blade not only gave us more control, but makes the knife pleasantly lightweight at just over 5 ounces.
Because serrated knives aren’t just for bread, we wanted a knife with a curved belly and a generous length. This makes jobs like cutting tomatoes and other soft-fleshed plant-based matter with tough skin much easier, because you can use a rocking motion. The extended heel offers exceptional knuckle clearance you won’t find with a straight serrated knife. In our testing, we found 10 inches to be a good length for most jobs, especially if you have only one serrated knife in your kitchen. A longer blade length can break down a pineapple and halve a (seedless) watermelon as easily as it can slice up a baguette. The Victorinox’s Fibrox handle is molded to be comfortable in the hand, and its textured plastic provides a sturdy grip.
The only flaw we can see with the Victorinox is looks. It’s not the classiest-looking knife, but we prefer function over form.
The Mercer Millennia 10-inch Bread Knife – Wide performs almost as well as our top pick, but at half the price. Its blade is thicker and the serrations are a bit larger, which results in a little less control and slightly thicker cuts. If precision isn’t your main concern and you’re focused on value, you can’t go wrong with this (currently) $23 knife. Its edge is curved—just like that of our top pick—and the knife boasts a comfortable handle.
When slicing bread, the Mercer didn’t keep the crust as perfect as the Victorinox did; there was some shattering in spots, but nothing too bad. The Mercer’s bread and tomato slices were a hair thicker, and roast beef slices showed significant teeth marks. However, sandwiches and raw cinnamon rolls sliced with ease.
The Tojiro ITK Bread Knife has a smooth scalloped edge, comfortable ergonomic pakkawood handle, and a reasonable price tag. What makes the Tojiro special is that it doubles as a meat slicer. It slices through roast beef like butter—as opposed to the Victorinox, which saws through meat, leaving pronounced wavy marks behind. The least-expensive knife in its class, the Tojiro performed just as well as knives that cost up to twice as much. It’s just as comfortable, well balanced, and attractive as the $120 Wüsthof Classic Super Slicer, and it’s almost identical to the $80 MAC Superior Bread Knife. With proper upkeep, this knife will give you many years of service.
The thing the Tojiro’s scalloped edge isn’t best for, however, is slicing hard, crusty bread. Because it doesn’t have pointed teeth, you’ll need to make a few slicing motions to penetrate the crust. But once the knife gets going, it makes clean slices with minimal crust loss. Softer breads shouldn’t pose the same problem. And even though we prefer pointed serrations (like the ones on the Victorinox) for crusty bread, the scalloped edge on the Tojiro sliced smoothly through tomatoes and roast beef.
There is some talk in knife forums about being able to hone the Tojiro’s edge with a ceramic honing rod. I don’t know about that yet because the knife is brand-new. I’ll try this if the edge gets dull during the course of long-term testing and report my findings here.
Serrated knives aren’t as sensitive to abuse as chef’s knives, but you still want to treat them with basic care. Hand wash all your kitchen knives; never put them in the dishwasher. Dry them with a kitchen towel. Don’t put any sharp knives in a drawer, as this will dull the edges. We like wall-mounted magnetic knife strips, but if you must store your knives in a drawer, protect the edge with a cheap edge guard.
Sharpening serrated knives is a tricky topic. We feel a serrated knife used in a home will not need to be sharpened if it gets moderate use and is well cared for. If a $40 knife goes dull after 10 years of service, simply buy a new one. Otherwise, the best way to sharpen a serrated knife is to send it to a professional knife sharpener.
If you insist on maintaining the edge yourself, take a look at our home knife sharpeners guide; there you will find a couple of models that will hone the edge (meaning it will gently buff away any burrs but won’t actually grind away metal) on the finest grit setting. Another option for home knife enthusiasts is the Spyderco Triangle Sharpmaker, which allows you to sharpen each individual serration, one at a time, on ceramic rods. If that sounds time-consuming—it is! That’s why we prefer the replacement or professional-sharpening options.
The Wüsthof Pro 10-inch Bread Knife looks strikingly similar to our top picks, but its edge destroyed crust, spraying it everywhere, and it couldn’t cut completely through tomatoes.
The serrations on the Messermeister Four Seasons 10-Inch Scalloped Bread Knife are too shallow and required more muscle to get through large rustic bread.
The F. Dick Superior 10-Inch Bread Knife is popular among culinary professionals, but it was simply “meh” in our tests. We experienced moderate crust shattering and it left tomato slices connected.
The Wüsthof Classic Super Slicer is an expensive knife with a great weight to it. Its scalloped edge provided smooth action, but was weak on crusty bread. It performed almost exactly the same as our upgrade pick, the Tojiro ITK, but costs more than twice its price.
Ditto for the MAC Superior Bread Knife—same action and edge as Tojiro for 50 percent more money.
The Wüsthof Classic 8-Inch Offset Deli Knife really surprised us by how well it performed, but 8 inches is too short to be all-purpose. For a scalloped-edge knife, it dug into a baguette very well and aced other small tasks.
The Victorinox 9-Inch Serrated Offset had the same medium-size pointed serrations as our top pick, but the offset shape offered less control and the shorter length couldn’t cut a rustic loaf in half.
The Dexter-Russell V-Lo Offset 9-Inch is a common knife you’ll see in delis and bodegas for slicing sandwiches in half. Though this knife executed that task easily, it made uneven tomato and bread slices.
The Messermeister Park Plaza 8-Inch Scalloped Offset was simply too short to cut through a loaf of bread.
Like its sister knife (the Park Plaza) the Messermeister Meridian Elité 8-Inch Scalloped Offset was too short to be versatile. We did appreciate its weight and balance, though.
(Photos by Michael Hession.)
Originally published: May 24, 2016