How To Slice Bread
A Reassuring Guide For The Compleat Klutz
While we were running our big bakery, we had a huge bread slicer that did a fantastic job of quickly slicing bread. And it always amazed me that people wanted artisanal breads, but usually wanted them sliced. When we down sized the bakery, I was very concerned about getting rid of the slicer. Would people buy unsliced bread from us? As Steven Wright asks, "What was the best thing BEFORE sliced bread?"
When we started selling unsliced bread we met with some resistance. So, we started selling bread knives. (We should start doing that again.) And we still met with a bit of resistance. Some people are just afraid to slice bread. So, I've prepared this page, with its three videos, on slicing bread.
Sadly, the bread had been sitting on a counter a day or three too long, so it was a little harder to slice these loaves than it would have been to slice really fresh bread.
The basic ideas behind slicing bread are pretty simple.
- If the bread is too warm, it will be very fragile, so let it cool a bit.
- A serrated knife works best. You can get a decent bread knife at most grocery stores for under $10. Oddly enough, they are usually mislabeled as "ham slicers".
- Work at a comfortable height.
- Focus on where you want the knife to go more than where it is.
- Let the blade do the work, don't force the knife through the bread.
- Hold the bread with one hand to keep it from moving.
- Use a finger to mark where you want to start the cut.
- Practice, practice, practice! (Let me know if you put on a bread slicing show at Carnegie Hall.)
Slicing a boule, or round loaf, is very much like slicing a sandwich loaf. While quite often it is very satisfying to rip pieces off a boule and dip them in oil, other times it is more convenient to have slices you can make sandwiches with.
The idea is to turn the boule into something manageable so you can get consistent slices. I cut it in half, and then cut one of the halves in half. Then I slice off the tall part of the quarters. Slices that came from adjacent parts of load will fit together and make great sandwiches or grilled cheese sandwiches.
So, here's some tips for slicing a boule:
- Start with a sharp knife
- Do as I didn't in this video - use a finger to mark where you want to slice (those slices are way too thick!)
- Don't force the knife through the loaf, let the blade do the work. Pushing a blade not only messes up whatever you are cutting, it leads to knife accidents!
- Most of all, enjoy your bread!
Once I thought I was done with topic, I stumbled across a post at The Fresh Loaf by "gaarp" that redefined how I slice bread. (Just scroll down until you get to his post.) Maybe I should put this information at the top of the page and just drop the rest - it's that good! But, I have a fondness for people who read. So, it will stay at the bottom of the page as a reward for your reading persistence! Gaarp got this technique from the Great Harvest bread company. Instead of cutting straight across the loaf, this cuts in a bias, which gives longer slices and more consistent slices. I really, really like the technique and hope you will too! Thanks gaarp!
- To do this, slice a bit off the end of the loaf.
- Then slice off another chunk about the same size an an angle to the first cut. This should put a "V" at one edge of the bread.
- Now alternate slicing off one side or the other.
You'll get pretty consistent bread slices until the end of the loaf. It's called a herringbone technique because if you imagine the lines the slicing makes on the loaf, it is similar to a herringbone stitch, or maybe even the bones of a herring. Try it, you'll like it!