Bread

A Better Way to Slice Bread (Warning: It's Weird!)

August 23, 2017

This probably looks very strange to you:

Are you confused? Photo by Emily Dryden

But hear me out! Though it seems counterintuitive (and, as my boyfriend said, "just plain wrong"), I believe that turning a loaf of bread on its side is, in many instances, the easiest way to get thin, even slices without squashing the pieces, struggling against an impenetrable crust, or tiring out your wrist if you're cutting for a party spread or a crowd's heap of grilled cheeses.

Yes, it takes a bit more coordination and care: Rather than resting the flat, stable side against the cutting board, you'll have to hold the bread in place with the hand that isn't knife-wielding. But it's not as scary as it looks, and I've seen the technique at bakeries, in the latest issue of King Arthur Flour's Sift Magazine, and on the cutting board of Kristen Miglore.

At the restaurant where I work a couple days of the week, I slice two-foot-long loaves of gluten-free bread into 1/2-inch-thick slices. The best way to get consistent slices and preserve the shape of the loaf, which has a tendency to crumble, is to turn the bread on its side, score it using a ruler, and then slice away—clean motions, just a few back-and-forth saws, and as little downward pressure as possible.

This is the expected way to cut bread—BORING! Photo by Eva Kolenko

This unorthodox cutting technique is, in my mind, most important for two major types of bread:

  1. Airy, delicate, and/or filled loaves (like a chocolate swirl brioche or rhubarb swirl bread)—these are susceptible to squashing
  2. Tough, crusty bread, where it would take a lot of pressure to penetrate the top layer (again, a risk of smashing!), and you might have difficulty detaching the bottom crust without sawing through your cutting board

For the delicate loaves, you'll get less wear and tear. Since loaves of bread are typically shorter than they are wide, by turning the loaf on its side, you'll have less distance to cover with the sawing motion. That means you'll preserve the integrity of your bread's crumb structure. (Too much sawing can mar your slices.)

For the crustier loaves, you'll be able to penetrate both of the toughest parts of the bread—the upper and bottom crusts—right from the start. That makes it easier to get thin slices, and it means you won't struggle with detaching the sometimes-tough bottom.

Also the normal way to slice bread—YAWN! Photo by James Ransom

And, if you're in the market for perfectly precise and pristine slices, there are camps of people who swear by electric serrated knives and a bread slicing guide.

But first, give turning your loaf a try—then report back!


Bread Head

Are we crazy? Be gentle in the comments below.

53 Comments

LynnFisher July 1, 2018
Wow y'all are making the bread slicing process way harder than it needs to be! Leave the science and "techniques" to the baking process lol. No matter what kind of bread or knife you have, all you need is a bread slicer to keep the loaf steady and make perfectly even slices of all sizes. Every loaf of homemade bread I bake gets cooled while I unfold my Bread Pal, place it on the counter, and then slice away for sandwiches, thick toasts, everything even every time - and no squishing at all! I think you can get one directly from their site at https://www.BreadPal.net
 
JS October 15, 2017
Have been doing this lately: Start with Side 1 facing up. Make one clean, thin slice into the bread about 2 inches deep. Rotate loaf so bottom is facing up. Start with the knife in the corner notch of the previous cut. Make one clean, thin slice across to the opposite corner about 2 inches deep. Rotate so the uncut side faces up. Repeat. Rotate so the top faces up. Put knife in corner notch from previous slice. Make one clean, thin slice across and connect with the first slice you made. Now your loaf has a thin, even slice started all the way around the loaf. I drape my left hand over the top of the loaf and hang it over the first slice that will be released so it doesn't flop over and break off as it is cut from the loaf. (Right hand does the slicing.) One clean swipe down cuts through the center of the loaf and releases the slice. I am able to make much thinner and more uniform slices than I could before. I also use a very sharp sushi knife to cut these thin slices on some loaves of bread rather than sawing on them with a bread knife.
 
JS October 15, 2017
Have been doing this lately: Start with Side 1 facing up. Make one clean, thin slice into the bread about 2 inches deep. Rotate loaf so bottom is facing up. Start with the knife in the corner notch of the previous cut. Make one clean, thin slice across to the opposite corner about 2 inches deep. Rotate so the uncut side faces up. Repeat. Rotate so the top faces up. Put knife in corner notch from previous slice. Make one clean, thin slice across and connect with the first slice you made. Now your loaf has a thin, even slice started all the way around the loaf. I drape my left hand over the top of the loaf and hang it over the first slice that will be released so it doesn't flop over and break off as it is cut from the loaf. (Right hand does the slicing.) One clean swipe down cuts through the center of the loaf and releases the slice. I am able to make much thinner and more uniform slices than I could before. I also use a very sharp sushi knife to cut these thin slices on some loaves of bread rather than sawing on them with a bread knife.
 
Francisca A. September 5, 2017
Hi! I've been doing this for a while now. I thought it was a matter of doing it the easier way with some kinds of bread. Anyway, I think it is great that Sarah shared it for someone who didn't know about it! Thanks!
 
Margaret September 4, 2017
Maybe it's time to close this thread. So many smug, condescending comments are ruining the bread!
 
Robert A. September 4, 2017
Millennials must be the most disconnected generation. They have no idea what came before them, so they think they invented everything.
 
david September 2, 2017
I have been cutting my bread like that for over 60 years. I learned this from my grandparents. If you go to a bakery that still has bread cutting machine, they insert bread from the side.
 
Jackie S. September 2, 2017
More intuitive than counter-intuitive I'd say. Been cutting bread loaves this way for a long time now because it just seemed the easiest way, except for baguettes which are easier to cut "right side" up.
 
Dolores R. September 1, 2017
This is a practice I have been doing for years I'm glad you are getting the tip out.....
 
Margaret September 1, 2017
WHOA,,,,.I'm a boomer and just began baking bread so I would know exactly what was in it. You don't have to sit around all day to bake bread, just in the evening when you're at home anyway. You make the time to do what you really want to do.
 
Sarah September 1, 2017
I've never heard of this! Thanks for the tip. For us millennials this is new and not old news like the boomers who apparently had time to sit around and bake homemade bread all day. Cheers!
 
petalpusher September 1, 2017
Apparently passion aggression is ageless.
 
Dannielle September 1, 2017
Hilarious! I'm going to be 49 this week-what am I again?? I realised if I have time to read a comment thread on a food website, I have time to bake a loaf of f'n bread. People will fight about anything!
 
petalpusher September 1, 2017
Some days are better than others, but this site is about sharing information, not condoning divisive comments. Young or old, we're all in this together.
 
Dannielle September 1, 2017
agreed!
 
Judith P. September 1, 2017
As in sitting around all day before working an eight-hour day that is followed by coming home to make dinner for the family, or sitting around all day with time on my hands after making dinner after work? I would love to fill the house with the aroma of fresh-baked bread, bread that I had the upper body strength to knead myself! There's yeast in the fridge. Perhaps once the heat-wave passes. A nice honey-curry challah. <br />
 
icharmeat August 31, 2017
HA! I have been trying to get the family to do this years now. I've demonstrated a number of times, truing up the curvy loaf face that our bread always ends up with. No luck. You can lead a horse to water...
 
Beverly W. August 31, 2017
I discovered this method many years ago when I first started baking bread. I didn't have a bread knife....after I finally purchased one, I found slicing from the side was still the best method.
 
Cuocopazzo August 31, 2017
Nothing new in my world. I watched my parents do it, especially when the loaf is still warm from the oven. Key is a super sharp serrated knife. And remember to slice only what you will use. The remainder will stay soft and fresh longer.
 
nelly August 31, 2017
You are a true certified genius. I would never have thought of this otherwise.
 
Adrienne August 31, 2017
Yep, always cut it this way. 50-something years of practice, too!
 
Pamela_in_Tokyo August 31, 2017
This is a great idea! I know from the comments below that a lot of people think it is common sense and are laughing at us know-nothings!! I guess I don't buy whole loaves all that often. I'm going to try it. ..... if I get a whole loaf. I can get them cut at the bread shop, which I usually do.....
 
Mickey August 31, 2017
I also slice the wide homemade breads on its side and have done so for many years. When slicing on its side I can see the top and bottom of the loaf for an even slice. It seems the natural way to slice wide breads without a slicing guide. <br /><br />I bought the latest issue of "Sift" magazine two days ago at Costco. <br />Are we looking at page 45. An excellent magazine.
 
Chuck August 31, 2017
As most people have already commented, I have sliced bread this way for as long as I can remember. What is so weird about it ? What's next, cooking pasta al dente???
 
AnneB August 31, 2017
This isn't new to me--I've been turning my loaves sideways for a long time. I never gave it second thought!