If you buy only pre-sliced bread, you need a safety check on your tastebuds. But you don't need a bread knife, one of the three indispensable members in the kitchen-knife team. I guess that's some consolation.

If you buy only pre-sliced bread, you need a safety check on your tastebuds. But you don't need a bread knife, one of the three indispensable members in the kitchen-knife team. I guess that's some consolation.

All bread has a crust, and an interior crumb, which cannot be negotiated easily by an ordinary straight-edge kitchen knife. The crust is difficult because the blade can penetrate only with extra pressure which makes the whole loaf deform. When you get to the crumb, straight blades compress the soft interior rather than slicing cleanly.

That's why you need a scalloped edge. Not a fine serration, like those on some lower-priced kitchen knives, but long, shallow arcs. The peaks penetrate, the trough does the serious cutting. While I don't know enough physics to explain it in numbers, it's easy to see why scallops work better than a straight edge.

Which knife to buy, then? The news is all good. Pricey versions from great European or Japanese manufacturers are not necessary, and a good bread knife can be bought for £10-15. I still use one given to me 20 years ago. Sharpening's tricky with a conventional steel, easy with any double-steel sharpener on the market.

A splendid ergonomic knife made by Good Grips, has a handle that curves at an angle from the blade, so you hold it like a carpenter's saw. Some people love this, others prefer a knife in which the handle extends straight from the blade. But you can't slice bread without that scalloped edge, the greatest thing since... well, I'll let you finish that sentence.

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