How To Maintain a Bread Knife For Best Shelf Life

Posted by Steven Tuckey on

From the morning toast to the night-time dessert, the bread knife keeps you company as you slice your favourite delicacy. Even though its serrated blades look frightening, it’s one of the safest pieces of cutlery in any kitchen.

 

However, it is best to follow a simple maintenance schedule to make the most of your bread knife. Unfortunately, that is a rare phenomenon nowadays, as most people find it way too convenient to leave them on the cutting board or the side of the sink. Throughout this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know on how to maintain a bread knife for best shelf life.

Common Wears with a Bread Knife

Your bread knife undergoes several types of wear depending on how often you use it and what you cut with it. Some of the most prominent causes include:

Dull Blade

Even with a serrated variant, the blade on a bread knife starts going dull over a span of a few months. No matter how softly you cut, the edge flattens and loses effectiveness, especially when you’re not fond of soft cutting boards. You can still obtain slices from bread and cake, but those won’t have a well-defined shape without a sharp bread knife. Most bread knives are dull due to the softness of the steel, but the serrated cutting edge usually disguises just how blunt your knife is. This means most of the time you won't notice as your knife becomes dull, only when it no longer cuts bread do you worry about it.

Rust

Any metal object in your kitchen is subject to rust, given enough time. Bread knives are no different. Manufacturers advertise stainless steel versions as completely rust resistant, but even those can get a nasty patch if you’re not careful. The issue can be exacerbated if you keep your bread knife close to moisture-rich areas like the sink or an open vessel containing water. Although rust can bloom on the surface of the knife, it is only detrimental to the performance of the knife if you allow the rust to develop further.

Bends and Chips

You should note that bread knives have an average width of 1.25 inches (3.17 cm), but the blades on a few serrated variants are as long as 7 inches (17.78 cm). That stark contrast makes bread knives susceptible to bending. The risk is higher when you let the blade go dull as you have to use more force to cut, eventually ruining the shape of the blade.

A bread knife can undergo chipping if you use it to cut frozen foods too frequently. Cheese and crusty bread are a couple of popular contributors. Hard pieces within the food can rub against the surface, causing damage to the knife. Although since most bread knives are made from soft metal, they are less at risk of breakage.

Using a sharp bread knife with correct technique will ensure the knife performs as intended.

Tools You Need to Maintain a Bread Knife

While cutting techniques and regular washing is crucial, it is a great idea to stock up on a few items that assist in maximising your bread knife’s shelf life. You need not have them all at once, but they prove valuable in maintaining other cutlery in your kitchen as well.

Sharpening Stone/File

A good whetstone is a must-have if you make use of anything sharp. No matter how sharp the blade is, it will eventually run dull. Grinding for a few minutes against a whetstone brings back its former magic. It is essential for maintaining your bread knife, as you’ll use it almost daily. Whetstones are great for correcting the burr on the reverse side of the serrations (the flat side of the blade), for the individual teeth on a serrated knife, we suggest a rounded file. You can pick these up at hardware stores or wood-working shops in a range of sizes and shapes. Select files with fine grit and suitable for steel, making sure to match the width and curvature of the file to your serrations. Most files come in sets, so pick the set with the best range of fine grits and shapes.

Ceramic Rod

If you’re concerned with cutting your fingers when sharpening a knife, then a ceramic rod might come in handy. It puts some distance between the knife’s edge and your hand, which is useful when you are an amateur learning the basics of cooking. Running the rod along each individual serration will give your bread knife a quick tune-up allowing you to get back to your breakfast faster.

Soft Cutting Board

A soft cutting board ensures that your bread knife has the ideal surface to land as it cuts through the savoury slices of red velvet cake. If you use a serrated knife, it keeps the pointed edges from flattening out, reducing the need for sharpeners. Steer clear of Bamboo, glass or marble, instead selecting food safe plastic boards, or end grain wood will improve the life of your knives.

Leather Sheath (For Travelling)

When going on an excursion with your family and friends, it is wise to bring your cutlery along. For that, you need a carry mechanism that protects your bread knife from external elements. A leather sheath is a valuable tool you can utilise for the same. If you have plenty of space and wish to splurge a bit, you can use a wooden case or knife roll. A simple plastic sheath or the box the knife came in is a cost effective substitute that will keep the knife (and more importantly your hands) safe.

Sharpening Your Bread Knife

Bread knives usually go dull at a far slower pace than other cutlery like fillet or slicing knives. As such, it becomes vital to note when you’re applying too much force when cutting. Your bread knife requires sharpening every two months if you use it regularly.

Washing and Oiling Your Bread Knife

If you want to extend your bread knife's shelf life, washing and oiling it after extensive use is best. Do it by hand using hot water and soap, as a dishwasher can cause the knife to bend or chip, flex, swell and dull.

Once you wash the bread knife, dry it with a soft cloth and apply a touch of mineral oil before storing it away. It prevents corrosion or any other reactions that may come about in the stainless steel within the blade. Any neutral cooking oil will also work like vegetable oil or canola.

This will prevent food build-up on your knife, and decrease the likelihood of it developing rust.

Storing Your Bread Knife

The appropriate storage is essential to maximise the life cycle of your bread knife. Cleaning and oiling your bread knife is of no use if you leave it to gather rust and dirt in the open. Thankfully, you don’t need a vacuum-sealed box, either.

The most convenient way to store your bread knife is to keep it in a wooden slot that you may already use for most other knives in your kitchen. It absorbs any moisture left over from the wash and provides a quick way to draw your bread knife from when required.

For best results, we suggest magnetic knife racks. They keep your knives exactly where you need them, can be safely kept away from small hands and most importantly, provide air flow around your knife (reducing corrosion).

Conclusion

And that's all you require to keep your bread knife in top shape. It is not as challenging once you get into a routine or become more aware of any damage to your cutlery. What are your thoughts on taking care of specialised knives in your kitchen? Let us know in the comments below.

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