Learning to bake the perfect loaf of bread can take some time, just as learning any new skill does, and now that you’ve gotten your bread machine baking mastered, there’s another skill you’ll soon have to learn: how to cut those homemade loaves.
It sounds easy, doesn’t it? Just slice the bread – baking it was the hard part, right? You grab the closest knife and dig in, but your pretty loaf smushes and your slices are oddly misshapen.
Wondering how to cut homemade bread to get the fluffiest slices?
Operating your bread maker may be easy – just pop in the ingredients and set it to bake – but sometimes the most difficult part of the task is slicing your bread. Is there a special technique? Do I need proper tools? And when can I slice the darn thing?
We’ll answer all these questions and more below.
How To Slice Homemade Bread
Slicing homemade bread looks easy when you’re watching professional bakers, but for a beginner, this can be a difficult task. The bread can squish, tear, and slices can vary in thickness from one to another. So what’s the trick? How do the pros slice their bread?
It all begins with the correct tools.
Tools For Cutting Homemade Bread
There really is no way you’ll ever get perfectly sliced bread without the correct tools. The number one thing you need? A properly serrated bread knife. A bread knife should be serrated and long, somewhat like a tree saw. The serration is necessary to saw through the bread without squashing it.
Invest in a decent bread knife if you haven’t already – good knives have the blade run all the way through the handle. Lesser quality knives will have shorter blades that only reach partially into the handle. These knives aren’t as sturdy and really can affect how bread is sliced.
If using an older knife, check to make sure the blade isn’t dull. If it is, this will affect the result and you’ll want to sharpen your bread knife first. What’s a sign your bread knife might need sharpening? A dull bread knife may leave crumbs behind on the cutting board when slicing bread because it is not slicing cleanly through the loaf.
The only other tool you really need is a cutting board. Slicing on any other surface can damage your knives, not to mention whatever surface you’re slicing on.
A homemade bread slicer is another helpful tool as some people find they help them to cut more even slices. Many of these have removable trays and crumb catchers. Opt for a wooden one for the best results.
How To Cut Fresh Bread Without Squashing It
Once you’ve acquired the right tools, it’s time to move on to technique. And the technique is everything when it comes to slicing your prized homemade loaves without squashing, smushing, or crushing those precious slices.
When most people approach slicing their homemade bread, be it oven-baked or bread machine-born, they do two things wrong: they push down with the knife and they try to cut rather than saw.
Saw rather than slice
Think of your bread knife as a saw – literally! You should actually be sawing your bread rather than slicing it. Imagine your bread as a fallen tree and your knife as a long tree saw. This is the motion you’ll want to apply.
Score the top of the bread where you want to cut your slice by running the blade across the top of your crust. Next, saw that line by moving the knife in long sweeping motions back and forth while holding the loaf lightly with your other hand. Use the entire length of the knife when sawing – it’s long for a reason!
Don’t press down
While you’re giving that bread nice, long, sweeping sawing motions, be sure to remember – don’t push down!
The weight of the knife should be enough to slice your bread without you needing to push down on the loaf. Applying too much pressure will squash the bread. Just trust the motion to do the work.
To see this method in practice, check out this youtube video!
Try turning the loaf upside down
Why does this help? Turning the bread upside down lets you slice through the firmer heel of the bread first, allowing you to slice through the rest of the loaf easier and better maintain the shape of the bread.
For other breads with crustier tops like baguettes, tilting the loaf on its side for cutting can be more effective. And if your loaves are wider than they are tall, turning them on their side will also lessen the distance lengthwise that you’ll have to pass through with that sawing technique, helping to keep a good crumb structure. Go on – try it!
When To Slice Bread Machine Bread
Another question you may be pondering is when you should slice your bread machine bread to get the best slices. Are loaves easier to slice at a certain point? Yes – yes, they are!
Besides the danger of handling a hot, soft loaf for slicing, slicing a loaf too soon can affect the texture, making it gummier, stickier, and subsequently more difficult to slice.
You see, as your bread cools the starch molecules are actually still shifting as starch retrogradation is occurring. Cutting before this process is complete will leave you with doughier bread instead of those desirable airier and firmer slices that are easier to cut.
When exactly to slice bread depends on the size and type of bread you’re making. Food 52 says cooling times can take anywhere from 30 minutes for dinner rolls to 8 hours for giant boules. But a general rule is to wait at least an hour, preferably two, before slicing most loaves.
For sourdough, some wait longer – about 4 to 8 hours. For rolls and baguettes, 30 minutes should do the trick. Cutting bread too soon also allows steam to escape and bread to stale quicker. So hold off on sawing into that carby wonder – the taste and texture will be worth the wait, and the slicing will be easier.
How To Cut Bread Machine Bread: Quick Summary
So what’s the rundown? Here’s a quick list of the top tips for slicing bread machine bread perfectly every time.
Tips For Slicing Homemade Bread
- Use a good quality serrated knife: you will not be able to slice bread without a serrated blade – you can try, but the end result will hardly resemble a slice of bread. Serrated knives are necessary to cut bread smoothly and cleanly without smashing the texture.
- Score the bread: run your knife along the top of the bread where you want to slice it. Some people find this helpful – feel free to skip this if you find it unnecessary or are using a homemade bread slicer.
- Saw, don’t cut: when we pick up knives, often the instinct is to cut, but with bread, you really want to use a sawing motion.
- Use the entire length of the knife: your bread knife is long for a reason – you’re meant to use the whole blade in long back-and-forth motions. Short sawing motions will only squish the bread. Use a longer, sweeping motion instead.
- Don’t press down: another instinct when handling knives is to apply downward pressure. This isn’t necessary for bread and will quickly crush the loaf. Allow the sawing motion to do all the work – resist the urge to push down.
- Try turning the loaf upside down or on its side: if these tricks aren’t working, try shifting the loaf on its side or turning it upside down. Slicing through the tougher bottom texture first can help some loaves. Give it a shot!
- Let the loaf cool: hot bread is still baking on the inside as the starch molecules continue to do their little dance of retrogradation. Cutting into bread before it’s cooled will leave you with a sticky, gummy texture that will be harder to cut. Wait at least 1 to 2 hours for that loaf to cool before slicing.
Cutting Homemade Bread Couldn’t Be Easier!
Well, that’s the long and short of it. Cutting homemade bread is a skill that takes a little practice, but is easily acquired. Just make sure you start with the correct tools, wait until your bread has adequately cooled, and follow these simple steps: score, saw, repeat! It’s really all in the motion and after a few loaves, you’ll have it down pat.
Do forget to get yourself a bread bin to keep your loaf fresh for longer!