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I know the answer is "it's for cutting bread" but what I really want to know is when does its uniqueness actually help?

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What I've noticed is that it's sooooooooo much easier to use the santoku knives to cut breads with a harder crust like french bread or sourdough or a batard. They require no pressure, they easily cut all the way through, and they don't make a giant mess of crumbs. Where as when I try using the bread knife, since what I'm cutting is bread, it requires much more effort to cut, there is always a big pile of crumbs and the last cut, the cut needed to separate the slice from the rest of the bread is always very difficult without feeling like I'm going to accidentally saw the cutting board instead of the bread.

Am I doing it wrong or is the bread knife really not designed for hard breads but maybe only soft breads (the kinds that are usually bought already sliced?)

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    yes for hard crust breads should be employed a bread knife – Michael Ben David Oct 28 at 6:31
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    Why? You seemed to have ignored my experience which is that a normal santoku cuts hard bread much better and easier than a bread knife. Do you have a different experience or are you just fixed on the word "bread" without actually trying another knife? – gman Oct 28 at 7:53
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    I suspect that it's specifically your santoku that cuts bread well -- because of how it's sharpened. Many people don't keep their knives all that sharp (I've had a few people scared to use my knives ... and a couple injure themselves on them) and so keeping a large serrated knife (ie, bread knife) works better than their not-so-sharp knives – Joe Oct 28 at 13:15
  • i keep my knives with an unnecessarily razor sharp lol...and sharped with a single wetstone and along with the bottom of a plate lol... and guess what... its a 1 $ knife lol...yeah also depends of course on how sharp the knife is it, and how softer (fresh baked) or dry the bread is...@gman no i am not ignoring your experience tho. – Michael Ben David Oct 29 at 6:33
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The "problem" with using your Santoku knives is that they dull fast when you use them on bread.

If you keep your knives well sharpened, you can do without the bread-knife.

Other uses for bread-knives, is cutting tomatoes, for instance. Another thing you can use a well sharpened Santoku knife for.

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I agree with BaffledCook, as well as a comment Joe made: most people don't keep their knives sharp. A dull straight-edged knife can be dangerous when trying to cut into a hard crusty bread loaf: it will require a lot of force and can easily slide off the domed surface of many breads. (I also don't necessarily want to use some of my more fragile sharp edges on very hard crusts, where I could easily chip or bend the straight edge of the knife.)

A serrated blade can more easily "dig in" to the hard crust of bread. But perhaps even more importantly, if you reach a soft interior, a dull straight-edged knife will simply squash your bread rather than cutting through. (I've been at many people's houses who have dull knives, and cutting bread is a nightmare unless they have a serrated knife.)

I do keep my (straight-edged) knives very sharp. But I have to say that I appreciate a bread knife most when trying to make many even slices of very soft enriched breads, particularly when the loaf is very large and tall. Yes, one can do it with a very sharp straight-edged blade, but the long sawing motion seems easier to guide to me. (It does generate more crumbs, though.) Perhaps I'm just used to it. Or perhaps I've just encountered far too many dull knives at other people's houses who ended up squashing loaves of bread as they cut. You really do need an exceptionally sharp knife to cut through soft bread without potentially squashing the loaf a bit.

Lastly, I'd say the place where bread knives are essential is in cutting hot bread. Every bread baker knows you're not supposed to cut bread right out of the oven, but every person who loves to eat bread usually wants it immediately. When you cut bread that hasn't "set" inside, it tends to leave a gummy residue on your knife as you cut. With a straight-edge blade, this can quickly become a disaster, as your fine edge gets gummed up with residue from the bread and no longer performs as well. The serrations on a bread knife, however, will keep the knife going even through very fresh bread. (On the other hand, hot bread tears easily, so you have the risk of tearing with serrations vs. the risk of squashing the bread with a straight edge. I tend to be more in favor of not squashing bread.)

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For slicing real bread, a serrated blade is the tool of choice. Other blades such as a straight-edged knife will tend to squash the bread down. The name of the knife does not matter, but a good 'bread knife' will have serrations which are optimally designed for slicing real bread.

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