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Pankiri Knife: The Best Japanese Knife for Slicing Bread and Pastries

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Finding the right knife for slicing bread and baked goods can be a daunting task.

Many knives will tear the food instead of making clean slices, leaving you with an unsatisfactory result and way too many crumbs.

Pankiri knives, however, are designed to make slicing bread easier without all the crumbs.

Pankiri Knife: The Best Japanese Knife for Slicing Bread and Pastries

The pankiri knife is a Japanese serrated knife that is specifically designed to cut through bread, pastries, and other baked goods. The serrations on the blade allow for a smooth, effortless slicing motion, making it ideal for cutting through delicate bread like fluffy bread.

This article explains what the pankiri is, how it’s used and why it’s an important knife in Japanese kitchens.

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What is a Pankiri knife?

A pankiri knife is a modern Japanese knife known as a bread slicer. It resembles the Western bread knife and has a serrated edge. 

The pankiri is Japan’s version of the bread knife.

It has a single-bevel serrated edge with a blade length between 240mm-360mm and a width between 1.8-3mm. 

Compared to a Western-style bread knife, the Japanese pankiri has a sharper pointed tip instead of a rounded tip.

A pankiri knife is used to slice bread, pastries, and other baked goods.

The knife has a long blade, which helps keep your hands and fingers away from the bread as you slice it. 

What makes the pankiri knife unique is that it usually has a Japanese-style Wa-handle, which gives it a more delicate look and feel.

The knife is also sharper than the average Western bread knife. 

To use the pankiri knife, hold it in your hand with the handle pointing towards your palm and the blade facing away from you.

Then, place the bread to be sliced on a cutting board and use a sawing motion to cut through it.

The Pankiri is a relatively new knife in Japan, yet it would undoubtedly resemble its bread knife equivalent in the west. 

The name Pankiri, which means “bread slicer,” immediately conveys its function and place of origin. 

The single-ground serrated cutting edge is used to slice bread and cakes without damaging the delicate internal structure or tearing the crust.

It’s also useful for slicing through hard crusts without ruining the baked good or bread.

Anything to do with flour, like bread and pastries, is called konamono (or “flour-things”) in Japan

Although there are many varieties, it is functionally identical to the western bread knife in that they both have thin blades, long serrated edges, and straight spines.

The pankiri is usually made from high-carbon steel and is known for its sharpness and durability. The handle can be made of resin, composite, wood, or horn. 

While the traditional Pankiri is a Japanese knife, there are several styles available from Japanese knife makers.

A straight-edged knife like the Pankiri is a great illustration of this. This knife isn’t strictly speaking a Pankiri, but it comes close enough to qualify as such. 

The straight edge cuts beautifully and it’s better suited for milky bread and other soft baked goods. 

What is a Pankiri knife used for?

  • Slicing fluffy bread
  • Slicing bread with a hard crust
  • Slicing baked goods
  • Slicing certain cakes

Bread and other baked foods are cut with special knives called pankiri.

The ridged teeth (serrations) were made for slicing and can cut through tough crusts and soft foods without damaging them.

The pankiri knife is most commonly used for slicing bread, but it can also be used to cut and slice cakes, pastries, and other fluffy baked goods.

Its superior sharpness and precise craftsmanship make it an ideal tool for these types of tasks, allowing you to easily cut into the dough without tearing it.

For example, you can cut slices of cake or other pastries with a pankiri knife and have them look as if they were crafted by a professional.

The ergonomic design of the handle also makes it comfortable to maneuver, reducing hand fatigue and providing better control over the slicing.

In addition to its primary purpose, the pankiri knife is also ideal for making decorative cuts in food and creating thin slices of vegetables and fruits. 

The serrated blade makes this knife suitable for slicing soft fruit and vegetables too and it’s actually more effective than it would appear. 

Also read: What is Tangzhong vs Yudane dough? Japanese bread-making methods

What are the features of the Pankiri knife?

The pankiri knife is designed with precision and craftsmanship to provide you with a reliable tool that will last for years of use.

Some key features of the pankiri knife include:

  • Razor-sharp edge to ensure effortless slicing
  • Serrated blade to make cutting through dough easier
  • Usually single-bevel
  • Blade length between 240mm-360mm
  • Ergonomic handle made from durable materials, making it comfortable and easy to maneuver
  • Sleek design that makes it eye-catching as well as efficient
  • Durable construction ensures that your investment will last you for years
  • Ideal tool for cutting and slicing cakes, pastries, and fluffy bread

Why is the Pankiri knife important?

First and foremost, the pankiri knife is a necessary tool for any baker or chef.

Its sharp edge allows for effortless slicing of bread and other baked goods without tearing them up.

Additionally, its ergonomic design makes it comfortable to use, reducing hand fatigue and helping you achieve perfect slices every time.

The pankiri knives are also used in bakeries to cut and slice cakes, pastries, and fluffy bread.

Finally, its durability ensures that your investment will last you for years to come, providing consistent service and reliable results.

The pankiri knife is an essential tool for any kitchen!

What is the history of the Pankiri knife?

The pankiri knife is a fairly recent invention in Japan.

The Japanese were not major consumers of bread, so a pankiri knife was never really necessary in the past.

These days there are many different types of bread in Japan, but that was not the case 70 years ago. 

Pankiri knives only became popular post World War II when Western influences made bread a more popular food in Japan. 

Pre-WWII, the pankiri or a similar serrated edge knife was used to cut and slice some baked goods and pastries, but this type of knife wasn’t very important and was not a part of most home kitchen knife collections. 

Japanese fluffy bread or milk bread is much softer than Western bread, like the baguette or sourdough loaf, so they didn’t need a very heavy-duty knife. 

But the Pankiri evolved into a serious bread knife with an ergonomic handle and hard steel blade that can handle any crust no matter how hard. 

Pankiri vs Western bread knife: what’s the difference?

In Japan, a bread knife is called a Pankiri, which is essentially the same thing as a Western bread knife.

It has many of the same characteristics, such as a long serrated blade, but it also has many subtle distinctions that set it apart as a Japanese blade.

Blade shape

When comparing a pankiri knife to a bread knife, the main difference is the blade shape. 

A pankiri knife has a single-bevel blade, which means it is sharpened on one side only. This allows for more precision when slicing. 

Additionally, the blade is usually wider and thinner than a bread knife, giving it more flexibility when cutting through dough. 

A pankiri knife has a slightly curved blade, which is designed to make slicing easier, while a bread knife has a straight blade, which is better for cutting through tough crusts.  

Steel

The steel used to forge a Pankiri knife, for instance, is much more durable than the steel used to make a Western bread knife. 

The Japanese Pankiri, therefore, keeps its cutting edge for far longer.

The blade is also sharper and can be used to effortlessly cut through bagels and other dense breads as well as cakes and pastries. 

Most pankiri knives are made of stainless steel or carbon steel.

The stainless steel is more durable and offers better rust resistance, while carbon steel has a sharper cutting edge. 

Tamahagane is a type of steel used to make Japanese swords and knives.

It is made from a combination of iron sand and charcoal and is known for its strength and durability.

The tamahagane used for pankiri knives is usually of a higher quality than that used for other types of knives, as it is designed to be able to withstand the rigors of cutting through tough materials. 

Handle

Wa-handles, the classic Japanese handle style, are also standard on Japanese Pankiri knives. On the other hand, bread knives often include a Yo-shaped grip.

The Wa-handle is often crafted from wood and has an octagonal or D-shape design, though these details might vary depending on the knife maker.

The end product is an ergonomic and easy-to-hold handle. 

Pankiri knife vs utility knife

When comparing a pankiri knife to a utility knife, the main difference is the size.

A pankiri knife is usually larger than a utility knife, which makes it better for slicing larger items. 

If you compare the uses, you can tell these two knives are used for completely different types of cutting. 

The pankiri is, of course, used to cut bread and baked goods.

A Japanese utility knife is used for mincing, dicing, and cutting through smaller cuts of meat or cutting up fruits and vegetables.

Additionally, the pankiri knife has a curved blade, which makes it better for slicing in a single motion, while the utility knife has a straight blade, which makes it better for making precise cuts. 

Finally, the pankiri knife is usually made of a softer metal, while the utility knife is usually made of a harder metal, which makes it more durable.

How to use a Pankiri knife

To use a pankiri knife, hold the handle in one hand and the blade in the other.

Place the blade on the food item you wish to cut and use a sawing motion to cut through it. Make sure to keep your fingers away from the blade as you cut.

Before using a pankiri knife, it is important to remember to clean and dry the blade before and after each use.

Doing so will help keep the blade sharp and prevent rusting. Additionally, it is important to store the pankiri knife in a dry place when not in use.

Using a pankiri knife requires practice and skill. It is important to take your time, make sure the blade remains sharp, and practice proper safety techniques.

With a little bit of patience and practice, you’ll be slicing like a professional in no time!

Conclusion

Pankiri knives are a great choice for anyone looking for a reliable and durable bread knife. 

They’re easy to use and maintain and can be used for a variety of tasks, not just slicing bread and baked goods or pastries.

The serrated or scalloped edge is perfect for slicing through soft and hard crust without destroying the food’s texture. 

With proper care, they can last for years. If you’re looking for a reliable knife, then a Pankiri knife is definitely worth considering.

Read next: What is flour in Japanese? All the different names (komugiko, chûrikiko, hakurikiko) explained

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.