There are three knives the Just Cooking Institute Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab says are essential for every home cook: A chef's knife, a paring knife, and a serrated knife (also known as a bread knife). A great bread knife is defined by a serrated blade that can saw through tough loaves of crusty bread just as well as it can make thin, delicate slices of ripe tomatoes for sandwiches.

While these are specialized tasks, no other tool can perform them as well as a serrated knife: A rugged crust can actually damage the edge of your beloved chef's knife, and unless you keep your blades super sharp, that same chef's knife probably won't be able to slice through a ripe tomato without smashing it when you press in to make a cut. Bread knives are also excellent workhorses for delicately leveling cakes, peeling butternut squash, sawing through watermelon rinds, and even carving a holiday roast.

Our Lab's top pick is the Victorinox Fibrox Pro Serrated Bread Knife (10"). For starters, you feel in control when you're holding it in your hand. Not to mention its versatility — we found it sliced through dense breads just as well as it thinly sliced ripe tomatoes and strawberries. Keep reading for more info on our Kitchen Appliance and Technology Lab's top-performing pick and four others that we think are the coolest things since sliced bread.

Best Overall Bread Knife

Victorinox Fibrox 10-inch Bread Knife

Fibrox Pro 10-inch Bread Knife

  • Curved design is comfortable to hold
  • Most versatile knife we tested

  • We've seen prettier knives

We love this Victorinox classic for its versatility: It can saw through hearty bread crusts and bagels just as well as it can turn out paper-thin tomato and strawberry slices. And if looks matter to you, rest assured that the edges of all the foods you'll slice up will be perfectly clean and pristine. This knife is well-balanced, which gives you excellent control over the task at hand. Its stainless steel blade is thin, sharp, and curved, and the 10-inch length is ideal. The Fibrox handle is soft to the touch and won't slip around in your hand, which makes for a noticeably comfortable experience.

Best Value Bread Knife

Mercer Culinary Millenia 10-inch Bread Knife

Mercer Culinary
Millennia 10-Inch Bread Knife
Mercer Culinary

  • Saws through hard and soft breads with ease
  • Comfortable to hold and use
  • Sharp blade with deep serrations

  • Difficult to get perfect-looking or thin slices

Amazon's Choice bread knife, the Mercer Culinary Millenia, is a basic serrated knife with a super sharp Japanese steel blade. Thanks to the textured handle, gripping without slipping is easy, which makes it a safer slicing option. The Mercer Culinary Millenia glides through bread and soft fruits like butter and doesn't require much force, but note that the wider, deeper serrations on this knife give you slightly less control and result in thicker slices that may not have perfect edges. That being said, you can't beat it for value, and if you aren't fanatical about precision when cutting up crusty bread or roast chicken, this knife is a great pick.

Most Comfortable to Use Bread Knife

Wüsthof Classic 10-inch Bread Knife

Classic 10-Inch Bread Knife

  • Ergonomic, well-balanced, and extremely comfortable to hold
  • Attractive

  • Blade isn't as sharp as other picks

Of all the knife testing we've done over the years, Wüsthof consistently stands out for being well-balanced and ergonomic. This German-made bread knife is a top-tested classic, especially when it comes to design. Its full-tang, triple-rivited handle is made to fit the curvature of your hand's grip, all of which translates to more control over the slicing task you're performing. The blade could be sharper, but the saw-toothed edges still do an excellent job of cutting through lefty loaves, cake layers, and tough winter squash. And we can't fail to mention that Wüsthof cutlery is drop-dead gorgeous.

Best Bread Knife for Cleanest Cuts

Miyabi Kaizen 9.5-inch Bread Knife

Kaizen 9.5-Inch Bread Knife

  • Super sharp, thin blade makes pristine cuts
  • Well-balanced and beautiful design

  • Expensive

Perfectionists will love this Miyabi Kaizen serrated bread knife. Thanks to its beautifully thin Japanese Damascus steel blade, this champ makes super precise and clean cuts of soft and hard foods alike. It glides through bread crust, cured salami, and tomato skin with zero problem and feels perfectly balanced in your hand. And though it comes at a steeper price tag, with proper upkeep, the Miyabi should last for decades. Unlike the other knives we looked at, this one's pakkawood handle is rounded, which gives you more versatility when finding a grip that feels most comfortable for you.

Best Heavy-Duty Bread Knife

Dexter Outdoors 10-inch Bread Knife

Dexter Outdoors
10-inch Bread Knife
Dexter Outdoors

  • Sharp, rigid blade can stand up to tough tasks
  • Plastic handle is less likely to slip during use

  • May feel less balanced than other options

Thanks to its rigid, lightweight blade, you can look to this Dexter bread knife for far beyond slicing deli rolls: It'll do an expert job of rough-and-tough tasks like cracking open a honeydew melon or slicing roast beef. And while it may not give you the cleanest edges or feel as balanced in your hand as some of the other bread knives we looked at, we think that's okay considering how versatile the blade is (and the knife's very nice price point). The plastic handle on the no-frills Dexter isn't exactly beautiful, but it won't slip in your hand as you cut through bread loaves and bagels, which makes it a smart option for safety.

What to consider when buying a new bread knife

A common misconception about bread knives is that, because they're very difficult to sharpen at home, finding the right one doesn't require much attention because it will have to be replaced relatively soon. We think the opposite is true: Because you won't be able to cover up a crumby bread knife's bad design by keeping its blade as razor sharp as possible, picking a serrated knife that best suits your needs is key. When shopping, there are a few key things that differentiate one bread knife from the next:

Serration: We’ve found that the most effective bread knife blades have fewer, deeper serrations with extra-pointy tips for forcefully biting into foods. Avoid blades with rounded, shallow serrations, and don’t be wooed by brands that brag about having a high number of them.

Length: We think the ideal is somewhere around 10 inches — this is just long enough to make its way through a round loaf of pumpernickel or full melon in one smooth slice (i.e. without having to play the twist-and-saw game).

Shape: Most serrated knives are straight, but some have a curved blade and others are offset so the blade sits below the handle. We recommend sticking with straight or curved blades (a curve may facilitate slicing with rocking motion and may offer extra knuckle clearance).

Sharpening and replacing: You also shouldn't have to sharpen a bread knife because you won't be using it nearly as often as your chef's knife, but if you think it really needs it, we recommend sending your bread knife to a professional knife sharpener. Plan to replace your bread knife every decade or so with moderate use.