A bench knife is a kitchen utensil, often used in baking, that is typically used to cut, portion, scrape, and otherwise manipulate dough prior to baking. Despite the name, it is more similar to a spatula in some regards, and usually consists of a single piece of metal, square or rectangular in shape, connected to a rounded handle. The knife is held with one hand, holding the handle, and rather than extending from the top of the handle, the metal “blade” comes out from the side. A bench knife can be used to cut through dough for portioning, separate dough from a work surface, or to help clean up.
Also known by a number of other names, including bench scraper, dough knife, dough scraper, and dough cutter, a bench knife usually consists of only two pieces. These are the handle of the knife and the knife “blade” itself. The blade is a single piece of solid metal that is usually about the thickness of a steak knife or chef’s knife. Though a thinner bench knife could be used, if the blade is too thin it will bend under the weight of dough or break while scraping.
The handle of a bench knife is usually wooden and firmly connected to the blade of the knife. While the blade is not really sharp, especially when compared to a chef’s knife or similar implement, it is more like a butter knife and can still cut through soft objects. The edge of the bench knife can be used to separate dough cleanly and quickly, making it ideal for portioning a large piece of dough into individual loaves or rounds for making rolls. When sticky dough is worked on a surface such as wood, marble, or a laminate countertop, it may stick easily. This makes a bench knife ideal to get under dough and pull it away from these surfaces more easily than fingers.
A bench knife can also be used after the dough has been prepared to clean up the work area. Even with prodigious flouring of work surfaces, dough can often stick to the surface and cleaning up marble or laminate with dough or wet flour stuck to it can be difficult. The edge of these bench knives can be used to scrape the material off of the surface, which can then be more easily wiped up and cleaned afterward. This makes bench knives a tremendous “multitasker” in the kitchen and a useful tool for both home and professional bakers.