What is a Deli Knife?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

One of the most challenging tasks to perform in a kitchen is slicing a sandwich, especially one that have been overstuffed with ingredients or made in layers. Some ingredients such as lettuce or onions respond well to a smooth bladed knife, while others such as fibrous meats and bread do better with the sawing motion of a serrated knife. To address this problem of cutting through different ingredients without destroying the sandwich, many cooks use a tool known as a deli knife.

Mortadella, a type of deli meat.
Mortadella, a type of deli meat.

A deli knife, also known as a sandwich knife, is designed to cut through a thick sandwich without causing the bread to become compressed or the meat to tear apart. By using a deli knife, a cook can cut sandwiches into halves or even into quarters in the case of club sandwiches. Using a standard kitchen knife to cut a sandwich often leads to disaster, as the bread resists the smooth cutting edge and the cook must put significant downward pressure on the handle. This could lead to a serious accident if the blade should slip, or at least turn the sandwich into a unpresentable mess.

A deli knife is designed with an offset blade, which means the blade section is lower than the handle. You should be able to recognize a deli knife immediately by this offset blade, which few other knives utilize. Because the blade of a deli knife is set lower than the handle, the cook gains more leverage and requires less pressure to slice through the various layers of the sandwich. Another advantage of an offset blade is that the cook's knuckles remain higher than the bottom of the knife. This can make a difference in knife control as the cook's hand draws closer to the cutting board.

Another design feature of a deli knife is a slightly serrated blade. The cook can use a sawing motion to slice through the bread and fibrous meat layers, but also use a downward pressing motion to slice through the softer layers. A deeply serrated knife would most likely damage the softer condiments, while a smooth knife would not be able to slice through the grain of many sandwich meats. A deli knife makes slicing sandwiches easier by offering the advantages of both worlds.

Deli knives are produced in a number of sizes, but the most popular size for deli or kitchen use features an 8 inch blade. They can usually be found in kitchen supply stores or wherever quality cutlery is sold. A good deli knife made for commercial use might require a significant investment, but few other knives can duplicate its sandwich cutting and slicing ability.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


I actually bought a deli knife to use at home, since I make a lot of sandwiches for the family. I tried using a regular chef's knife, but it just squashed the bread. The smooth edge didn't provide any cutting power, either. I also used what they like to call a bread knife, but it was almost too serrated. I'd have a pile of bread crumbs on the cutting board.

This deli knife goes right through the bread like it wasn't even there. I can cut full sandwiches into finger sandwiches for covered dish dinners or book club meetings. A good deli knife is worth the effort to find it in kitchen supply stores or online.


I would have been lost without my deli knife when I worked for a local sandwich shop. My job was to steam the sandwiches in special steamers brought in from New York City. When the sandwiches were done, I'd dress them up with lettuce or tomatoes or whatever. I'd use my deli knife to slice them in half cleanly.

The offset blade would slice right through all of the bread, meat and cheese, no matter what kind of sandwich bun was used. If I met any resistance at all, the serrated blade would cut through the meat or the bread. I don't ever remember sharpening that deli knife in all the years I worked there. It just worked well every time.

Post your comments
Forgot password?