What is a Deli Knife?

Mortadella, a type of deli meat.
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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 March 2014
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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.

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.


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