Pros: Sharp, efficient, comfortable
Cons: some tendency to wander in cutting tomatoes
For quite a while, I've been using a Forschner 10" bread knife. The Forshcner is rated a Best Buy by Cook's Illustrated. It's not what they rate as the best bread knife but it's a good one and it's quite inexpensive.
The New West Knifeworks Super Bread Knife would certainly contend for a Best Bread Knife award. I really didn't think it would be that much different than what I was using but I was very surprised.
Right off the bat, there are obvious differences. The NWK SBK has a different serration pattern It has a scalloped wave pattern rather than toothed a toothed wave. In both cases, serrations do a couple of things in cutting. First they increase the amount of edge you use in a cutting stroke. If you measured the "shoreline" of the edge vs it's length, there would be more shoreline than the knife is long. Secondly, the continually changing angle of the serrations provides new angles of attack to what is being cut. These combine to make serrations efficient cutters of difficult materials.
The First Cuts
This is an Italian style loaf I buy fairly often. I thought it would be a good starting point. I cut a slice with the Forschner to have have a baseline cut fresh in my mind. It took about 4-6 strokes depending on the size of the piece (height cut). Then I cut with the NWK SBK. The first stroke had me worried. It sort of skated off the crust. But the rest of the strokes sank through the bread in just two more strokes, no matter the height cut. And it usually skated on that first stroke every time. I figure that first stroke isn't really skating so much as cutting the crust to get started, just less aggressively which concept I'll return to in a bit.
It would continue to perform well in other tasks. handling cakes and other baked goods with aplomb and neatness.
The testing continued more in depth when making stuffing for Thanksgiving. I use that same Italian loaf as the basis for my stuffing. I like the structure and chew of it for this purpose. I want to break the loaf down into about 1 inch cubes and dry them out so they'll absorb the flavor and juices of the rest of the stuffing.
As I started breaking the loaf down, I thought about the differences is how the blades cut and I thought of something to compare "efficiency" in perhaps another meaningful way. Certainly stroke count is one. But there is also how the blade treats what's being cut to consider as well. Serrations, are not considered good for lots of cutting such as meat where it leaves a ragged surface, or for chopping vegetables where the toothed edge doesn't cut through to the cutting board without an extra pull to shear everything off.
In baked goods, you need to respect the crumb. In the case of bread, which knife makes a bigger mess of crumbs when cutting.
In slices of the same of bread, the difference isn't huge, but the NWK SBK does appear to make fewer crumbs.
The toothed serrations tend to tear material at the tooth. This makes them good at working through tough material and for starting a cut in a tomato skin for example. But it's part of what leads to ragged surfaces in cutting and crumbs in cutting bread.
So now some other cutting of bread, specifically, long cuts. Cuts that are as deep or long or longer than the knife itself. You might encounter such a cut breaking down focaccia for a sandwich, cakes for filling and layering or cubing bread for stuffing.
They both do pretty well. I thought the SBK a little easier for this task as it's a stiffer blade. I have a better feel for where it is in the cut compared to the Forschner. The Forschner has some flex. In tender goods like cake, the flex isn't a problem, but a crustier stale loaf, it was more vague.
I need to blame my cutting posture here too. I was sitting down and working cross body. I was tired at this point so my posture aggravated any cutting problems. But this affects both knives pretty equally. But even tired, I appreciated the better feel of the SBK.
Bread knives are often used for tomato duty as the serrations simplify the cutting for many users. And the SBK doesn't disappoint with Tomatoes, cutting them ably, thinly, and even offering a useful point for destemming them.
Other design choices that worked well for the Super Bread Knife in bread worked less well with the tomatoes. The stiff blade comes partly from the thicker steel of the SBK. And because the cutting edge is assymetrical in a serrated blade, being ground only on the one side, this contributed to the blade having a tendency to wander if you're not focusing on the cut.
I have to admit, I tend to cut tomatoes with a straight edge most of the time thinking it too fussy to pull out a serrated blade for that work. With a sharp edge, cutting tomatoes is no easier with a serrated blade than a straight one.
But for baked goods, the New West Knifeworks Super Bread Knife is by far the best bread knife I have ever used. And it looks pretty good doing it too. No, I didn't pick the pink handle, it's just the color of the test sample. Luck of the draw.