Straight To The Point

The Breadtopia Bread Lame was our overall best pick, performing well across a variety of dough styles and shapes. However beginners might appreciate the straight orientation and blade security of the Wiremonkey Goose Lame.

I eat a lot of bread. However much bread you’re imagining might be “a lot” for a single person to consume within a week’s time, I assure you, you’re still not thinking big enough. And the only way I can sustain this habit is by baking my own, so like many people in the spring of 2020, I went down the sourdough rabbit hole

The quality of the bread I baked was not enough to satisfy; no matter how good each loaf was, I needed the loafs I pulled out of the oven to look pristine as well. A big, rounded oven spring, deep, caramelized crust, and  pronounced shark fin flip of an ear were some of the metrics I gauged my progress by. And one of the keys to bread aesthetics? A clean, confident score across the top of the dough with a bread lame (essentially, a razor blade affixed to a handle).

The bread lame (pronounced “lahm”) is a key tool for bakers, though not every baker is dedicated to which one they use. I reached out to Andrew Janjigian, a Serious Eats contributor, King Arthur Flour baking instructor, and the author of the Wordloaf newsletter, to see what he looks for in a lame.

“I’m not super picky when it comes to lames, but I want one on which the blades are easy to install and the blades stay on well,” he says. “Those razors are damn sharp, and the last thing you want to do is fiddle with them to get them installed.”

And with that advice in mind, I went on a two-week baking spree, testing 10 lames and scoring more than 25 loaves of bread to find the best ones.

The Winners, at a Glance

The Best Bread Lame: Breadtopia Bread Lame

Lightweight with an adjustable blade holder, the Breadtopia Bread Lame was the easiest to control during scoring with its baguette-shaped handle and the simplest to mount a blade onto. Plus, it yielded great-looking results with different types of dough.

The Best Straight Blade Lame For Beginners: Wiremonkey Goose Lame

Goose Lame

With a secure locking system, a magnetic wooden blade sheath, and a downward curved handle, the Wiremonkey Goose Lame made simple, deep scoring a breeze. It also protected the user from accidental cuts and nicks. 

The Tests

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub


  • Pain Au Levain Batard Scoring Test: To evaluate the ear-producing ability of each bread lame, I tested each one’s scoring ability with a sourdough recipe that is extremely similar to this pain au levain recipe. My dough consisted of 10% whole wheat flour, 40% malted bread flour, and 50% high-protein bread flour (mixed at 80% hydration). Each lame was evaluated for how simple it slashed through the dough, its control during the scoring, and its overall ease of use. 
  • Sourdough Mini-Miche Boule Scoring Test: To evaluate each lame’s ability to make multiple, quick slashes on a smaller shaped dough with higher whole-wheat content, I tested each one on a mini boule—a round shaped loaf— fashioned after a sourdough miche. This dough was 50% whole wheat, 25% malted bread flour, and 50% high-protein flour (mixed again at an 80% hydration). Each lame was evaluated for how simple it was to create multiple slashes on a small canvas through a heartier dough, how easy it was to control each slash, and overall ease of use.
  • Country Sourdough Oblong Scoring Test (Winner’s-Only): The final test for the best performing bread lames was to evaluate their performance scoring longer, oblong-shaped country sourdough loaves. Longer and narrower than a batard, this country sourdough is the standard bread I make the most often, with 15% whole wheat, 20% high-extraction wheat flour, 25% malted bread flour, and 40% high-protein bread flour. Each lame was evaluated for how well it created extra-long slashes, how easy it was to control each slash, the shape of the ear it produced, and overall ease of use. 
  • Usability Tests: Throughout testing, I evaluated each lame based on how easy it was to hold, clean, assemble, and take apart. 

What We Learned

The Brand of Razor Blade Mattered

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub


Most bread lames shipped with a pack of razor blades, but not all razors perform the same. Many were thick, heavy, and unwieldy. As someone who uses a safety razor to shave my face, I long ago settled on Derby Extra razors after researching razor blade sharpness. They’re sharp, lightweight, flexible, and pass through dough swiftly and cleanly. They’re also cheap enough to swap out regularly. In order to best assess the lames themselves, I opted to use a Derby Extra as the razor of choice for each, save one: the Mafter Bread Lame, which came with a blade permanently attached. It was clear on the first test that the Mafter lame struggled to cut through the dough as swiftly as the other models. And since you can’t remove the blade it was easy to eliminate the Matfer from further testing. Razor blades do dull pretty easily, and I personally like to swap them out every 10 loaves or so. 

Straight Versus Curved Yielded Unexpected Results 

Serious Eats / Jesse raub


Seeking more guidance on bread lames from the pros, I chatted with baker and cookbook author Tara Jensen about her preferences. She said she likes long, slender metal lames with slightly curved ends, and avoids fancy handles. “I try to stay away from decorative handles that will slow me down,” Jensen explained. “It’s important to me that the double edged razor at the end is curved so the cut gracefully peels back into a pleasing ear.”

While curved lames do produce a more pronounced ear, I found during testing that the angle of entry during scoring was more integral than a curved or straight blade. If my angle of entry wasn’t perfect with a curved lame, the bread would often split down the middle, sometimes with the ear zig-zagging on either side of the oven spring. Other times, a straight lame would produce a more pronounced ear to one side if the angle was slightly shallower than 90 degrees.

At the same time, I expected that a straight lame would be easier to make the simple box-cut square on the mini-boules, but it was actually the curved lames that let me get a lower angle and come at each slash more sideways, allowing the corner to get deeper into the dough. Some of the straight lames were trickier to get a deep enough slash during the first scoring. 

Adjustability Was Key for Curved Lames

The fixed angle of this Mafter bread lame was harder to control.

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub


Most of the curved lames had a fixed angle, either with a fullered metal strip or a plastic backing that would bend the blade into place. I found that for some of the models I tested, the curve was almost too drastic, whereas in others, it was too shallow. A more drastic curve yielded a more dramatic ear, but it was also harder to find the right angle of entry without the blade catching on the dough. I found the adjustable lame from Breadtopia hit the sweet spot, allowing me to bend the blade holder to suit the angle of entry that felt most comfortable and yielded the best-looking ear. 

Blade Exposure Dictated the Depth of a Score

Bread lames with wider blade housings, like the Mure & Peyrot lame, made it difficult score deeply.

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub


When testing all varieties of lames, there was one major element that decided how clean, easy, and deep each score was: blade exposure. Some lames had a thicker attachment mechanism, like the Adore lame from Mure & Peyrot, and it affected how deep the blade could get before the dough got caught on the plastic. Other lames, like the Zatoba Black Walnut bread lame, left a shallower amount of blade exposed, and it was difficult to score as deeply as I wanted to in one swipe, and I had to go over the same area again. 

Lames with minimal fastening and a fully exposed blade allowed for easy, clean slashes that enabled the bread to spring neatly and consistently. And while it might not be a huge encumbrance for a home baker to have to slash at the same loaf multiple times, I can personally attest that a lame that can achieve a great score in one swipe saves a lot of time and energy when baking a large volume of bread at once. 

Handle Shape Was a Key Factor 

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub


The two winning bread lames each featured a lightweight, thin handle. This style made it extremely easy to index the blade, which means that it was a cinch to control the angle of entry and know exactly where the blade was relative to your index finger while holding onto the lame. 

Other lames, with wider handles, were harder to hold properly. UFO-style circular lames, which required pinching a wooden disc between thumb and forefinger, felt like they were at risk of rotating backwards and slicing at my hand. The narrower handle on the Breadtopia lame made it easy to grip. With the Wiremonkey Goose lame, the lightweight curved handle also created a forward weight balance, letting the weight of the razor do the work of the cutting instead of downward pressure from my hand. 

The Criteria: What to Look for In a Bread Lame

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub


A great bread lame should be easy to control and have a well-exposed blade. Ideally it’s easy to replace and secure a mew when the previous one begins to dull. It should also have a comfortable, lightweight handle and minimal blade housing, allowing for clean, easy slashes.

The Best Bread Lame: Breadtopia Bread Lame

Breadtopia Bread Lame

What we liked: The Breadtopia Bread Lame truly excelled at scoring, and it’s simple, bendable design means that almost every baker can find a curved or straight angle that works best for them. Though the baguette-shaped plastic handle might be kitschy, it provided plenty of grip and was lightweight enough to maneuver easily. Even more than that, the simple, straight alignment of the handle means it’s easy to know exactly where the blade is when you pick it up. Its fairly exposed blade was easy to make long, single slashes with during scoring, but I was also surprised at how much control it had for shorter, squared-off slashes as well. Its exposed blade design also meant that swapping out razors was a snap—just flex the blade and thread it through the first and last holes in the center, and you’re good to go. This lame produced the cleanest, most pronounced ears out of any of the models tested and, even though it’s bendable, the stainless steel rod is made from a thicker, higher grade steel than its competition. It’s also affordable.

What we didn’t like: The biggest downside of the Breadtopia lame is that it doesn’t come with any blade cover or protection. Though the cardboard box it comes in can be reused for some protection, the loose blade inside still requires more caution when handling. Also, while it doesn’t take long to swap razors, it requires flexing the razor with your fingers to thread it properly onto the lame, and for people with mobility issues, it might feel too dangerous. This lame also utilizes the pressure of the razor’s flex to secure itself to the lame, so while I never felt any issues, it could accidentally dislodge if the blade got caught on the dough. 

Price at time of publish: $13.

Key Specs

  • Materials: Plastic, stainless steel
  • Adjustable: Yes, bendable stainless steel
  • Length: 7.3 inches 
  • Blade cover: None
  • Replacement razor blade suggestion: Derby Extra Double Edged Razor Blades

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub


The Best Straight Blade Lame For Beginners: Wiremonkey Goose Lame

Goose Lame

What we liked: The Wiremonkey Goose Lame offers a lot of great design features that would be extremely helpful for beginners. To start, when attaching a new razor blade, the Goose Lame has a carved wooden bump for the center of the razor blade to seat itself on, and then has a wooden disc that screws on over the back half of the razor blade, securing it snugly. It also comes with a magnetic wooden blade sheath that completely covers the sharp edges of the razor. While these safety features are excellent for anyone nervous about handling razor blades, the thing I was most impressed with was the curve and weight of the actual handle. With the balance of the lame leaning forward, the weight of the blade itself did all the cutting work for me. This blade angle, plus the easier to attempt straight slash, makes the Goose Lame an excellent choice for any beginner learning how to score. 

What we didn’t like: The biggest issue I found with the Goose Lame was how tedious the blade swapping process was and how limited the scoring options were. For a regular sourdough baker, unscrewing the locking mechanism every few days started to get old, and no matter what, you’re stuck with only a straight blade orientation. It’s also the priciest lame I tested, and while it’s beautiful and it features many usability improvements, advanced bakers might feel hemmed in and prefer a simpler lame design. 

Price at time of publish: $40.

Key Specs

  • Materials: Black walnut, stainless steel
  • Adjustable: No
  • Length: 7.5 inches 
  • Blade cover: Black walnut sheath, with magnetic locking system
  • Replacement razor blade suggestion: Derby Extra Double Edged Razor Blades

Serious Eats / Jesse Raub


The Competition

  • Baker Of Seville Bread Lame: This was entirely too heavy to wield with any sort of control, and the convertible lame didn’t deliver clean slashes with either configuration. 
  • Zatoba Black Walnut Bread Lame: This lame had a wooden slit for the razor to slide into and two locking screens to apply pressure to the wood around it. While being tricky to set up, it also didn’t expose the blade enough for easy, deep scores.
  • Bread Bosses Lame: With a bulky handle and a fixed curve, it was hard to find the best angle during scoring.
  • Wiremonkey UFO Bread Journey: While some people really love the circular UFO-style bread lames, I’ve always felt like I was going to nick myself. Even when the blade was secure, the lack of a handle felt like I had less control over precision slashes. 
  • Emmer Bread Lame: A clumsier version of a UFO style lame, the Emmer got stuck immediately after use, and I eliminated it from competition due to safety concerns. 
  • Mure & Peyrot Adore Bread Lame Combo: I didn’t love the plastic locking system on this lame or the fixed angle on its plastic body. It performed fine, but ultimately offered fewer features for a higher price tag than our overall pick.
  • Saint Germain Bakery Bread Lame: This lame was identical to the Bread Bosses lame, save for a different wood on the handle, so all the same criticisms apply. 
  • Mafter Bread Lame: With a fixed blade that will dull over time, this lame has a limited life span compared to every other model with a replaceable blade system.

FAQs

Is a bread lame necessary?

As bread begins to rise in the oven, it will eventually find a weak point in the surface of the dough and the escaping gasses will burst. By scoring your bread, you provide those gasses a distinct area to escape from and can create a neater structure to the loaf. While some people score their bread with a serrated knife or even abstract snips from kitchen shears, a bread lame will give you the most control during scoring, allowing for more attractive, neater looking breads. 

Why is a bread lame curved?

The curve of a blade on a bread lame is what allows for a more dramatic “ear” to pop up during baking. As you score the dough, a curved blade will peel under the surface of the dough creating more of a pronounced flap than a straight blade. This will catch and flip open during the oven spring, giving a dramatic shark fin-like ear running the length of the bread. 

How often should you change the blade on your bread lame?

Razor blades are extremely sharp—so much so that any use, even to score dough, can cause them to start dulling immediately. Since most lames only utilize one corner of the razor blade, you can rotate the blade and get full use out of all four corners. There’s no hard and fast rule about how often you should change the blade, but most bakers will swap blades out every five to 10 loaves in order to get the cleanest slash. 

Jesse Raub

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