Kitchen & Pantry

How to slice brownies (and other cookie bars) neatly

There was an e-mail from reader Katy asking if I use any special equipment for baking brownies. In particular, she wants to know how my brownie slices come out neat. Okay, I admit that cutting brownies, especially fudgy brownies, can be tricky. Do it wrong and you can get large chunks stuck on the knife ruining the shape of the brownies. Fudgy cheesecake brownies

There are many ways to create neat brownie squares. One is to use a brownie pan with dividers (see photo). Not only will the sides of each brownie square look super neat, the squares will be uniformly sized too. Tri-level brownies

Some recommend a serrated knife. Others say a disposable plastic knife does the trick well. Fruity, nutty blondies

Some people use a pizza cutter. Others swear that dental floss is the perfect tool. Swirled red velvet cheesecake brownies

I don’t have a brownie pan with dividers. I don’t use a serrated knife nor a plastic knife nor a pizza cutter. I don’t use dental floss either.

After trying a lot of different techniques, I’ve settled with a procedure that works best for me. To cut my brownies neatly, I’ve been following these simple rules for the past couple of years:

1. Before pouring the brownie batter in, I line the baking pan with non-stick paper. I leave overhangs on the two long sides. This makes lifting the baked and uncut brownie slab easier.

2. I let the baked uncut brownies cool in the pan for 10 minutes or so then I transfer it to a cooling rack (some brownie recipes work better if the uncut brownies are left to cool in the pan but that’s another story altogether). I cannot overemphasize the cooling step. While hot, the brownies are soft and no matter how careful you are, chunks will break away and stick to the knife. So, cool. Cool. COOL.

3. When the uncut brownie slab has cooled, I transfer it to a cutting board. And that’s where I cut it — never inside the pan.

4. I pour hot (not boiling) water into a shallow pan (a frying pan or wok works well), I dip the chef’s knife in the hot water, wipe it dry with kitchen paper then I cut the brownies. No see-saw motion. Just a clean cut. I position the point of the knife at the far edge of the brownie slab then I bring the knife down. Think of a paper cutter — it’s the same principle.

5. After making one cut, I dip the knife in the hot water again and wipe it clean with kitchen paper. I repeat this dipping and wiping process after each cut. Butterscotch brownies with peanut butter and chocolate morsels

And that is how I slice my brownies.

P.S. For the recipes that go with the photos above, just click on the photos.

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