After you make a perfect tray of brownies, you have reached one of the most challenging parts of baking brownies- cutting them! Cutting brownies incorrectly can mean that your beautifully baked brownies end up looking like a mess. You don’t want this to happen!
Luckily, I have some great tips and tricks for you to learn to cut brownies cleanly, ensuing that your brownies look as great as they taste!
Brownies vs. Chocolate Cake
Did you ever think about how brownies and chocolate cake are very similar. Both have essentially the same ingredients but the end result is completely different. Cake is light and fluffy (and easy to cut!) while brownies are dense and thick, making cutting them quite hard.
This texture difference is mainly due to the quantity of leaveners in cake versus brownies. Cakes are always made with baking powder, baking soda or using another leavener such as whipped eggs. Brownies often have no leavener at all meaning they stay dense as they bake.
Cake recipes usually use about two times as much flour as brownies which also contributes to the soft texture. Brownies, on the other hand, call for much more cocoa powder and chocolate, making them dense and rich.
These slight differences are why brownies and cakes are considered to be two different desserts even though they are made in quite the same manner. It is also why you may have no problem slicing a cake cleanly but your brownies end up looking like mush- they are much more dense than a cake!
Why Brownies Are Hard to Cut
The main reason why brownies can be so hard to cut is because they are so soft and dense. All that chocolate can mash together under the pressure of a knife! When you bake brownies, you may also have a tendency to under-bake them to ensure they have a chewy texture.
This makes the brownies especially soft and challenging to slice cleanly. Think about cutting through unbaked batter and you will realized why soft brownies are hard to cut- the center is essentially batter!
If you have struggled to cut your brownies cleanly, know that you are not alone and it is not your fault- brownies are hard to cut for anyone. They are soft, dense, have an almost pure chocolate texture that is easily smashed as you cut. It isn’t as simple as cutting a chocolate cake!
But don’t worry, your days of struggling to cut dense brownies are over- I have many tips and tricks for you here. Your brownies will look perfect, have nice sharp corners and be as beautiful as they taste soon!
How to Cut Brownies Cleanly
There are actually a few different methods you can try to help you cut your brownies cleanly. Read over all of them and then choose the one that you think will work best for you. You should even bake several trays of brownies just so you can try them all (and eat some extra brownies!).
No matter which method of cutting brownies you choose to use, you should always allow your brownies to cool completely before cutting them. When the brownies are warm, they are even more likely to be gooey and messy, making for sloppy edges and misshapen brownies.
Let the brownies cool in the pan, untouched. Place them in the fridge to cool them even more, making them even better to cut. When the brownies are very cold, the chewy texture will be more solid and even easier to slice.
1 – Hot Knife Method
The first way you can cut clean brownies is to use a hot knife. Cool the brownies completely to room temperature (or better yet, in the fridge).
Get a large glass of hot water and place a chef’s knife in the water, submerging the blade completely. Let the knife sit in the water for several minutes to make the blade hot.
Remove the knife from the hot water and wipe the blade with a kitchen towel to dry. Then, use the hot knife to make the first cut in the tray of brownies. Dip the knife back into the hot water to rise it off and reheat it. Wipe the blade clean and then cut again.
Cut, wash, reheat and dry the knife again and again until your brownies are cut! This method works wonderfully for several reasons.
To begin, the hot knife will sliced right through the cooled brownies. The knife will also melt the chocolate as it cuts, making the edges of the brownies look sharp and clean.
When you clean and wipe the knife after each use, any brownie residue on the knife will be washed away rather than ending up on the brownies in your next cut. A clean knife makes for clean cuts!
This method of cutting brownies may take a little bit of time but you will have perfect brownies in the end.
2 – Frozen Brownie Method
After you bake the brownies and allow them to cool to room temperature naturally, flip the brownies out of the tray onto a flat plate or sheet tray. Wrap the brownies well and place in the freezer.
Let the brownies freeze for several hours, ensuring that they are completely frozen.
Once the brownies are frozen, unwrap the brownie sheet and place it on a cutting board. Grab a sharp chef’s knife and cut the brownies. Press down on the knife slowly and firmly to cut the brownies cleanly.
Once all of the brownies are cut, place them on a tray or plate and let them come back to room temperature.
Brownies freeze quite well so the texture of your brownies will not change if you choose to use this cutting method. Once thawed, the brownies will taste exactly the same as if they had never been frozen at all!
However, they will look much different as they are cut perfectly! It is much easier to cut clean edges in a frozen brownie than one that is room temperature.
3 – Cooking Spray Method
Once your brownies have cooled, grab your chef’s knife and spray it lightly with cooking spray. The cooking spray will help the blade of the knife easily glide through the soft brownies without any brownie sticking to the knife.
After you have made one clean cut, wipe the blade of the knife, spray it again and cut again. Repeat this process until the brownies are completely cut.
4 – Plastic Knife Method
Use a plastic knife to cut your cooled brownies rather than a knife with a metal blade. Plastic knifes are naturally non-stick so they should not tear your brownies apart as you cut.
Be sure to wipe off the plastic knife after each cut, ensuring you start each slice with a clean knife.
5 – Cookie Cutter Method
If you want to cut your brownie sheet into specific shapes, find a metal cookie cutter in the shape that you would like. Place the cookie cutter in a shallow bowl of hot water for about a minute.
Once the cookie cutter is hot, remove it from the water, dry it completely and then use it to cut your sheet of brownies. Press the cookie cutter straight down into the brownie tray and then gently push the brownie out of the cutter.
Wash the cookie cutter in the hot water, dry and cut again! Once all the brownies are cut, you can enjoy the scraps!
What to Avoid When Cutting Brownies
When you want to cut nice, clean brownies, there are a few things you should never do.
- Never “saw” at the brownies with your knife. Dragging the knife back and forth through the brownies will pull the brownies apart, causing the edges to crumble and fall apart. Always place the knife directly into the brownies, pressing straight down to cut.
- Never cut hot brownies. When the brownies are hot, they will be quite soft and almost impossible to cut neatly. Allow the brownies to cool completely before you even attempt to cut them!
- Always wipe the knife after each cut, making sure you knife is nice and clean with no brownie residue. This will ensure your cuts are clean!
These tricks are quite simple and following them will make you quite happy when you are left with perfect brownies!
Tools for Cutting Brownies
There are actually a few tools you may want to invest in that will make cutting brownies even easier. In fact, some of them will ensure that you never need to cut brownies ever again!
The first tool you should look into is a brownie tray divider (link to Amazon). This is a grid like, metal divider that you place inside your brownie pan. The divider will separate your pan into even squares.
Pour the brownie batter into the brownie pan with the divider and then bake as normal. Once the brownies have cooled, gently lift the brownie divider, pushing the individual brownies out as you lift the pan. Perfect square brownies will be your result, no cutting needed!
You can also use a brownie divider after you have already baked a regular sheet of brownies. Spray the metal divider with cooking grease and then press it down into the cooked, cooled brownie sheet. The brownies will all be cut in one shot and are guaranteed to be nice and even.
Another tool you may want to invest in is an individual brownie baking pan. Brownie pans look like muffin pans but have square cavities rather than round. Spray the pan and pour the brownie batter into each square.
You may want to bake your brownies for a little less time or check them sooner than if you were baking a full tray of brownies- they may cook faster since they are smaller. Once cooled, pop the brownies out of the tray and enjoy your perfectly shaped brownies!
If you do not feel like investing in a new pan just for brownie baking, just be sure that you have a nice sharp knife on hand to help you cut your brownies. A sharp knife will help you get the clean cut brownies that you are looking for and, you can use it for other kitchen tasks too!
Cutting beautiful brownies should not be a challenge now that you are well equipped with these tips and tricks. Soft, chewy, perfectly cut brownies are a dessert that everyone will love!
Just be warned that people will likely ask you how you managed to cut such flawless brownies…
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.