How to Cut Perfect Brownies and Bars Every Time

Test Kitchen tips for perfect cuts every time.

Cutting Brownies
Photo: Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Thom Driver; Food Styling: Margaret Monroe Dickey

When cookies seem too casual, and layer cakes feel too fancy, dessert bars and brownies stand in the gap, delivering surprising flavors in portable packaging. For generations of bakers, these handheld treats have been the go-to choice for bridal showers, birthday parties, potlucks, or any celebratory gatherings. Why do we love them? Let us count the ways: You can make them ahead of time, bake and serve out of one pan, and transport them easily. Plus, they're great for feeding a crowd.

Serving impressive bars and brownies can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. Not sure how to cut brownies and bars? Follow these tips, and your guests will be impressed.

Why Are Brownies Difficult To Cut?

Before diving into the tips for slicing the perfect brownie square, it might help to know why these delicious treats are so challenging to cut. Unlike cake or cookies, brownies are incredibly dense, soft, and gooey when baked correctly. Usually, a cake will have a light and fluffy consistency, but brownies tend to have a chewier texture.

Brownie recipes don't usually call for a raising agent, like baking powder, as most cakes require. A raising agent is what creates the light texture in cakes, making it easier to create clean cuts.

How To Cut Perfect Brownie Squares

Use a Hot Knife

Fill a container with the hottest water your sink can create. Next, submerge the blade in the water for a few minutes. Keep the handle outside the water to protect your fingers from burning. After allowing enough time for the knife's blade to warm appropriately, remove it and wipe it dry. Make your first cut in your brownies, then repeat this process for as many slices as you need.

Freeze Your Treats

Like a hot blade that slices through your room temperature brownies more efficiently, a large chef's knife will make better cuts after completely freezing your treat. First, let your brownies cool and remove them from the pan onto plastic wrap. Cover brownies entirely and freeze for at least two hours. After making your perfect squares, let the brownies return to room temperature before serving.

Switch Up Utensils

Instead of your standard chef's knife, try using something else you probably have in your kitchen drawers—a pizza cutter. Pizza cutters create sweeping cuts with less effort, as you can run the length of your brownie without stopping. Remove the brownies from the pan first so you won't have awkward stops in your cuts. Also, spraying the pizza cutter blade with cooking spray will make smoother cuts.

Spray the Blade

A chef's knife is a great tool for slicing bar cookies, but before you cut, coat the blade with cooking spray and wipe it clean with a paper towel. As previously mentioned, this tip will create smoother cuts. Repeat this process between slices if the bars are extra gooey.

Use a Ruler

For the most precise results, measure the bars with a ruler and use a toothpick (or tip of a knife) to make small marks where you'll slice. This process is beneficial if you need an exact number of treats.

Slice Correctly

When it's time to cut, press the knife's blade firmly and then drag it back in a single motion—Moving the blade back and forth (like a saw) creates jagged edges. Being intentional with your cuts will make brownies appear more even and have a better overall presentation.

How to Bake Better Brownies

Line the Pan

The trick to clean brownie cuts starts before baking. Cover the pan with aluminum foil to match is easier to remove when ready. Make sure to leave about a three-inch overhang on two opposing sides, which you can use as handles to lift the bars once they have baked.

Cool Completely

It's tempting to cut (and eat) the bars as soon as they come out of the oven, but the longer they cool, the neater your slices will be. Speed up the process by refrigerating them for two hours.

Choose the Right Pan

When baking brownies, if you want to serve them in squares, it helps to bake the treat in a square pan. Also, using a metal pan helps create sharp edges, while glass pans tend to make rounder edges. Metal pans also create a crispy edging around the brownies, which is incredibly delicious for this fudgy chocolate dessert.

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