Master the Art of Sourdough Scoring for Bakery-Quality Loaves

Learn the essential step of scoring sourdough bread before baking—plus what tools to use—with our easy tips.

As sourdough rapidly rises during baking, the dough will expand and crack open in the weakest spots. Scoring sourdough directs the expansion and shape of your final bread loaf by creating intentional weak spots. If you skip scoring, the bread will still crack open, it will just happen in unexpected areas with no kind of pattern. For a high-end look, you can try scoring designs in your sourdough dough, or keep things simple with a few basic cuts to allow expansion. A lame (pronounced LAHM) is the most common tool for sourdough scoring, but if you don't have a lame, or don't want to invest in a whole set of sourdough tools, there are a few common kitchen gadgets that will do the trick.

Using a razor blade to score sourdough bread
Scoring sourdough with a razor blade. Dera Burreson

Basic Tools for Scoring Sourdough

If you don't have a lame, just check your kitchen drawers or knife block for these alternatives. All will work as long as the blade is very sharp.

  • Paring knife: Held at an angle, a quick decisive cut with a paring knife ($40, Target) will offer lame-like results
  • Kitchen scissors: Simply snipping the dough surface at an angle with kitchen scissors ($20, Bed Bath & Beyond) will create deep enough cuts.
  • Razor blade: The lame alternative gives you even more control to make those pretty decorative cuts you may want. Always handle razor blades ($5, Target) with extreme caution.

How to Score Sourdough Bread

Holding the lame or a tool listed above, make one or two long cuts about ½ inch deep in the top of your bread dough. If you didn't cut deep enough on your first cut, you can make the same cut again to deepen it. During baking, this edge curls back, creating what is referred to as an "ear." You can make additional smaller cuts in any pattern you like.

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