What Do You Call the Last Slice of a Bread Loaf?
On Twitter, the great bread end debate rages on.
The heel. The butt. The booty. The ears. No, we’re not talking about body parts. We’re talking about bread parts. These are just a few of the names people call the end pieces in a loaf of bread.
Chris Smith didn’t mean to start a viral debate on the subject, but once Twitter started, they were, well, on a roll. It all began with this seemingly innocuous tweet that Smith posted last month along with a picture of a loaf and an arrow pointing to the end slice: “There is an argument in my house. What do you call this piece of the bread?”
Smith lives in Yorkshire in Northern England with his girlfriend Niamh Kelly, who’s from Ireland. She was in the kitchen one day and asked what she thought was a totally normal question.
“She shouted down the hallway, ‘Do you want me to keep the heel?’” Smith recalls. “And I was like, ‘What are you talking about? What’s the heel?’ She comes in waving that bit of bread.” To him, that piece of bread is called the crust, no question about it. “I said you’re making that up. It’s not the heel, it’s the crust.”
So he posted on Twitter expecting to be quickly vindicated in the “crust” label. Instead, responses poured in saying they both were wrong. It’s “the doorstop” in part of Scotland but “the ootsider” in other parts of the country. Others said they call it the topper, end, knuust (in Germany), bread back (in Jamaica), skalk (in Norway), bread’s ears (in Japan), and el codo (the elbow in Spanish), to name a few.
Some had more colorful responses. “Garbage cap,” one person suggested; another chimed in with “devil’s slice.” Dozens more simply call it “trash.” “The sh***y part,” one person said. “I’m so grossed out that people are calling it the heel wtf it’s clearly the crust,” another wrote. “Heel makes me think of someone’s dusty feet.” That’s an image that sticks with you.
Nearly 10,000 people replied to the tweet. The response was completely unexpected, said Smith, the self-described shy guy, as he sipped a mug of Yorkshire Tea in his The Royal Parks sweatshirt.
It’s a debate that pops up online every few years, one where everybody thinks their answer is the right one—deeming all the others garbage cap status. It’s akin to the rabid allegiances people have in the perennial pop-soda-cola and sub-hoagie-hero-grinder debates. People even debate how their bagels should be sliced.
For baking experts, the jury is still out. To Francisco Migoya, head chef at the Modernist Cuisine culinary lab and co-author of the book Modernist Bread, it’s the heel. To Kierin Baldwin, chef-instructor of pastry and baking arts at the Institute of Culinary Education, it’s simply the end or the bread ends.
But they do agree that, whatever it’s called, it’s a delicious part of the loaf—defying those who insist it’s the “sh***ty part” or only fit for bird food. The last piece is the one that’s “more toothsome with more textural contrast, too, more shatter followed by the crumb, which has a chew,” Migoya says. Though he’s not likely to make a sandwich with the two end pieces because it’s more awkward to hold, he uses the heel for dunking into soup because it can hold up to a bowl of steaming liquid without getting soggy.
Baldwin agrees, calling the end “one of the most pleasant pieces of bread to eat in my opinion.” She toasts those crusty pieces in the oven and slathers them with butter, especially the ends of the sourdough loaves she bakes at home. For her kids, though, they won’t eat the last piece unless she carefully disguises it in a sandwich. To prevent food waste, Baldwin recommends using the last piece for stuffing, bread pudding, croutons, or French toast.
If you knead a luscious loaf, the experts have a few recommendations. In New York: Winner, Bien Cuit, Balthazar, Frenchette, Runner & Stone, and Orwashers. In San Francisco, Tartine is a favorite of Migoya’s, and in Los Angeles, he recommends Clark Street Bread.
These artisan breads might just win you over on the heel/crust/ends/insert-your-favorite-noun here, if you’re used to a Wonder Bread-style loaf.
But perhaps all the last slice really needs is a rebrand. As one reply on Twitter suggested, “That’s the heel, but if I called it that when my daughter was young and really picky, she wouldn’t eat it. At that point, I renamed it the ‘crown’ and she happily ate it in her princess dress. Mom win.”