You won't look at crackers the same way again.
stack of three crackers and another cracker beside them
Credit: Dotdash Meredith

Have you ever picked up a saltine, graham cracker, Ritz, or Club cracker and wondered, why the holes? If not, we have a feeling you won't be able to unseen the perforated patterns on these popular crackers.

Sure, not all crackers have holes in them: think seed crackers or slightly puffed crackers like Goldfish and Oyster crackers. Most, however, do. And it turns out these teeny-tiny holes aren't just for looks. Here's the bigger purpose the holes in crackers serve and how to poke your way to better homemade crackers.

Crackers and many breads begin with hydrated dough, which means the liquid ingredients weigh more than the dry ingredients, Kathryn Gordon, chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education, told Allrecipes.

Hydrated dough releases steam as it bakes, Gordon said. This results in bread with an open crumb — a texture that isn't solid or dense but full of little air pockets, like the inside of a loaf of sourdough or a baguette. Crackers are not meant to rise like sourdough and baguettes, though.

For cracker dough to bake to a perfect crisp, it needs to release the steam. Basically, perforating crackers with holes (also called docking) helps release steam from the dough when it bakes to keep the crackers flat.

That means all 18 holes in Club crackers and 10 holes in Town House crackers are there for a reason, Zach Wyer, director of brand marketing at Kellogg's Crackers, told Allrecipes. "The tiny yet mighty holes ensure layers of delicious dough are held together during the baking process as each cracker bakes," he said.

Companies like Kellogg's use a machine to dock the holes in unison, but home cooks can use a toothpick, bamboo stick, or fork for the same impact.

Before you start poking away at your homemade crackers, however, note that they can have too many or too few holes. The number of holes you see in some of the commercial crackers (who again have more control over the size of the hole thanks to machines that can symmetrically space and poke in unison) may not be the right amount for baking crackers at home.

Most small crackers just need one hole in the middle, while four holes in larger crackers will allow enough steam to escape, Kristen Sirbak, owner of Beverly's Pastry Shop in Pottstown, Pa., told Allrecipes. Of course, certain crackers, like these cheesy crackers from Chef John or these honey graham crackers, may call for more holes.

How you space out the holes matters, too. "Close positioning of holes makes the crackers dry and hard to chew. If the holes end up being too far, then it will disintegrate the cracker," Sirbak said.

Without enough holes in the crackers, you end up with air bubbles that can actually burn the crackers (and make them look funky).

So, next time you throw a slice of Cheddar on a Club cracker or slather peanut butter on a Ritz — or better yet, make your own at home — remember that those little patterned holes make a huge difference in your cracker's texture and taste.