Using a Knife:
The work horse tool for any good cook is the Chef's knife.
Make sure your knife has a full tang and a comfortable handle. Lift up the
knife and see how it feels in your hand. Is it comfortable and does the
balance feel uniform when you raise and lower the knife?
Just like a tennis racket or golf club, there is a correct way to hold and
use a knife. Hold the knife in your right or left hand. Place your index
finger on the knife blade and your three remaining fingers on the knife
handle. Tighten your grip on the handle and place your thumb on the opposite
side of the blade from your index finger. It will feel a little strange
to place your fingers on the blade itself but this grip allows for great
control when cutting. It just takes a little practice to get use to this
The hand not holding the knife, holds the food. To protect your fingers
and guide the food towards the knife, there is a proper way to use this
hand. Curl your fingers under and position them on top of the item to be
cut, for example an onion half. With your hand on the item and fingers safely
tucked, place the side of the knife next to your knuckles. You can now safely
slice your food and your fingers are protected.
The tip of the knife is the most delicate part of the knife and is used
for delicate work. For example, slicing white mushrooms. The mid- section
is the most commonly used area and does the majority of the work. And the
heel, or back 1/3 of the knife is the heavy work area. For example, slicing
the bottom off a bunch of celery or splitting the backbone of a chicken.
Now it's time to practice knife skills! There are several motions used when
slicing. The motion I use most commonly when doing bulk work is the "see-saw"
motion. Properly grab the knife, as shown earlier, and place your index
finger on the blade and your thumb on the other side of the knife blade.
Practice the "see-saw" motion by holding just the tip of the knife
on the cutting board and lifting up the back end of the knife. Slide the
knife up and down, never letting the tip of the knife loose contact with
the board as you glide the body of the knife over the board surface. Make
smooth, gliding motions with the knife. It will feel strange at first, especially
if you are just getting use to properly
holding a chef's knife.
Knife Safety & Sharpness:
Always safely store a knife in a knife holder not loose in a drawer with
other tools. It would be very easy to cut yourself looking for other tools
and it damages the blade to be exposed to other items.
If a knife should fall, don't try to catch it. Step back and let it hit
Never cut anything that is placed in your hand. Place the object on the
cutting board and use the proper sized knife for the job.
Never place your knives in the dishwasher, always wash them by hand, or
the handles will slowly deteriorate and the blades dull and pit. Never leave
a knife in soapy dishwater. When a hand is placed in soapy water, a cut
could easily occur. Always wash, dry and put away your knife when you are
finished using it.
A few more words on safety. While it might not initially seem logical, the
safest knife is a sharp knife. With a sharp knife, you have control
and can easily cut through food. With a dull knife, you'll struggle, forcing
the knife through the food, loose control and cut yourself.
To sharpen a knife, most professional chef's use a wet stone and do it themselves.
This takes a bit of practice and with a good knife, you don't want to ruin
the edge practicing. I suggest you find a reputable knife sharpener in your
community and have them maintain the edge on your knives. Just don't wait
until the blade is too dull!
Between sharpenings, you can get the "edge" or sharpness back
on your knives by using a sharpening steel. The steel is a rod that magnetically
re-aligns the tiny grooves on the 2 sides of your knife blade. For fun,
touch the steel to something metal in your kitchen. Do you feel a slight
magnetic tug? You should but if you don't, it's time to throw out that old
steel and purchase a new one!
To steel a knife, hold the knife in one hand and the steel in the other.
Place your thumb behind the guard on the steel to protect it. Using light,
smooth strokes run one side of the knife blade against the steel at a 20
degree angle. Repeat 5 to 6 times on one side. A Chef's knife is sharp on
two sides. Do this same process on the other side of the knife blade, 5
to 6 times. Don't over-steel; it can actually dull your knives.
Trained chefs have many different ways of "breaking down" fruits
and vegetables. Let me share one with you that will make you look like a
kitchen pro! One of the most commonly used ingredients in any savory dish
is diced onion. Here's the fastest, most efficient way to dice an onion.
Peel off the onion "paper" first and place the peeled onion on
a cutting board, root side down. Using your chef's knife, slice the onion
in half from the bulb end to the root end. Take the onion half, and make
slices from top to bottom. Turn the onion a quarter turn, and starting at
the bottom of the onion make slices to the top of the onion. Finally, make
vertical slices down the top of the onion. Instant dice- no time wasted.
Here's another nifty trick you can master with your new chef's knife. Peeling
garlic can be a time-consuming, annoying kitchen task. But you can shorten
the process and have a little fun with it. Peel off as many garlic cloves
as you need for a particular recipe. Place the cloves on your cutting board
and using the flat side of the blade, place the blade over top of the clove.
With your free hand give the knive blade a good whack! The peel will be
cracked, the clove still whole, and the garlic ready to be minced, sliced
For heavy work, like cutting a celery bottom, use the back third of the
knife. Just cut straight down, keeping the knife blade parallel to the board.
For chopping larger, finer amounts of items, like minced garlic or chopped
herbs, hold the knife tip of the board and raise the back end of the knife.
Your free hand rests on the top of the knife blade and controls the swing
of the knife. Use the front half of the knife blade in a swinging, circular
motion, never allowing the tip of the blade to come off the board. This
is so much easier than it sounds. Try it just for fun!
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