Knife Skills

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This week instead of writing about what is fresh in the TakeHome case, we're going to tackle a little technique for getting fresh veggies to the table.

"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." Trivia question: How many times did Inigo say that line in “The Princess Bride”? He was certainly skilled with the blade, and knife skills are very handy in the kitchen. Unless you have studied TV chefs in slo-mo or have taken a knife-skills class, you could probably improve. Citrianna Brian, Culinary Supervisor at Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts, says, "Knife skills are a foundation of cooking, because they help you cook efficiently - and that will help you cook more regularly."

The first safety rule is don't be a pointer. Talking excitedly and pointing with a knife in your hand is risky. Second, no throwing knives. No trying to catch falling knives. No leaving knives in soapy water. And can you hear the Chef of Your Dreams repeating, "A sharp knife is a safe knife?" For safety while cutting, try “the claw.” Hold your veggie with fingers lightly curled under and your thumb tucked in. This is your guide hand, with fingers safe from the blade and the knuckles guiding the edge of the knife. Young children in the kitchen will pick up this technique quickly by sparking their imagination -- “Be like a predator, use your claw!"

Cutting techniques really matter. The size and cut of veggies affect cooking time, consistency, look, and the ease of eating your culinary creations. Some techniques include:

  • Chop – does not indicate a specific size, so you decide.
  • Cube - a uniform cut, usually 1/2".
  • Dice – small pieces, 1/8” to 1/4”.
  • Mince – chopped into tiny, tiny pieces.
  • Slice - flat pieces.
  • Julienne - match sticks, can vary in size.
  • Chiffonade – use for leafy veggies or herbs: Stack leaves, roll like a  cigar, and cut on the bias into ribbons.

Do you need to spend big bucks on knives? Not really. One good knife that you like the weight of and that you can use without tiring can be your kitchen partner for a long time when kept sharp. Paring knives and peelers are more expendable and do not need to be top-end. Most chefs say that a mandolin slicer is an indispensable cutting tool, but again it needn't break the bank. With your knives in hand, you are ready for any recipe!

- Heidi Lewis

Comments (2)

  • anon
    Candida Stinehelfer (not verified)

    I am really enjoying this website accept I am having issues with making the RSS feed to come up on Google Chrome. Can anyone give me a suggestion? Thanks!

    Nov 09, 2010


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