A knife is as good as any other, right? The most common misconception my clients have is that any old knife will do the trick. I’ve seen rusted, dull, and some really sad excuses for a cutting tool in kitchens all over the city and so my first recommendation is to go knife shopping!
Choosing Your Blade
This can be an overwhelming experience if you don’t have basic knowledge on the different knife types. So here is my rule of thumb… it should never feel awkward. The weight, shape and length should feel like an extension of your hand. An all-inclusive knife set is practical but the three most versatile (and my recommendation for all beginners) are a paring, serrated and chef’s knife.
A paring knife is perfect for small or intricate work, like peeling. A serrated is best for sawing tricky ingredients like tomatoes and bread because the serrated edges (teeth) cut through faster like a saw. A chef’s knife is going to be your go-to for chopping almost everything from meat to veggies.
Caring For Your Blade
Now that you have a great set of knives, here are some tips & tricks for keeping them as sharp as the first day you bought them:
1. Sharpen the blade: Your knives will either be your friend or foe, so the single most important piece of cooking advice I can give is to keep your knives sharp! A dull knife is less precise, creates frustration and is actually dangerous!
2. Wash them by hand: The dishwasher or scouring pads are a knife’s worst enemy. Always use a soapy cloth or sponge and rinse, dry and put them away immediately. Leaving them in the sink or dish rack only creates an opportunity for injury and dulling of the blade.
3. Always use a cutting board: Preferably a wood one. It may be tempting to just cut that one piece directly on the countertop but don’t do it… you’ll just end up damaging the blade or your counters!
Using Your Blade
First things first, learning to hold your knife and how to place your fingers will prevent cuts & injuries. You can either use the handle grip or the blade grip (whatever feels more natural) with your predominant hand and guide the blade against the food with your opposite hand. It is very important that you protect your fingers by curling them inwards, using your knuckles to guide your knife.
Now that the knife feels comfortable in your hands, here are 3 basic chopping skills you’ll want to begin with:
1. The Slice: With the tip of the blade in constant contact with the cutting board, pull the knife backwards slightly until the blade slices into the food. Continue by pressing downwards and forwards. Repeat using a circular motion and keeping the blade tip on the board at all times.
2. The Tap Chop: Hold the flat side of the knife against your knuckles, with the entire knife lifted above the cutting board, push downwards in a smooth, even stroke, shifting the knife forwards slightly. Lift the blade back up and repeat.
3. The Rock Chop: Place the tip of your knife to one side of the ingredient and use your opposite hand, palm down, on top of the knife. Rock the knife in an up and down motion, re-gathering the ingredients occasionally until they are finely chopped.
Ok, it’s time to get chopping! Take your time and enjoy the learning process… remember, the more you practice the easier it gets!