While there is a knife for every job, there are three essential knives every home kitchen should have. A chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a serrated knife.
Treat knives well and they will treat you well.
Keep knives sharp. A dull knife is actually much more dangerous than a sharp knife as it requires more pressure and has a higher risk of slipping.
Cutting boards are arguably one of the most important tools in the kitchen. They aren’t just for show — cutting boards protect knives and keep counters clean. They are used more than any other piece of equipment, so choose wisely.
To properly handle a knife, one must first properly position the body. Stand (don’t sit), with hips square to the counter. The knife should be at the same height or just below the elbows so that the whole upper body, not just the hands, can put downward pressure on the knife.
To properly hold a knife, avoid wrapping your entire hand around the handle. Instead, the palm should choke up on the handle, with the thumb and index finger gripping the top of the blade. This grip allows you to use the weight of the knife, the sharpness of the blade, and the strength of your arm to work together to make cutting easier.
The position of the other hand, also known as The Claw is the helping hand. It’s called this because the fingertips are curled under with the knuckles pressing down on whatever you are cutting, let’s say a carrot. By doing this, you keep the carrot from sliding and also prevents you from cutting your fingertips. This is how chefs are able to slice quickly without looking because the knife is guided by the knuckles. At home, practice precision and technique over speed. There’s no need to rush, just pay attention, and enjoy the zen of slicing.
For the everyday home cook, knife skills are less about precisely measured cuts and more about ensuring even cooking and reducing waste.
The best way to start cutting into something is to break it down into more manageable pieces first. For a carrot, for example, start by cutting it in half, around where the thickness changes, for very large carrot this could be in thirds. The next step is to cut in half lengthwise, which is considerably easier (and safer) to do with smaller chunks than a whole carrot. This creates a flat side. This is super important. No matter what you are cutting, you need to create a flat side before slicing or dicing. This prevents slipping.
Rock the knife from front to back as well as up and down, using the entire length of the blade.
Once you have a flat side, let your knuckles guide the knife. The key to slicing is smooth, long cuts. Let the knife glide through the item you are cutting with a smooth sliding motion.
Dicing uses the same technique as slicing, but with a rotation of the sliced ingredients to create cubes. For consistency, create the same thickness of vertical cuts as the horizontal cuts.
This technique is best used for garlic and herbs. Roughly chop your ingredients, create a small pile, and place the tip of the knife on one side of the pile. Using your free hand as an anchor on the top of the knife, chop through the pile back and forth in an arch across your board. Regather the pile to continue.
French for “ribbons,” this technique creates exactly that and is perfect for thinly shredded leafy greens and herbs. Stack leaves on top of each other and roll into a tight cigar. Thinly slice from one point to another.
The “Cutting Board Sequence” is a concept that guides you through the order of which ingredients to prep first based on their residue content — residue in the form of juice, stickiness, lingering smell, or risk of cross-contamination. This method minimizes the need to constantly clean or change the cutting board while also preserving the flavor of each ingredient being prepped.
Cutting Board Sequence
First: Fine, dry ingredients
Next: Low residue (hearty / dry)
Next: High residue (juicy / sticky)
Last: Pungent ingredients
Last: Animal products
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