Wednesday, May 9, 2012
How to Improve Your Knife Skills
One of the things that made me a lazy cook is that my knife skills were pathetic. I still don't have the knife skills of a Top Chef, but I can dice an onion now. Three years ago, I'd read a recipe and immediately gloss over ingredients like "1 small onion, diced" or "1 green pepper, chopped." I figured I could make the recipe without those things and did. And most of the time, they were edible, but did not have the depth of flavors that they could have had it I had included the vegetable items that needed chopped, diced, or otherwise cut. It's not that I was afraid to use a knife. I just didn't enjoy it. It was too much work.
Using a knife doesn't have to be too much work. The tips below will help you improve your knife skills:
1) Find a knife that works for you. Some chefs will say to invest in good quality knives. Yes, do IF the knife works for you. If it's not a knife that feels good in your hand, spending $100 on it, will not improve your skills. My favorite knife is a $10 chefs knife from the grocery store. It feels good in my hand and it slices smoothly.
2) Keep your knives sharp and honed. I hear a lot of people say they are afraid of a sharp knife. In reality, you are more likely to cut yourself with a dull knife, because it can slip off the food you are trying to cut or you have to bear down harder with it in order for it to cut. A sharp knife will do all the work for you, rather than you forcing the knife to cut through your food item.
3) Use the right knife for the job. The blade of the knife should be at least half the length of the piece of food you are cutting through. For example, if you're cutting an apple that is 3 inches in diameter, you should be using at least a 5 1/2 inch knife. In addition, you should use a chefs knife for dicing, slicing, and chopping. The blade and handle is made in such a way that your fingers won't bang on the cutting board when you bring the knife through the food. A paring knife is used for peeling and small cuts. A serrated knife is best for things like tomatoes and bread.
4) Use the right sized cutting board. Generally, when it comes to cutting boards, bigger is better. You need lots of room to spread out on the cutting board so you can push food off to the side while cutting.
5) When holding the food to be cut, use what most chefs call the "claw grip," meaning curling your fingers inward while slicing. Really, even if you can't chop super fast like the chefs on TV, you will have more control over your cut and will have your fingers out of the way of your knife.