Learning how to improve my Knife Skills is one of the best things I have done as a cook.
Learning to properly use knives, especially chef’s knives, is a skill that every cook can use. I just returned from a long trip to Italy and France (plus a few stops in the Western Mediterranean). I’ll report on some of the places and foods in subsequent posts, but I thought this would be a good return info post as it’s a topic that’s so useful for all cooks.
The class was held at a local kitchen store in Santa Cruz, Toque Blanche, http://www.mytoque.com, a comprehensive source of all kinds of kitchen items, including a very good stock of knives, with a full range of types and brands. They also professionally sharpen knives for a reasonable fee.
5 Main “Never Do” Points
You may know these but they’re a good reminder:
1. Never put chef’s knives in the dishwasher; (most chef’s knives have wooden handles and the blades can be damaged).
2. Never use the blade to scoop anything off a cutting board- use the back of the knife.
3. Never use a chef’s knife on plastic or glass boards (they dull the blades). Composition/wood boards are best.
4. Never chop bones with a chef’s knife —it can chip the blade; (use a cleaver instead).
5. Never leave chef’s knives in a wet sink- some blades may rust. Wash and dry your knives after use.
Sharpening vs. Honing
Honing: This confused me for a long time. Actually, honing is the action using a honing stick or wand that is recommended every time you use a chef’s knife; just 2 or 3 slides on each side of the blade at approximately 15 degree angle will reform the metal. (I used to do this at a more extreme angle but have learned that is not correct). Some honing sticks have a guide that shows or guides the proper angle.
Sharpening: Sharpening is only necessary once or twice yearly. It is a process of grinding the blade and thus takes off some of the metal. It can be done with commercial sharpening equipment you can buy, or by professional knife sharpeners.
There are many types of chef’s knives, including stamped (blade is cut from a piece of metal and stamped out); forged, (made from a single bar of metal, heated and then pounded into shape- typically heavier and more sturdy then stamped knives, and has a wider lip, called a bolster, on the end of the blade where it meets the handle), Japanese knives (including Santoku, Gyuto), which have a different shape than Western chef’s knives. Chef’s knives range in length too, typically from 8” to 11”. My brother gave me the 11” ( Wusthof, a good brand made in Germany), which intimidated me at first but now I appreciate the length as I know better how to use it’s leverage for chopping.
Another important tip is to hold a knife by the bolster- and make sure you “claw” your other hand as you chop.
This is just an overview of best knife practices- and that’s the main thing- practice!
Enjoy til next time!