The Ultimate Guide to Mastering Knife Skill
What Are Knife Skills?
Knife skills refer to practices and techniques for handling a chef's knife in the kitchen. It involves your ability to manipulate knives for cutting, slicing, chopping, mincing, and dicing ingredients during food preparation. A cook should also know how to use sharp knives for carving, peeling, and fileting.
Whether using a serrated knife, paring knife, or classic chef's knife, the first step to mastering the skill is learning how to hold the knife properly. First, always use your dominant hand to grip the knife handle firmly. Your index finger should extend on the blunt top of the blade so you can maintain your balance. Only four fingers should wrap the handle, meeting your thumb on the other side.
Choosing a convenient grip is the next stage to mastering this kitchen tool. Professional chefs typically use two grips: the handle grip or the pinch knife grip. With the handle grip, you hold the handle with all five fingers and your palm. However, you only need your thumb and index finger to hold the blade with the pinch knife grip. The handle grip is the standard option for regular cutting on a chopping board, while the pinch grip is ideal when making precise knife cuts for aesthetic purposes.
Importance of Knife Skills
When you improve your skills, you will become a more efficient cook. This will enhance your productivity, increase precision, and save time in the kitchen. In the culinary world, presentation is just as important as taste. Increasing your efficiency with the knife will help you add aesthetics to your dishes.
There is also a safety issue attached to using knives. A knife can be a dangerous tool when handled by a person with limited skills. Improving your skills will help prevent knife blade accidents in the kitchen. Finally, having impressive skills with a sharp knife shows that you are a professional chef.
Top 10 Knife Skills
Now you know the importance of knife skills. It's time to learn how to improve your knife techniques. Below are the top ten ways to boost your skills according to a professional chef.
1. Cleaning Your Knife
A good knife set isn't cheap, so you must learn proper cleaning to prevent rusting. The gold standard is washing your chef’s knife with water and dishwashing soap immediately after use. Clean it with a hand towel and place it on the knife hanger immediately. Apart from preventing rust, proper cleaning also prevents bacterial growth on the handle and hidden areas of the knife.
2. Sharpening Your Knife
Even the sharpest stainless steel Japanese knives require sharpening from time to time. This is the only way to maintain your knife edge so it doesn't get dull after repeated use. You can use a whetstone for knife sharpening so you don't end up with dull knives. Ensure you sharpen it at a 20-degree angle to avoid damaging the blade.
One of the most basic knife skills is chopping large ingredients into smaller, more manageable pieces. It is usually done on a chopping board but can be done on any flat surface. After washing your ingredients, place them on the cutting board. Hold one side of the ingredients with your non-dominant hand and cut it to the size you want with your dominant hand.
If you want to cut your ingredients into precise, uniform cuts, you should opt for dicing. It is usually ideal for carrots, root vegetables, and other ingredients with thick density. Start by chopping the ingredients into strips and placing them beside each other on the cutting surface. With the stripes on the board at a 90-degree angle, cut them into small, even cubes.
Leafy greens and leafy herbs require a different type of cutting from root vegetables and meat. The common technique chefs use for these greens is chiffonade. Wash your leafy greens and place a large chunk of them on your chopping board. You can roll them up together or seal the leaves with another leaf. Use your chef’s knife to cut the middle of the rolled-up leaves into two parts and join both halves together. Start cutting from where you sliced the roll into two with the chef's knife.
While you can peel most ingredients with your fingers, you will need a knife for others. It is one of the easiest ways to use a chef's knife. You may need to peel the outer layer of certain fruits like apples or tomatoes with serrated knives. Hold the fruit with one hand and make thin slices with your knife, cutting in a circular motion. You can also peel onions and garlic with a similar knife technique.
Sometimes, your recipe may require long, thin, uniform cuts. In these cases, the style is called baronnet. All you have to do is cut the food items into long slices and then cut them even more based on the length you want to achieve. Batonnet cutting is excellent for toppings and when you want to create food art with a paring knife.
This involves chopping ingredients into tiny pieces in a circular motion. It is a great way to cut meat for porridge and soup, but it can also be used for other ingredients. Mincing is simple since it doesn't doesn't require any precision. All you have to do is jam the edged knife into the ingredient on the cutting surface until it is all finely minced up.
If you want to learn a new, advanced knife style, consider learning Tournée. It is one of the best professional chef knife skills. It requires a curved knife. Cut your vegetables into several pieces while following their original shape. For example, you can cut a tomato into a seven-sided oval shape. Ensure you don't use a dull knife for this knife technique.
You can't talk about standard chef’s knife skills without mentioning Julienning. You will need to make your ingredients look thin, like matchsticks. Cut the food items into equal sizes and slice each piece into thin, long strips that look like matchsticks. It's a great option for stir fries.
As you can see in this article, there are many advanced and basic knife skills you can learn to gain more control over your knife in the kitchen. Start by buying a set with a serrated knife, a paring knife, a santoku knife, and a regular chef’s knife. Remember to clean and sharpen your knives regularly like a professional chef. Also, always prioritize knife safety.