Sharpen your skills: Become handier, safer with your kitchen knives
Cooking is an art. And, as for any artist, having the right tools and knowing how to use, clean and store them is important. Three experts in the field tell how to hone your skills so you can chop, slice and dice like a professional chef.
The way you hold your knife is important so you can cut as fast as the pros without cutting yourself. “For the most stability and control, you should place your thumb and forefinger on the back side of the blade, curling your other fingers on the handle,” says David Locke, executive chef and owner of DL Cuisine, in Tewksbury, Mass. “Don’t white-knuckle the knife; you want a free, comfortable grip, and you want to cut straight down.”
Look for a knife with a full tang, where steel extends through the length of the handle, says Kathleen Donovan, spokeswoman for Cutco Cutlery. She says the knife should feel comfortable in your hand, be well-balanced and made of a combination of high-carbon and stainless steel.
Sharp blades present the least danger of your getting cut if they are guided, not forced, says chef Jim Gallivan, department chair for Culinary Arts at The Art Institute of Atlanta. Sharpen blades at least once a year, says Locke, twice if you’re in the kitchen a lot.
Store clean, dry knives in a wooden block. “If stored wet, they could rust or get germs,” Locke says. Gallivan says not to store them in drawers as the blades could nick each other and they could create a hazard for the person reaching for them.
To clean, hold the knife by the handle with one hand and wipe the blade clean with a hot soapy rag from the unsharpened side. Rinse with a bleach-water solution and air dry, Gallivan says. Don’t use steel wool products, as they can scratch the knife, Locke adds.
The right blade for the job
A professional chef’s kitchen might have dozens of different knives, but for a standard kitchen these essentials will suffice, say Gallivan, Locke and Donovan.
Chef’s knife: With an 8- to 14-inch blade that is wide at the handle and tapered to a point, this is the most versatile knife in the drawer and an essential for chopping, slicing, dicing and mincing.
Utility knife: A rigid knife with a 6-inch blade, it is used for cutting fruits and vegetables, boning fish and carving small birds.
Paring knife: A smaller knife with a 3 ½- to 4-inch blade, it is commonly used to peel fruits and vegetables, remove eyes and stems from vegetables and slice smaller foods.
Boning knife: You’ll want two of these, says Gallivan: a rigid one for breaking down large cuts of meat and a flexible one for boning fish and poultry. Both are about 5 inches.
Bread knife: A 9-inch blade with serrated edge, it slices breads, rolls and cakes.