Yes, it has been a while since I’ve done a Dark Side of the Fridge post. I thought I’d bring it back with a look at one of the basic aspects of cooking: your knife skills.
I posted some time ago about how to chop an onion. However, knowing how to use your knife is a major part of cooking. You can make a good meal without using a pan, but it’s going to be pretty hard to get your raw veggies ready for munching without cutting a few bits off here and there. And getting the right parts cut efficiently without cutting yourself is a handy thing to know.
Let’s start with the grip:
You’re going to grasp the knife where the base hits the handle between your thumb and forefinger, with the rest of your fingers wrapping around the handle. This gives you a lot of leverage and control. You do not want to put your forefinger along the top of the blade. It takes away from your leverage and actually makes it harder to control what you’re doing.
Before you actually start cutting, you should hone it a little.
You use a long, rough stick called a sharpening steel. It doesn’t actually sharpen your blade. What it does is realign the sharp edge of the blade so that it cuts more efficiently, which also means more safely. Sharpening involves scraping off microscopic bits to create a fine edge. Honing is easy. Hold the knife at a fifteen- to twenty-degree angle and swipe the blade along the steel. Then go back and swipe the other side of the blade. About two or three times each side should do it.
One of the most important part of knife skills is keeping your fingers out of the way.
Notice how I’ve got the fingers of my left hand curled well away from where the knife is cutting. To make the actual cut, place the point of the knife on the cutting mat, with the edge over what you’re cutting, then push downward with a rocking motion, up and down, up and down.
To randomly chop something, you use the same motion.
However, since you don’t need to hold the food down to get nice, even slices, you can put your opposing hand on the back of the blade to give yourself a little more control and oomph.
The most important part of knife skills
The clean-up. Always, always, always clean your knife as soon as you’ve finished cutting things. Or even if you haven’t completely finished. I start with a little dish detergent on the blade.
I wash it without dumping it in a sink filled with soapy water. Or if my sink happens to have some soapy water in it, I’ll just dip the blade. Leaving a knife in the bottom of a sink of soapy water not only exposes the edge to some nasty nicks, you can cut yourself trying to find the darned thing. You do not want to ask me how I know this.
I rinse the knife and wipe it off from the back of the blade, not the edge. Yeah, that may seem obvious, but it never hurts to point it out.
I also dry the knife from the back of the blade, and I always, always, always dry it off right away, rather than put it into a drainboard to let drip dry. You avoid water stains that way. Plus your knife is ready when you need it again in five minutes when you discover there was something else to cut up.
Keep your good knives in a block or on a wall magnet. Do not leave them loose in a drawer. All that banging around is hard on the edge, and you can cut yourself trying to find what you need. Again, you do not want to ask me how I know.
And that’s the basics of knife skills.