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Tips and Techniques





Boning Chicken Breasts
Healthy Bread Crumbs
All About Knives
Escargot On A Budget
All About Knives

There has been much hype regarding effective kitchen knives

There has been much hype regarding effective kitchen knives. Clearly, you can spend several hundred dollars on just a few basic knives. The alternative is always the cheaply made set that sells for $34.95 for 15 different knives plus a set of steak knives. What needs to be established is just how many different knives you need. This will be determined by what type of home cook you really are. So for example, if you frequently do garnishing, then you might need specific knives for this task. Lets examine the knive type individually to see if it is something that you need to invest in. You will be extremely surprised at how little you actually need or spend for adequate knives. The knife I recommend is the Forschner Victorinox. It is manufactured by the makers of the Swiss Army Knife and it is stamped. It has a Vibrox® handle that resists slips and is impervious to water and oils.

 

 


It comes in versions from 6 to 10 inches in length and you can find larger ones if you try hard

The quintessential kitchen knife and workhorse around the kitchen is the chef’s knife. It comes in versions from 6 to 10 inches in length and you can find larger ones if you try hard. The typical size is 8 inches. Get on that fits your hand and feels comfortable. The 8 or 10 inch versions are effective. Also notice the slightly curved blade. This will facilitate chopping – the intended function of this knife.







Hold the knife between the thumb and forefinger as shown below

Hold the knife between the thumb and forefinger as shown below. When chopping, never bang the blade down on the surface the way you see on TV. This is just for drama and will dull your knife. Instead, with the tip placed on the surface and the knife raised in the air, a forward motion will allow the blade to cut the item with a “whooshing” sound. Move the food, rather than the knife.

 





Hold the knife between the thumb and forefinger as shown below

There are 2 methods for producing knives. The first is stamped where the blade is cut from a sheet of steel. The second is called forged where the blade is hammered out into the proper shape. Notice the pictures to the right are examples of both types. The forged knife is identified by the tang or handle end of the blade being riveted into the handle. The rivets are visible on the sides of the handle and the tang of the blade can be seen running the full length of the knife. Forged knives are typically more expensive than stamped knives. For home us and quite frankly even for professional use, stamped are quite adequate. Also notice the handles of the 2 knives. The stamped is made from a non slip material that also resists moisture and grease. The forged knife in this example is made from rosewood. It looks very nice, but can slip when wet. Now consider what happens when you are cutting foods. Firstly, your hands are often wet either from water or perhaps oils from the foods. Next time you are at a fine restaurant with one of those open kitchens, look inside and see what style of knife they use. You typically will find stamped knives with slip resistant grips. It is much more important to have your knife scrupulously sharp than to have it look exquisite. Remember you are trying to cut food. You can impress your friends with your knife skills and not with the cost of your cutlery.

 

 

 

 

Hold the knife between the thumb and forefinger as shown below

The boning knife has a straight or slightly curved blade and is usually about 5 – 8 inches long. It is used to de-bone cut the flesh from poultry or meat. Its design can be either straight or curved which allows you to work it into irregular spaces. It can also be used to dismember a chicken into its parts. Check the price per pound on cut up chicken verses whole chicken. It might pay for you to do it yourself since it is quite easy and takes just a few minutes.

 

 

 

 

Hold the knife between the thumb and forefinger as shown below

The filet knife has a long thin flexible blade and is used as the name implies to filet fish. How many times do you buy a piece of say salmon and the skin is on one side of it. Now this might be desirable for some recipes, but if you are poaching salmon, for example, you want to remove that piece of skin. The filet knife is the perfect choice. Its flexible blade allows you to get between the flesh and the skin and with one continuous motion, the skin is removed. It is also perfect for slicing smoked salmon or gravlax into perfectly thin sections.

 

 

 

Hold the knife between the thumb and forefinger as shown below

The paring knife is a small knife with either a straight or curved blade that is used for making small, sometimes intricate cuts in foods. It can be used as a peeler, to say peel a potato, although a vegetable peeler will typically do a better job since it will remove a thinner slice. Typical uses might be to remove the core from a tomato, or to make thin slices from a clove of garlic, or de-veining shrimp, or removing seeds from a Jalapeño or Serrano pepper. The curved blade is used for garnishing like cutting fancy shapes out of a radish.

 

 

 

Hold the knife between the thumb and forefinger as shown below

The butchers’ knife is used for breaking down large portions of meat. For example, cutting a whole filet of beef into individual steaks, or portioning a rib roast into individual servings. When I make any type of stew, I buy a 5 – 6 pound beef shoulder and use a butchers’ knife to cube the meat into ½ or 1 inch pieces for braising.

 

 






Hold the knife between the thumb and forefinger as shown below

The carving knife is as the name implies to carve meat. It is long and relatively narrow to allow you to get thin slices when desired. Typical uses might be to cut portions of a pork roast or make thin slices of a brisket or London broil. The carving knife is slightly curved and pointed while its cousin, the slicing knife has a rounded tip. Slicers are supposedly designed to cut smaller thinner slices, but my personal choice would be the carving knife.

 



Hold the knife between the thumb and forefinger as shown below

The bread knife can be any stiff knife with a serrated edge. This ensures that soft bread can be cut without flattening or tearing the loaf. Nobody likes squished bread!











Hold the knife between the thumb and forefinger as shown below

Another knife that you might want to consider is a cleaver. It comes in 2 versions. The meat cleaver has a hole in the upper part of the blade. This was used in butcher shops to hang the knife on a hook. Its cousin, the Chinese cleaver has no hole and is slightly curved on the bottom. It can be used as a replacement to the chef’s knife. Its curved blade allows you to mince meat or vegetables by rocking the knife up and down with the point fixed on the board in a similar fashion to that of the chef’s knife. Both knives can cut through bones although not intended for large steak bones where a saw is appropriate. For the home cook, the Chinese cleaver is more practical in that it can substitute for the chef’s knife. Unless you are fabricating slabs of meat, the meat cleaver is of less value.











Hold the knife between the thumb and forefinger as shown below

Now that we have our assortment of knives for every conceivable occasion, we come to the sharpening steel. This item is essential in the arsenal of implements in the home. We’ve all heard the expression that a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp knife because greater pressure needs to be applied and that can cause the knife to slip. Well Don’t Believe It for 1 minute. My knives are razor sharp and so should yours be. It is extremely easy to nick your hands if you are not paying attention to what you are doing. Have your knives professionally sharpened once or twice a year. Try not to use the free service at the meat counter of your local supermarket. After sharpening, and before each use, run your knife on a sharpening steel for 2 – 3 strokes on each side at an angle of approximately 23°. This is close to the thickness of your thumb. When cutting with a knife, the blade gets dull because it actually cups in one direction or another due to the thinness of the blade. The sharpening steel brings the blade back into alignment.