Ask any chef what the most important tool is in the kitchen and they’ll say the chef’s knife, but if you cook a wide range of dishes, you also need a broader knife arsenal in order to use the right tool for the job. A chef will not entirely rely on a chef’s knife because specific blades are ideal for certain tasks. Home and professional cooks should have a chef’s knife, paring knife, carving knife, boning knife, cleaver, and bread knife. Without the right knives, putting together a meal efficiently can be a big challenge. Our kitchen knife tricks will discuss how to cut up a wide range of foods, so you can ensure that the food is not only presentation worthy, but that it cooks evenly as well.
Once you’ve become an expert in the kitchen, you should consider purchasing a specialty set of knives for more complex jobs. Our Japanese knife buyer’s guide covers the basics regarding what to look for in a pro quality knife set. Click here to learn more.
Key Takeaway: Using the right knife, combined with proper technique, can be a total game changer in the kitchen in terms of how your food turns out and presentation-wise. Our tips and tricks will have you slicing and dicing like a pro in no time.
Caring for Your Kitchen Knives
A professional chef will not work with a dull knife. Not only can cutting with a dull knife be potentially dangerous, but it can also be very difficult to use and can prevent those clean, fast cuts you’re after.
Routinely sharpening your kitchen knives goes with the territory. Not sharpening your knives on a regular basis can make cutting and prepping food a nightmare. But the type of technique you use and how frequently you sharpen your knives can heavily depend on the type of knives you have, so pay close attention to the manufacturer’s care and maintenance instructions.
Remember, in the kitchen, a dull knife is considered more dangerous than a sharp one because they’re prone to moving off course.
Western kitchen knives usually have to be sharpened before each use. Japanese knives, which consist of harder blades, can hold an edge for a longer period of time ranging from three to six months, or longer, depending on how often you use a particular blade. Chef’s knives such as the Yaxell Super Gou Chef’s Knife, are very low maintenance and can retain a beautifully sharp blade that makes prep work a breeze.
Practice Makes Perfect
If you have a specialty knife set, learn how to use each one for its main purpose. In order to be more efficient in the kitchen, you should also learn basic knife skills, which will allow you to quickly julienne, slice, mince, and dice, ingredients. Using the proper cutting techniques can get you through prep work in a fraction of the time it takes an unskilled cook. Mastering different types of cutting techniques will take patience and practice, but in the long run, it will ensure your food cooks more evenly while helping you develop strong flavors.
While you may not have any extra time to practice your newly learned cutting techniques, set aside a little time before dinner, take it slow, and work on honing your new skills.
Safety in the Kitchen
As we’ve briefly touched on, your knives should be sharpened before use and you should use the appropriate knife for the job. If you’re not sure which type of knife to use based on what food you’re preparing, hop online and do a search regarding recommended knives for specific prep jobs.
Another important part of knife safety is using the correct sized cutting board, made from the right material. Never use a damaged cutting board, especially if it’s made out of wood. If you’re new to using pro chef cutting techniques, have an extra cutting board that you use for practicing your techniques.
Perfecting Your Cuts
Prep work is the foundation of a perfectly cooked meal. This will begin with using the right cutting techniques.
The following information will discuss how to use some of the top cutting techniques for meal prep:
- Adjusting your grip: The novice cook usually holds a knife by the handle, but moving your grip higher is much safer, giving you more control over the knife. Ideally, the hand should straddle the ridge where the metal meets the handle, or it should straddle the finger guard. Holding your knife in this manner will balance the weight of the knife. With paring knives and other types of small kitchen knives, you can easily control the blade by holding the knife by the handle.
- Heel work: The majority of the time you’ll cut food using the center of the knife’s blade. When you’re working with tougher materials such as potatoes, you should use the heel, or back of the knife. This allows you to use the heft of the knife for leverage. You should use the tip of the knife when you’re cutting up tender items.
Popular Cutting Techniques
Beginners tend to shy away for large chef knives because they can be intimidating to use and some can be difficult to control. The key here is using the right type of knife based on what you’ll be cutting, and the proper technique. As an example, to cut bread, obviously, you’ll want to use a bread knife. If you’re working with tomatoes or apples, you’ll need to use a paring knife.
Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a beginner, once you learn the correct way to handle a knife you’ll be able to cook and prep more quickly and comfortably.
Choose the appropriate knife, pick it up by the handle. Your index finger should be placed on the spine of the blade. The thumb and three fingers should be curled around the handle. Use your less dominant hand to guide meat, veggies, or fruit, toward the blade as you chop or cut.
On your dominant hand, make sure your curl your fingers under in order to avoid slicing your fingertips. This also prevents your nails from making contact with the food and exposes your flattened knuckles to the blade while protecting your fingertips.
Beginners can also wear a pair of cut resistant safety gloves until they become more comfortable practicing these cutting techniques.
Basic slicing and chopping are the first techniques you need to master. There are many different types of slicing techniques you can use, but the following methods are the ones that are most commonly used in professional kitchens all over the world.
Rolling: With this technique, the tip of the knife blade should never leave the cutting surface. The knife should be moved in a smooth rocking or rolling motion beginning at the tip of the knife, rolling to the heel and cutting down. To perfect slices, repeat this motion, lifting the end of the knife off the cutting surface while keeping the tip on the cutting surface.
Heel to tip: This cutting technique is used for veggies and fruit. The heel of the blade must remain in constant contact with the cutting surface. Next, lift the point of the knife off the cutting surface, pressing it down into the foodstuff. When using this technique, avoid hitting the knife on the cutting surface as you’re slicing. Hitting the cutting board during a cut can quickly dull the blade.
The Right Tools for the Job
You can use the right techniques and care for your knives properly, but if you don’t have the right tools in the kitchen, your meals aren’t going to turn out the way you want them to. Not only do you need to use the correct knife and cutting technique for the task, but you should also use the proper cookware. Copper cookware has been used in commercial kitchens all over the world for decades. Aside from Japanese knives, copper cookware can also save you a lot of time in the kitchen because it heats up quickly and will cook your food evenly.
To learn more, click here to read our article on copper cookware benefits.