Knife Skills: 8 Things I wish I'd known years ago.

For my birthday last year, D got me a gift certificate to Sur La Table. It's really an amazing, gourmet level kitchen store and they also teach cooking and technique classes.  I decided to use my certificate towards a class. They had a ton of options, but the one that stood out to me was Essential Knife Skills.  I mean, I could have gone with the Ultimate Bacon Menu option, but I thought learning how to actually use my knives would be more useful in the long run (and possibly healthier).

I really enjoy cooking, but have no delusions about my knife wielding abilities.  This class went from the very basics to some fun advanced techniques to wow our friends with. We learned everything from how to prepare our working space and picking a proper knife to how to hold our knives and basic knife maintenance.  I picked up some really valuable tips in the class that I thought I'd share. Many of these were major "Ah, ha" moments for me and some (read: all) were things I think I really should have known a long while ago.

By the way, just on an aside: Don't you find it annoying when people take a class geared for those of us with little to no experience and then act like they know as much or more than the instructor? Yeah, I'm speaking directly to you middle-aged-man-with-an-entire-set-of-Shun-knives-that-you-actually-purchased-in-Japan. It is apparent to me that you only took the class to boost your ego and annoy others. 

Anyway...

8 things I learned in my knife skills class that I wish I'd known years ago:

 1. Use the right knife for the job:

Growing up, I only ever remember my mother using one (seriously one) knife for just about everything. (We did have some steak knives as well, but I only remember using those when cutting cardboard for school projects. My memory may be a tad selective on this point.) From an online search, the closest description of my mother's knife is a 9" Kitchen Utility Slicer.  I have a hard time wrapping my mind around using one crappy knife for everything. That knife would be virtually worthless in my current kitchen.  So, I wasn't totally surprised by the fact that there is type of knife specifically designed for every job in the kitchen. I have my chef's knife, my santuko knife, my paring knife and an assortment of utility blades, but that has never stopped me from using my smallest utility blade for chopping up an apple or from using my chef's knife to supreme and orange (actually just learned how to do that, I'm awesome).
Apparently, a knife is already a pretty dangerous weapon and using the wrong knife makes it more dangerous...who knew?

This brings me to my second point:

2. Use a SHARP knife:
A dull knife is way more dangerous than a sharp knife.  I'm sure this is common knowledge for most people, yet, I had never sharpened my knives. The old knife from my childhood was so dull and battered that I have no doubt we were seriously taking our digits for granted by using it for almost every job that required a knife. It is amazing what a really sharp knife can do for your general emotional state in the kitchen. Gone are the days of hacking through your food and mangling every tomato you ever set a blade to. By the way, fewer tears when slicing an onion with a sharp blade. (oh and also a cold onion. Just put it in fridge 30 mins before you slice it. That's just a tiny, but useful tip for you.)

3. Sharpen your knives once every year:  
To keep your knives in tip-top condition and in the safest condition possible, take them to be sharpened once a year. There are people that do this and it is surprisingly affordable.

4. Honing:
During the year, make sure you hone your knives EVERY time you use them.  I had absolutely no clue what the difference between sharpening and honing was.  As it turns out, sharpening shaves the blade and honing realigns the blade.  Because I didn't want to ruin my blades by using a honing steel improperly, I picked up this nifty little sharpener/honer.
It isn't a true sharpener, though it will shave burrs off of your blade if you have dropped it, or after a large amount of chopping.  I run my knives through it once I'm done using them and before I put them back in their block. 


For the rest of the 8 tips go to A Happy Song!!

Have a Happy Day!

~MJ

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