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Correct Knife Usage

December 1, 2014

Thanks for checking this out.   This is post is a continuation of a previous post called “Knife Skills Needed”, where I discussed knife types and usage.  In this post, I’ll cover how to most effectively and safely use your knives in the kitchen.

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To the right is a picture of the types of chef’s knives that I described in the previous post that are available at Smart and Final.  It also shows a ceramic knife honer.  My chef’s knife of choice is the Santoku style, which is the one on top.  The butter is there to give an idea of the size of the knives…

 

 

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The safest knife is the sharpest knife.  You’re less likely to slip up with a very sharp knife, as it takes less pressure to cut through your product.  Then, if you do happen to slip and cut yourself,  the cut will be clean and much easier to manage. Clean cuts heal faster as well.

I use this type of honer to keep my knives very sharp.  Start with a good safe grip as shown, place the back-end of the blade between the honing wheels, and draw the knife back toward you through to the tip.    If you treat your knives well, it should only take 4-5 swipes to restore that “razor edge” feel…

So I mentioned “get a good grip” above.    There actually is a correct way to hold your knives.  I remember that it didn’t feel natural to me at first, but I soon learned it allows for the best balance, and, when facing having to slice up a case of mushrooms this method really reduces fatigue.  It doesn’t take long to get used to, and after a short time you won’t even think about it.

Take a look at two ways NOT to hold a knife in the kitchen.

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Getting a good grip doesn’t mean hold your knife like a tennis racket, as on the left…

Or with a finger on the top edge to steer with, as on the right…

So what is a good grip then?

In my opinion the best grip is actually to hold the knife for the best center of balance and comfort, with only enough squeeze pressure not to drop it.  No “death grips” needed…   In the pics below, I’m over-exaggerating the thumb and forefinger for effect and understanding, I don’t actually do this every time I pick up a knife.  Many cooks like to hold part of the blade and part of the handle – kind of a forward position on the handle.  You end up with your forefinger and thumb kind of pinching the back of the blade, then the rest of the fingers caress the handle.  Most of the pressure applied to cut your product comes from the thumb and forefinger.  For me, my ring and pinky fingers are like a spring against the back/bottom side of the handle, allowing for some give during the rocking/slicing process…

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This grip allows for smooth, safe, comfortable slicing or chopping.   Give it some practice on some mushrooms like I suggested in the “Knife Skills Needed” post,…

OK…  Now that we know how to best hold our knife, what about properly holding whatever it is you need to cut up?  Keeping safety in mind (and the fact that we don’t really want finger tips or nails in our food)  How about like this?

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You might think that as long as you keep the blade an inch or two away from your fingers you’ll be fine…  But in reality, that’s one of the easiest ways to slip and get cut.

It’s sorta like that old saying, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

You should have the knife blade SO CLOSE to your fingers that it’s actually touching them.  Your holding hand plays two parts in this chopping game…  Hold the product in place, AND, act as a guide for the knife so you know where it is at all times.   Then you can regulate the width that you want your product to be.

 

20141116_131126The best approach is to make your holding hand into the shape of a cat’s paw…  It’s like putting the tips of all of your fingernails onto the cutting surface (left)…  You basically use the first row of knuckles, or even just one knuckle, as your guide.  With you knuckle out farther that your fingertips, and the blade’s side touching it, you can guide the knife along as you draw your hand back along the product you’re cutting…  Let’s take a look at chopping a celery stalk…

 

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This is for illustration purposes only…  I would usually be holding 4 or 5 stalks of celery…   But then again, if you’re making a small batch of tuna salad, you may only need one stalk.   OK, so I’m holding the knife incorrectly in this pic,  (just focus on the holding hand and the blade of the knife, not the grip, please)…     Cat paw shape with two knuckles at the starting point, tip of the knife on the cutting board, the side of the knife blade tilted slightly toward my knuckle (away from my fingertips)…  All good…

Now the point is to keep the tip of the blade on the board while moving the rest of the knife in an up-and-down rocking motion. while you keep your knuckles in position, begin to move your to front fingers toward your back fingers so all of your fingertips are together…

Well…  now that you have chopped celery…  I’ll take my tuna on rye with a bit of mayo and lettuce…

Hey, keep your eye out for the Mushroom soup post coming soon…   Oh yeah, I recently prepared Beef Bourguignon for about 100 guests…  I plan to post a pictorial of the process so you can see the amount of food, size of the pans, and of course the finished product!!

Happy Heating !!!

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