Knife Skills & Tips

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Knowing how to use a knife safely and properly is a key part of being able to cook meals at home. So what are some important points that you need to know about knife skills? This blog post will include basic knife skills and safety tips – keep reading to learn more! 

Always use a sharp knife. Using a dull knife increases your risk of cutting yourself in the kitchen because of the increased pressure you have to put on the knife to get it to cut properly. A sharp knife should glide through whatever you’re cutting without meeting much resistance or requiring you to use excess pressure. If your knives are dull, you can easily sharpen them at home using a hand-held knife sharpener that you can get at any grocery or hardware store. 

Hold your knife properly. Knowing how to hold your knife properly will not only make it easier to use but also reduce your risk of cutting yourself. There are two main ways to hold a knife with your dominant hand. The first is to grip the entire handle in your main hand. The other option is to hold the handle in your hand but to have the thumb and index finger gripping the top of the blade. This helps to provide more precision and makes it easier to guide the knife when cutting. Whichever hand is not holding the knife should be helping to guide the knife wherever it needs to go but make sure to curl your fingers back and away from the blade to avoid any unwanted cuts!

Knife Cuts

Dicing. Dicing is a very common method of food preparation used in at-home recipes so it’s important to know how to do it properly! This method requires precision because the desired outcome is to have all of the food be the same size. A great way to dice almost anything is to follow these three steps: 1) cut your food item into uniform slices, 2) cut those slices into identical sticks, and 3) cut the sticks into equal-sized pieces. For reference, dicing usually results in smaller pieces of food (between ¼ – 1 inch). The exact thickness of each slice/stick is up to you and depends on what size you want for your recipe! 

Chopping. Chopping is a quick and easy way to prepare food for cooking. Unlike dicing, it doesn’t require precision or uniformity. Instead you just take whatever it is you want to prepare and cut it up into relatively similar sizes. Typically, this results in larger pieces of food than other methods of cutting but it may be smaller depending on what the recipe calls for (anywhere between ¼ – 1 inch thick). 

Slicing. Another very common method of preparing food, slicing is fairly easy to master as all you have to do is cut the food into slices. The trick is to ensure that all of your slices end up roughly the same thickness to ensure uniformity in your dish. The exact thickness of the slice may vary depending on what it is you are preparing and what the recipe specifically calls for. 

Mincing. Mincing is an extremely common method of food preparation. You often see recipes calling for minced garlic but they may also call for minced herbs or vegetables. To mince, follow the same process as you would for dicing but when it comes to step 3, you will cut the food into extra small pieces (~⅛ inch). 

Julienne. The julienne cut measures 1/8 inch × 1/8 inch × 2 1/2 inches and is basically the allumette cut once more lengthwise. You will most often use this cut for carrots, celery, or potatoes, and see the thin strips used as a garnish.

Brunoise. The brunoise knife cut measures 1/8 inch × 1/8 inch × 1/8 inch, which makes it the smallest of the dice cuts. Brunoise is usually used for garnishes.

Chiffonade. Chiffonade is mainly used for vegetable leaves and fresh herbs, in particular, basil. The leaves are stacked, rolled, and then sliced perpendicularly, creating thin strips.

Knifes

Chef Knife

The chef’s knife if the most versatile knife in a kitchen.

  • Ideal for:
    • Cutting meat
    • Dicing vegetables
    • Disjointing some cuts
    • Slicing herbs
    • Chopping nuts.
  • Not ideal for:
    • Cleaving meat bones
    • Carving dense meat
    • Disjointing some cuts
    • Slicing bread
    • Smaller precision tasks, such as peeling and mincing.

Cleaver

The cleaver, is also known as a ‘butcher’s knife’, is a thick, heavy-set knife with a sharply beveled edge.

  • Ideal for:
    • Splitting meat from bone, used typically for beef, pork, chicken and other thick types of meat.
    • Splitting larger and thicker vegetables, such as melons and squash.
    • Smaller cleavers are used for quickly dicing vegetables and fruits.
  • Not ideal for:
    • Small or delicate slicing of vegetables or boneless meat.
    • Simple or quick cutting for pastries or other smaller dishes.

Serrated Knife

Serrated knives slice all kinds of breads. Serrated knife can also be used for shaping and levelling cakes for decorating and cutting delicate slices for serving.

Pairing Knife

The paring knives are small, short-bladed knife, used for intricate cutting, and peeling. The blades are simple, sharp and precise.

  • Ideal for:
    • Peeling and cutting small fruit and vegetables
    • Deseeding fruits
    • Deveining prawns
    • Cutting vegetables & herbs such as garlic
  • Not ideal for:
    • Preparing or slicing meat, including carving & deboning
    • Cutting larger and tougher vegetables, such as pumpkin or other squash
    • Slicing bread

To learn more about knife skills, check out our instagram @for.the.love.of.food.nutrition for a reel demonstrating each of these steps!

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