Your Culinary Kitchen: Knives

What you’ll need in your kitchen and why!

Choosing your knives:

Choosing your knives is an important part of creating your culinary kitchen. You want knives that you feel comfortable and confident with when chopping and cutting. To decide which knife is good for you, select a few different types and hold them in your hand. Decide which feels the most comfortable for you (Is it too heavy? Does it feel awkward? If so – this is not the knife for you). 

There are three knives that are essential in a culinary kitchen:

The 8"- 10" Chef Knife

Most often, you will use this knife when cutting meats and vegetables. A sharp blade is key in cutting and must be maintained at all times. When you purchase this knife, make sure the blade is forged and not stamped as forging makes the blade more durable and makes it easier to sharpen. Ask for help when purchasing a knife if you are unsure about this. 

The 3"- 4" Paring Knife
The paring knife is an ideal knife for cutting vegetables, fruits and smaller food items that fit in your hand. It is good for food decoration as well as shaping and detailing. Remember to only buy a paring knife that feels comfortable in your hand.

The Serrated Bread Knife
The serrated knife is usually 8” – 10” in length and has a serrated edge, useful for sawing instead of slicing. It is the best tool to use for soft, fresh breads, cakes, etc. 

* Did you know? that after a knife has cut through the food item, it should hit a surface that is soft, such as plastic or wood. When the knife hits the soft surface, the blade penetrates the cutting board, and preserves the edge of your knife. When cutting into hard surfaces like a hard countertop, glass, or ceramic, the blade of your knife has no penetration and will dull quickly.

Tips on protecting your knives:

· Always keep your knives in a safe place, such as a knife block or a storage cover.
· Avoid washing your knives in the dishwasher, as the intense heat will wear down both the handle (especially if it’s a wooden handle) and the blade.
· Always dry your knife after you’ve washed it.
· Never cut very hard items like bones with your knives (cleavers are better for this).
· Always use your serrated knife for cutting breads and crusts.

Tips on purchasing knives:

If you decide on a knife that has a wooden handle, make sure that there is no space between the handle and the blade. Moisture can build up there and destroy the handle of your knife.

Try to find a knife that has a blade made of high carbon stainless steel, as the carbon maintains the blade's sharp edge and the stainless steel keeps the blade from rusting out. 

Some Basic Tips & Techniques for chopping and cutting:

· Always make sure that your knife is sharp. A dull knife can make your 'prep work' more difficult and can be very dangerous as more force is needed to cut.
· When cutting, slicing or chopping, keep your fingertips curled under when holding food to avoid injuries. 
· To cut "Julienne" style, stack several thin slices on top of each other and slice them into matchsticks.
· To dice, gather the matchsticks together and chop them into equal pieces.
· “Chiffonade” is very thin strips of lettuce or herbs. To cut "Chiffonade" style, stack several leaves, with the largest on the bottom. Simply roll them up, and slice thinly the roll from one end to the other.

 ** Tip of the Week **

To chop an onion, cut it in half from top to bottom. Place the cut halves, flat side down, on a work surface and cut off the stem ends. Remove the skin and make vertical cuts lengthwise without cutting through the root end. This will hold the onion together as you chop. Next, make horizontal cuts from the cut edge toward the root end to make cubes.

** Next Issue: Your kitchen's Pots & Pans Potential!

Copyright 2001, 2002 © Krista Barrett. All Rights Reserved.

For more articles on cooking; A Gourmet Kitchen


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